The current chairman of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is one of two independent board members that have been appointed by Ashurst – the first time such appointments have been made by the firm.
David Turner (pictured with Ashurst chairman Mary Padbury) will join the Australian board, with the former director general of the UK's Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, Robert Gillespie, joining the board of Ashurst LLP in the UK.
Ashurst’s chairman Mary Padbury told Lawyers Weekly that the firm has had the capacity to appoint independent board members for a number of years but had not made the move to appoint board members from different organisations until now.
“If you think about it our board is made up of [all lawyers] ... and a number of us have not done much other than work in our business,” she said, adding that appointing members of the board from outside of the legal profession would help to give the firm a more commercial focus.
“So really what we were looking for was someone who could bring to the board a different background, different skills, different experience and, most importantly ... really encourage us to look externally and really focus on the market.
“Often someone who hasn’t been in an organisation can ask a fairly simple question that we all should have asked but because we’ve got used to ways of doing things we haven’t got around to doing it, so for all those reasons we think it’s a good idea,” she added.
Turner has been chairman of the board of the CBA since 2010. He was chairman of Cobham plc until 2010 and has held a number of directorships and has been a member of the Quotations Committee of the London Stock Exchange. He has also previously acted as both CEO and CFO for Australian company Brambles, and was also finance director at engineering company GKN and food wholesaler Booker.
“Having worked internationally in sectors which have also seen changes over the years, I hope to be able to bring some insights and perspectives to the firm,” said Turner.
Gillespie was director general of the UK Panel on Takeovers and Mergers from 2010 until April this year. He began his career as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse prior to its merger with Coopers & Lybrand, before joining investment bank S G Warburg, where he held various senior positions. In 2004 he was appointed CEO of the UBS Investment Bank, EMEA, and in 2005 he was also appointed vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank.
Turner and Gillespie will both be members of their respective boards by 1 June and they will both join the firm's global board after the full merger of Ashurst Australia and Ashurst LLP.
Padbury said she sees the board as having three main roles: an oversight role, a strategy role and a risk management role. She said the current Ashurst Australia board meets about eight times a year but she imagines the global board will meet less than that.
The other members of the Ashurst Australia board include Padbury, managing partner John Carrington, senior Ashurst LLP partner Charlie Geffen and partners Elspeth Arnold, Tony Denholder, Sarah Dulhunty, Paul Jenkins and Ian Williams.