10 Mar 2021

Chamber appoints youngest chief executive in 208-year history


Henrietta Brealey has today been appointed the youngest chief executive in the 208-year history of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC).

She succeeds Paul Faulkner, who, after six years in the position, is joining the Richardson family businesses. Ms Brealey, aged 30, was recently appointed chief strategy officer following five years as director of policy and strategic relations.

Her work at the forefront of the Chamber 's campaigns around Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has been acclaimed by many stakeholders at regional and national levels and she has also provided in-depth support for Chamber patrons, the top tier of membership.

Ms Brealey (pictured) said: “Paul has been a fantastic CEO of the Chamber and ambassador for the business community. He leaves big shoes to fill and I look forward to stepping up in April and continuing to drive the organisation, and the support and services we deliver for businesses, ever further forwards.

“It 's been 12 months like no other. In this critical moment, I look forward to continuing to work with our members and partners across the sectors to both stand up for local businesses ' interests through challenge and change and ensure that they are best positioned to tap into opportunities - locally and globally.

“I love this city region and working with the businesses that sit at the heart of what makes it such as great place to live, work and do business.

“It will be a real privilege to lead our talented colleagues here at Team Chamber. This is a proud institution with a long and influential history of being in business for local businesses. I am excited to take up this opportunity to navigate it through this next era. ”

David Waller, chairman of the GBCC, said: “We are thrilled to name Henrietta as chief executive and her energy and drive speaks volumes for the direction the Chamber continues to head.

“Business support needs to be at the cutting edge with views on developments in the structural, strategic and cultural world of today and Henrietta is ideally suited to pick up that broad role.

“She will be perfect for continuing the leadership Paul has developed over the past six years, during which the reach, impact and influence of the Chamber has grown remarkably.

“I would also like to express the gratitude of the board, membership, stakeholders and staff for Paul 's magnificent work over the past six years. He has set a firm foundation from which Henrietta and the team at the Chamber will be able to develop further. ”

GBCC president Steve Allen added: “This is a richly deserved appointment for Henrietta. She has led the way in providing Chamber support for businesses in her position as chief strategy officer and policy director before that.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, she has ensured that informing, practically supporting and giving local businesses a voice are first and foremost in our work.

“While some of that has been very visible, much more negotiation and engagement with stakeholders has taken place behind the scenes. I know her approach to really listening too, and caring about, the needs of our members and building trusted relationships with stakeholders make her the perfect person to lead the organisation moving forwards. ”

Mr Faulkner added: "Henrietta has been a delight to work with throughout my time at the Chamber, and it has been a pleasure seeing her professional growth and development over the past six years as she has led and transformed the Chamber's policy and strategic partnerships work to be the very best in the country.

“Henrietta possesses a genuine passion for, and commitment to, Chamber members and the interests of the business community in Greater Birmingham. I wish her every success in what is a highly-respected and historic position in the city and wider region."

Ms Brealey first joined the Chamber as a policy assistant in 2012 while completing her studies at the University of Birmingham. She went on to gain an MSc (Distinction) in Public Management 2012-2013 and a BA (hons) (1st Class) in English Literature 2009-2012.

She held the roles of policy adviser and policy and patron adviser before leaving in 2015 to join the National Housing Federation as external affairs manager for the West Midlands. She returned to the Chamber later that year in the newly-created role of director of policy and strategic relationships, making her one of the youngest directors in the Chamber 's history.

In 2018 she was appointed to the GBCC board as an executive director and earlier this year she was named chief strategy officer.

Ms Brealey 's work has involved overseeing internal GBCC strategy processes and leading the GBCC 's research, policy, stakeholder engagement and campaigns activity as well as management of the GBCC 's top tier of membership, the patronage group.

In 2019 she was named as one of Birmingham Live 's Brum 30 Under 30. Outside of work, she is a trustee of the University of Birmingham 's Guild of Students and a graduate and supporter of the UpRising Leadership Programme.