Our Board is made up of Executive and Non-Executive Directors who share a strong mix of skills and experience.

The members

Richard Huntingford, Chairman


Richard Huntingford

Richard joined the Unite board on 1 December 2020 and became the Chairman on 1 April 2021. He is a chartered accountant, and has over thirty years of plc board experience including as Chief Executive of Chrysalis Group plc between 2000 and 2007 and as a Non-Executive Director of Virgin Mobile Holdings (UK) plc. His Chair roles have included Wireless Group plc (formerly UTV Media plc), Creston plc and Crown Place VCT plc. In addition to chairing Future plc (since February 2018), Richard is a Non-Executive Director of JP Morgan Mid Cap Investment Trust plc and The Bankers Investment Trust plc.

Richard Smith, Chief Executive Officer

Richard Smith, Chief Executive Officer

Richard became CEO in June 2016 after working as Unite's Managing Director of Operations since 2011 and joining the business as deputy chief financial officer in 2010. Prior to Unite, Richard worked in the transport industry in the UK, Europe, North America and Australia, including 13 years at National Express Group. Richard is now also a Non-Executive Director for Stenprop Limited.

Joe Lister, Chief Financial Officer

Joe Lister, Chief Financial Officer

Joe joined Unite in 2002 and was appointed Chief Financial Officer in 2008 having held roles including Investment Director. Joe is now also a Non-Executive Director for Helical PLC. Prior to joining Unite, Joe qualified as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Elizabeth McMeikan, Senior Independent Director

Elizabeth McMeikan, Senior Independent Director

Elizabeth brings extensive experience from customer-focused businesses, including Tesco and Colgate Palmolive. She is a Non-Executive Director at McBride plc, Dalata Hotel Group Plc, Fresca Group Ltd, an import/export fruit and vegetable company, and a director of Second Growth Community Investment Company. She is also a Senior Independent and Non-Executive Director at Custodian REIT plc. Previously she was a Non-Executive Director of JD Wetherspoon plc, the chair of Moat Homes Ltd, a leading housing association in the South East, and CH & Co Ltd, a privately-owned catering company. She joined Unite in 2014.

Ross Paterson, Audit Committee Chair

Ross Paterson, Audit Committee Chair

Ross was appointed as Audit Committee Chair in February, 2018, after being appointed as Non-Executive Director of the board in September, 2017. He is Finance Director of Stagecoach Group plc, and as a member of Stagecoach’s board is responsible for finance, technology and compliance. In addition, he is a Non-Executive Director and Audit Committee Chair of WCT Group Holdings Limited (formerly Virgin Rail Group Holdings Limited), and a member of the Business Policy Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Richard Akers, Non-Executive Director

Richard Akers

Richard joined Unite on 1st September 2018, as a Non-Executive Director. From 1995 to 2014 Richard worked at Land Securities plc, where he had various positions including as an Executive Director on the main board and Managing Director of Retail. Richard has over 30 years’ experience in the real estate industry, with a focus on retail. He is a Non-Executive Director and Chairman Designate at Redrow plc, a Non-Executive Director at Shaftesbury Plc and an Advisory Board Member at Battersea Power Station Development Company. Previously Richard was a Non-Executive Director at Emaar Malls PJSC, and Senior Independent Director and Chair of the Health and Safety and Remuneration Committees at Barratt Developments Plc.

Ilaria del Beato, Non-Executive Director

Ilaria del Beato

Ilaria joined Unite on 1st December 2018 as a Non-Executive Director. She is currently CEO of Frasers Property UK, part of Frasers Property, a global real estate group. Ilaria was formerly CEO of GE Capital UK, a regulated Bank and corporate lender and led GE Capital Real Estate UK, a commercial real estate investor, developer and lender. Ilaria brings 30 years of experience in real estate, including asset management, investment and lending.

Dame Shirley Pearce DBE, Non-Executive Director

Dame Shirley Pearce

Dame Shirley Pearce DBE joined Unite on 1st November 2019 as a Non-Executive Director, and has held Senior Executive and Non-Executive roles in higher education, health and policing with experience of both the public and private sectors. She is currently an independent member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, a member of the Higher Education Quality Assurance Panel for the Ministry of Education in Singapore, a Trustee for the Royal Anniversary Trust, a member of the advisory board of HCA and the Hon President of the Association of University Administrators AUA.

Shirley was Vice Chancellor of Loughborough University from 2006-2012, and was board member at the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the UCEA, and the Healthcare commission, as well as being a Non-Executive Director of Health Education England, and the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority. She has held senior governance roles at the LSE, and was appointed an independent reviewer of the TEF. She was appointed CBE in 2005 for services to education in the NHS and in 2014 appointed DBE for services to Higher Education.

Thomas Jackson, Non-Executive Director

Thomas Jackson

Thomas joined Unite as a Non-Executive Director on 28th November 2019 as part of the Liberty Living acquisition. Thomas has been the head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board's ("CPPIB") UK real estate business since 2015 and is responsible for CPPIB's entry into a number of new real estate sectors, including student housing, life sciences and the Built-to-Rent sector. Thomas currently sits on the board of CPPIB's office, retail and logistics Joint Venture boards. Beyond the UK, Thomas is also responsible for CPPIB's real estate investment activity in Germany and the CEE regions. Prior to joining CPPIB, Thomas was a Vice President in the real estate investment banking team at Macquarie bank and focused on M&A transactions within UK and European public and private real estate companies.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Non-Executive Director

Professor Sir Steve Smith

Professor Sir Steve Smith joined Unite on 1st April 2020 as a Non-Executive Director and is Chair of our Health & Safety Committee. He was Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter between 2002 and 2020. Sir Steve was the president of Universities UK (2009 - 2011), Chair of UCAS (2012 - 2019), served on the Boards of UUK and the Russell Group, and was Chair of UUK International Policy Network (2014 - 2020). Sir Steve led for higher education on the Prime Minister's National Council of Excellence in Education. Sir Steve was knighted in 2011 for services to higher education locally and nationally.