GBCC Board Member: Liz McKenzie


The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce are delighted to welcome our new board members: Saqib Bhatti (Younis Bhatti & Co), Steve Allen (Mills & Reeve) and Liz McKenzie (Wesleyan).

This week we are asking our new board members to share their stories with you, our members, and how they hope to help our Chamber go continue to thrive and connect, support & grow local businesses. Here Liz, McKenzie, Chief Operating Officer, Wesleyan, NED GBCC, shares her story:

I’m delighted to join the Board of the GBCC, here’s a bit about me and how I hope to contribute.

I started my career as a Production Engineer, at the business that sponsored me through Loughborough University.  It was a great business, manufacturing bearings for everything from the old Metro and Maestro's built at Longbridge through to massive oil rig drills in the North Sea.  I loved the Company, however, in 1991 Toyota came to the Midlands, too good an opportunity to miss...

I spent 19 fabulous years at Toyota in a variety of roles in production control and manufacturing. I've run internal and external logistics, parts ordering, set-up the productivity methodology and implemented systems and processes that are now standard in all of the Toyota overseas plants.  I majored on Project Management, leading the implementation of the Avensis and Auris.

In 2010, it was time for a change.  A complete change.  I joined Wesleyan Assurance Society, as Head of Corporate Planning, picking up my Project Management, productivity and Continuous Improvement toolkit and moving to Financial Services. 

Twelve months after joining the Society, I became Director of HR and Corporate Planning, then joined the Board in November 2014 as Group Corporate Services Director.

In 2015 I was appointed Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for Wesleyan Financial Services, Practice Plan, Life & Pensions, the Transformation and Operational Excellence functions and IT. I am also Chair of DPAS which was acquired by Wesleyan in 2015. 

Wesleyan is a mutual, offering financial services, advice and products to professionals, financially looking after people that look after all of us, such as Doctors, Dentists and Teachers.  We return all of our profits to our members.  We operate nationally, headquartered on Colmore Row in Birmingham. It's a business with a great heart. That heart most recently demonstrated as I was lucky enough to Chair the Charity Committee for the 4 years of our partnership with Birmingham Children’s Hospital.  During that time we raised £1m for the Hospital, culminating in the creation of Magnolia House, a unique project to provide palliative and bereavement care.

In June 2016 I was awarded the IoD West Midlands Director of the Year Award for Large Business.

Having made the transition from the automotive to financial services sector I have found that my experience often means I look at both challenges and opportunities in different ways. This variety of experience is something I hope to bring to the Chamber Board, I also hope to build my own experience from all I meet as part of the role.

This continual improvement ethos is something I believe all businesses can use – and not just those in automotive and manufacturing spaces. Incremental change, process improvements, everyone working at being better today than we were yesterday can often yield as much benefit as the also essential step changes. Working closely with the Chamber and its members/patrons will, I’m sure, see me have a number of discussions on this very subject – with the aim of helping individual and business growth in the region.

Similarly, growing and broadening the Chamber’s network is something the Chambers’ CEO Paul Faulkner and I have talked about. My involvement in the Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Magnolia House Appeal has meant I’ve been very lucky to meet a number of great businesses who have a common goal in addition to delivering business value. This network and combined interest in adding social value is a strength I will bring to supporting the Chamber, its members, patrons and the communities we work within – something I’ve been passionate about doing with my work at Wesleyan.

At home, I have 2 teenage kids, both doing mocks at the moment, my son for A level and my daughter GCSE. My partner also works in Financial Services in Birmingham.  I’m a music fan, a gardener and occasional tri-athlete.  I enjoy mentoring and being mentored – I’ve recently started working with a reverse mentor, a 22 year old marketer, she keeps me in touch with young professionals and on my toes in thinking about how tomorrow might unfold.  One thing we can all be sure of, there are lots of opportunities and interesting times ahead!