The chair of AJ Bell, Helena Morrissey (pictured), will stand down from the investment platform’s board following a disagreement with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) over outgoing chief executive Andy Bell’s new role.
The board said: “Since announcing Andy’s intention to step down as CEO, we have had constructive discussions with the FCA about the need for a clear distinction between the executive and non-executive roles in a regulated firm, and the risk to effective board governance that would arise if a founder CEO with a significant shareholding remained on the board after stepping down as CEO.”
Senior independent director Evelyn Bourke said that the board was “unable to agree our preferred role for Andy with the FCA and Helena believes it is the right thing for her to step aside so a new chair can take the board forward”.
It was initially announced that Bell would continue on the board as non-executive deputy chair. But he will now leave the board altogether but continue to work with the platform on a consultancy basis.
Morrissey’s departure comes just over 14 months after she joined AJ Bell as a non-executive director in July 2021, after a similar length of time at St James’s Place. She took over as chair from Les Platts at the January 2022 AGM.
She will officially step down once a replacement has been found; but, like Bell, will continue to work with the platform on a consultancy basis.
Bourke, who joined the firm at the same time as Morrissey, added: “I am glad the business will continue to benefit from Helena’s knowledge and experience.”
Speaking about the talks with the FCA, Andy Bell said: “I accept the regulator’s views and as a result have decided to step down from the board in order that I can continue the journey I started 27 years ago, supporting the business in the most effective way I can. My focus will be on helping to build the AJ Bell brand as well as continuing to support AJ Bell’s campaigning and lobbying efforts on behalf of retail investors and financial advisers.”
One appointment that was approved without a hitch was Michael Summersgill as CEO. He will take up leadership of the firm from 1 October.
Andy Bell added: “I have complete confidence in the board, Michael and the wider management team and remain a committed long-term shareholder.”