Richard Simpson

Chief Executive Officer

Richard joined the Watkin Jones Group as Chief Executive Officer on 2 January 2019. He has 15 years’ experience working in the property development and student accommodation sector, most recently as Group Property Director at Unite Group plc, the FTSE250 manager and developer of purpose-built student accommodation. Prior to starting his career in the industry, Richard served for six years in the British Army.

Richard is a qualified chartered surveyor and a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. He has substantial executive experience in setting the strategic direction for all aspects of property portfolio management as well as holding various Board level roles including seven years serving on the Board of Unite Group plc as well as two years in a Non-Executive capacity with CityWest Homes. Richard was Chair of the British Property Federation’s cross sector Student Accommodation Committee from 2013-2015.

Phillip Byrom

Chief Financial Officer

Philip has been the Chief Financial Officer of the Group since joining the business in 2002, and has led a number of complex financing arrangements as well as material property and corporate transactions for the Group in addition to his core role as CFO.

Philip qualified as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in 1990 and progressed rapidly to senior manager, a role in which he had responsibility for several public company clients. Philip moved into industry in 1995 and has gained broad experience through a number of group financial controller and divisional finance director roles, including a role as divisional finance director for pharmaceutical technologies at BWI plc. In addition to his chartered accountancy qualification, Philip holds an honours degree in civil engineering from Manchester University.

Alex Pease

Investment Director

Alex joined Watkin Jones in June 2010 and was appointed to the main board in April 2013. Alex had previously worked for 6 years in the Savills Residential Investment team in London and is a recognised specialist in the field of student accommodation development.

Over the last two years the Investment team has overseen the sale of circa £450m of Watkin Jones student accommodation development stock. Alex has worked closely with key clients to include; Knightsbridge, Cordea Savills, Unite, BP Pension Fund and Mansion Group to secure investment exits for the Group predominantly through forward funded transactions. These investors remain important clients to this day.

Alex is based in London and specialises in identifying future student, healthcare and residential development opportunities, structuring ‘value add’ potential for these assets through potential leases / agreements and the onward disposal of the investments to an increasingly diverse range of investors seeking exposure to the student and alternative investment markets.

Geraint Morgan

Managing Director of Student Accommodation South West and South Wales

Joining the business in 1984 and appointed Main Board member in 1987, Geraint has seen the business transcend and develop to its stature today. He remains a key player within the business, responsible for Quality Assurance and Environmental Accreditation as well as business development and practical completions.

Geraint is a key account holder for major projects and has been since 1992, including market leaders such as Tesco, Asda, Lidl and Morbaine. He has strong customer focused goals and experience in recognising customer expectations, delivering an effective customer experience from inception to completion and beyond.

He is committed to the ethos ‘Right First time’.

He delivers complex projects within schedule and is consistent in delivering reliable results. Geraint is currently heading up a motivated and enthusiastic team as a new Division to progress these goals.

Quality focused with a passion for continuous improvement, Geraint provides a significant contribution to business growth.

Berwyn Evans

Managing Director of Homes Division

Berwyn joined the Group in 1990 as a Trainee Engineer. Showing enthusiasm and a drive for success, he has since become a Main Board Director and was appointed Homes Managing Director in 2005. He is undoubtedly one of our most committed players, with a motivational style of leadership; he enthuses his team and delivers results.

Being dynamic and innovative, Berwyn possesses specialist knowledge of the homes sector through his strong construction background.

Andrew McDonough

Managing Director of Student Accommodation North and South

Andrew joined the Group as a Managing Surveyor in 2002. He has shown tremendous dedication and commitment to the business and was promoted to Deputy MD of the Student Accommodation Division in 2010 and was appointed onto the Main Board in September 2014. Andrew was promoted to Managing Director in October 2015.

Andrew leads by example, is commercially astute and ensures that our clients achieve best value at all times.

Graham Davies

Managing Director of Student Accommodation North West and Midlands

Graham joined the Group in 1992 as a Quantity Surveyor. Showing enthusiasm, passion and vision for the business, he has since become a Main Board Director and was appointed Construction Managing Director in 2008.

Graham has specialist knowledge of the commercial sector through his strong commercial background. His commitment to his team, open door and motivational style of management has enabled the group to secure contracts with high profile clients such as, MacDonald’s Hotel & Leisure Group, Whitbreads and Tesco.

Jim Davies

Managing Director of Newmark Developments

With strong interpersonal skills and personal drive, Jim is a self-starter with the ability to work in a fast paced dynamic environment. Appointed Managing Director in 2010, Jim has exceptional knowledge of the construction industry with his strong commercial background.

Jim has been tasked with focusing on bringing the sites in the land bank forward so that they are ready for the student construction teams to commence on immediately.

He is also responsible for liaising with and assisting Philip Byrom with funding requirements and liaising with our legal representatives and end users.

Rebecca Hopewell

Chief Executive Officer of Fresh Property Group

Rebecca joined Fresh in 2010 as Managing Director, with a brief to develop Fresh into a market leading third party provider of specialist student management services.

With an original background in social housing, Rebecca moved into Student Housing over 15 years ago and has a proven track record in building successful student accommodation businesses. Initially establishing Sanctuary Management Services, a non charitable student subsidiary of a large housing association, Rebecca then joined Quintain as the Fund Manager for the IQ Fund, setting up and growing the Fund to c.£500m of assets under management.

Over the last 5 years Fresh has developed into one of the leading third party providers in the market. Rebecca has built a strong management team, and created a clear vision for the business. By investing in both people and infrastructure the business has a scalable platform, that enables significant year on year growth, whilst maintaining quality and delivering on KPI’s.

Fresh now manages c.8500 beds, and is adding c4000 new beds per year. With a clear focus on customer service and the overall student experience, Fresh is able to drive high occupancy, high re-booker rates and strong relationships with Universities producing robust year on year income streams for Clients. This coupled with institutional quality financial reporting, has enabled Fresh to develop a strong Client base and to benefit from repeat business.

Jackie Kelly

HR Director

Jackie has more than 26 years’ experience in HR, 17 of these have been spent in the private sector. The types of organisations she has worked for covered UK/European food manufacturing, the oil industry; utilities and financial services. For the other nine years she worked across the public sector in local government, health and the Civil Service.

The variety of roles and the differing organisational needs have enabled her to gain a breadth of high-level experience across the HR spectrum. This includes guiding businesses through significant periods of change, establishing new services, embedding staff engagement and culture change, as well as implementing leadership, succession planning and talent development.

Find Out more about
our Directors…