Aston University recently welcomed our new Chief Financial Officer, Alastair Hewgill. Aspects went to meet Alastair to find out more about his role and the man who is now holding the purse strings!
Alastair graduated ‘many years ago’ with an honours degree in Statistics from St Andrews University in Scotland. At that time the town had a population of around 10,000. ‘When the students would start term we’d swell resident numbers by about 3,500; as you can imagine, we made quite an impact’, Alastair jokes. Upon graduating he subsequently trained and qualified as a chartered management accountant.
Until joining Aston University three weeks ago, his career history had been firmly rooted in the private sector. His last role was as Finance Director of The Vitec Group plc. This international multi-million pound company specialises in producing equipment for the broadcasting and photography industries and 94% of its sales were overseas. Prior to this role, Alastair has held Finance Director roles at a number of businesses including GKN plc (a large international automotive and aerospace group) and as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers (then Coopers & Lybrand Associates).
Tell us about your role at Aston and what it involves?
My role is to oversee all financial aspects of the University (which includes risk management) on both a day-to-day basis and, also, strategically. It’s my responsibility to ensure that we continue achieving satisfactory results and for the University to fund itself for the long term. I have a team of 40 staff who I will be working with to achieve this. I am also responsible for Conference Aston and Aston University Day Hospital.
What attracted you to work at Aston University?
This role was something quite different to the organisations I have previously worked for and I found that a very appealing challenge. I’ve always worked in the private sector so I am delighted to now be working in the public sector, particularly in higher education. I can bring a lot of experience to this role which will help the University as we work towards Aston 2012. The fact that this is an environment where people are learning is exciting in itself and I’m delighted I can help to ensure this environment continues for years to come.
What is the first thing you will implement?
The most important thing for me at the moment is to listen and to learn. I have spent my first few weeks getting to grips with understanding the University’s strategy and what we really need to do in order to achieve it and will prioritise actions later.
What are you most looking forward to?
Aston’s focus is on providing the best we possibly can for our students, their qualifications and their future – that’s a great thing to be part of. I’m looking forward to working with my new colleagues and making a real difference.
What do you see as your biggest challenge?
The challenge to me, and to all of us, is ensuring that we achieve the Aston 2012 strategy in a period of potential government funding cuts. To achieve everything that we want to but with less resources than we would like is a huge challenge in itself! I am confident, though, that we will meet this challenge.
Words by Louise Russell