Robert Rutherford is the CEO of QuoStar, a leading IT service provider serving clients nationally and internationally, across multiple sectors. Prior to starting QuoStar Robert studied Business Information Technology at Bournemouth University, before travelling the world managing corporate acquisitions from an IT perspective. He also worked for IT services providers and large firms as a lead technical consultant. Along with his direct commercial experience, Robert is a regular industry commentator on topics ranging from flexible working and IT security through to LEAN.

Robert Rutherford

Founder and Managing Director of ASH Elite Limited, Dorset’s only specialist legal recruitment consultancy. Sofie is an active Ambassador of Dorset Community Foundation and sits on their educational grant bursary panel. Sofie’s background is in Human Resources and she has a Masters Degree in Business with Human Resources from Bournemouth University. Born and bred in Sweden, Sofie moved to the UK in 2007.

Sofie Scott

Panel Judges

Dr. John Knowles is a prominent businessman and entrepreneur. As Chairman and formerly Managing Director he has led DEK Printing Machines Ltd, a Weymouth-based microelectronics company, to world leadership in its specialist field. For many years he was a member of the Bournemouth University’s Board, serving as Deputy Chairman and as Chairman of the Personnel Committee. Dr Knowles is also Deputy Chairman of Poole Foundation Trust Hospital. He plays a leading part in the development of entrepreneurship in schools.

Dr. John Knowles

Darren Slade has been business and technology editor at the Bournemouth Daily Echo since 2014. His role is about bringing people surprising and important stories from business world – including Dorset’s booming creative and digital sector, as well as the activities of major employers such as JP Morgan, Lush, LV= and Sunseeker.

A Poole born father-of-two, he came to the Echo after experience on weekly newspapers. He has previously been the Echo’s chief reporter and its local government correspondent.

Darren Slade

Elizabeth (Liz) was called to the bar in 1987 and has for over 20 years practiced exclusively in the field of family law. Now working with 3PB Barristers, she was formerly Deputy Head of Chambers at St Philips Chambers where she was also head of the Family Law Practice Group. Liz is ranked as one of the UK’s leading family law QCs by the legal directories. Her expertise spans all aspects of childcare and financial dispute resolution.

Liz appears frequently in complex and sensitive cases involving children (public and private) as well as cases within the financial remedies remit, dealing with issues involving substantial assets and often where the Court is faced with complex factual and expert evidence.

Liz has a proven ability to deal with high conflict issues in a calm and professional manner whilst devoting significant energy to her client’s case. Liz is highly regarded both locally and nationally.

Elizabeth McGrath QC

Ian joined Sharpe Pritchard & Co in 1965 and was admitted as a solicitor in 1967. His work at Sharpe, Pritchard & Co primarily involved high court litigation. In 1968, Ian joined Ashurst, where he undertook the usual work of a city corporate lawyer including private company acquisitions and disposals, mergers, company formations, joint ventures, commercial agreements, monopolies investigations etc. While matters primarily involved English Law, many were transactions involving the foreign law.

He became a partner at the firm in 1972 and later became involved in the firm’s plans to develop an India related practice. When the firm opened a liaison office in Delhi in 1995, Ian then became the partner responsible for developing the office, from London, between 1997 to 2007. Ian travelled around India meeting corporates, lawyers, government officials and politicians as well as spending considerable time, in conjunction with the International Department of the Law Societ, the British Government and the High Commission in Delhi, trying to obtain practice rights for UK lawyers in India.

Ian Scott

Category Judges

Michael qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen & Co, and then spent thirteen years at Smith & Williamson, Chartered Accountants, working in both Salisbury and London.  He qualified as a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner in 1991 and was instrumental in building the successful Corporate Recovery team and latterly was National Head of Corporate Recovery.

Michael left the world of turnaround and recovery, and in 2009, together with his business colleague, he re-established Key Business Finance Corporation, after the demise of its Icelandic parent, and this business, which lends funds to law firms to facilitate their cashflow, became Wesleyan Key Business Finance Ltd (“Key”) when it was sold to the Midlands based mutual, Wesleyan Assurance Society. Michael remained a director of Key until December 2013, when, he established Iceberg Client Credit LLP, which lends funds to matrimonial clients to pay their legal fees during a divorce.  Alongside this business, The Iceberg Partnership LLP was established in 2015, once again lending money to law firms to smooth their cashflow.  Michael is a partner in both Iceberg Client Credit LLP and The Iceberg Partnership LLP.

Michael lives on the edge of the New Forest in Fordingbridge, is married to Penny, and, with 12 and 11 year old sons, is always fully occupied when away from the office.

Michael Stevenson

Bex joined Smith & Williamson in 2004 after managing the global tax affairs of WS Atkins plc. She trained as a chartered accountant with Deloitte in London and specialised in corporation tax. At Smith & Williamson, Bex has a mixed tax role covering all aspects of business tax. Working with a wide range of clients including law firms, investment funds, mid-sized companies and not-for-profit organisations, Bex provides tax and commercial advice at both business and partner, director and shareholder levels.

Bex is part of the firm’s national professional practices group and the partnership tax technical group and leads the local Professional Practices Group.  She has also led the Southampton Business Tax team for a number of years and has been instrumental in driving growth and efficiencies through that team. Delivering a first class service to clients is fundamental to the success of Bex’s team and she enjoys the depth of relationship she is able to achieve with her clients.

Smith and Williamson Category Judge Bex Combes

Rebecca Coombes

Richard Knight is the Customer Experience Director for insight6 Dorset, Bath and Wiltshire.

Richard has a background in education, the pharmaceutical industry and learning & development. He was a wealth of experience in sales environments and uses the data gathered via an insight team to support individuals and businesses in achieving their goals through customer experience reports, surveys, feedback tools, training and coaching.

Richard Knight Customer Experience Director Insight6

Richard Knight

Nick specialises in advising corporate entities on audit, corporate finance and corporate tax matters.

Nick has a mixed client portfolio that includes companies, charities and partnerships with income ranging from £1 million to £20 million. He also runs corporate finance operations for the firm’s Bournemouth office and advises many hi-tech companies on the issues surrounding research and development financing. His clients are based primarily in Bournemouth and Poole but also extend all along the south coast, with some in London.

Nick and his team are keen to be the first port of call on all financial matters, not only responding to client demands but also being pro-active when possible. The relationship is much more than just audit and accounts and Nick seeks to become the owner’s trusted adviser.

Nick has considerable experience in buying and selling family companies, having worked a range of companies on various transactions. He specialises in group reconstructions and reorganisations, having extensive experience in this field.

Nick has also worked with charities throughout his career and has significant expertise in advising and assisting not-for-profit entities.

Nick Fernyhough Saffery Chamoness

Nick Fernyhough