Key People

John N M McLean OBE

Independent Non-Executive Chairman

John McLean is a Non-Executive Chairman or Director who has extensive public and capital market experience with a specific knowledge of China where he has worked for over 20 years. John is Chairman of several China based companies, which includes Starcrest Education PLC which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and focuses on education between China and UK. In 2017 John chaired a report on corporate governance improvements between China and the UK for the British Embassy in Beijing and The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. John works closely with the City of London and led the Lord Mayor’s Fintech business delegation to China in March 2019; he is also Vice-Chair for the Institute of Directors (IoD) for the City.

John was on the board of CBBC (China Britain Business Council) for 8 years until 2019 and continues to contribute to the promotion of UK/China relations.

In 2007 John joined the board of Humberts plc (now Chesterton), the estate agent, and became its Executive Chairman to lead its rescue and ultimate disposal. Prior to this, he carried out a strategic review for Gamma Holdings NV of their UK textile, wallpaper, retail and brand companies, including Sanderson and William Morris, and as the CEO he successfully implemented the turnaround and disposal plan. Along with operations in Australasia, America and Canada, Sanderson established global trading partnerships in China and Japan, which included the setting-up of a manufacturing joint venture, brand licensing agreements and numerous retail franchises.

In the nineties, John was Finance Director and then Managing Director of ICS, the UK logistics business and co-led a management buy-out of the company with 3i, prior to its successful disposal to Hays plc. In the eighties, John was Finance Director of a listed Investment Trust which held investments in Europe and America. John is a Chartered Accountant and was previously with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) in both London and New York.

In addition to these roles, John was a member of the Council of the international charity, VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) and was chairman of VSO China. More recently in 2018, John became Chair of the leading UK national charity, Carers Trust which works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. He also sits on the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal Board and heads up their China relations.

In the 2014 New Year’s Honours list, John was honoured with an OBE for services to British business interests and the development of civil society in China.

Zhu Xingchen

Executive Director

Mr. Zhu has broad experience of operating businesses and making investments in the following sectors: manufacture of electrical equipment, education, culture and tourism. Mr. Zhu is the founder of Starcrest Education which has invested in education projects both within and outside China. Starcrest Education was established in 2015 in Guizhou China for the purpose of education consulting, investment in the education industry and management of education businesses following international standards. It is dedicated to providing an education ecosystem that combines and connects advanced education management concepts and business models, and introducing high-quality education products and services as well as international education resources to the Chinese market. Mr. Zhu is also the executive chairman of Yu Die Holdings Group Company Limited, which participated in the "Colourful Guizhou Street—Out of Mountain Project", a cultural and tourism project in Guiyang City Hua Xi, China. He resides in China.

Zhang Xiaojun

Executive Director

Mr. Zhang has led and was responsible for management of funds, investment and financing services and government liaison for investment into industry specific targets. He is the chief executive officer of Starcrest Education which has invested in education projects both within and outside China. During 2016 and 2017 he was the chief executive officer of First Capital Fund Management Limited, which is a private equity fund focusing on investment in the education industry and a subsidiary of the China First Capital Group Limited (Hong Kong Stock Code: 1269). In 2017, he accomplished a private investment in public equity (PIPE) deal of approximately AUD 95.6 million in G8 Education Limited, the largest kindergarten chain in Australia. He worked at CITIC International Assets Management and CITIC YBN Capital during the period between 2006 and 2016. He later worked for Henan Management Henan Agricultural Development Investment Fund, one of the early industry specific funds established in China, as the general manager. He was also deeply involved in the establishment of seed funds under the Chongqing Industry Investment Fund. Two seed funds focusing on cultural and agricultural industries were successfully established. One of the projects funded by the seed fund invested in Mr. Zhang graduated from Shenzhen University in 1996 and completed a bachelor degree of business (banking and finance) from Monash University in 2002. He also obtained a masters degree of commerce in funds management from the University of New South Wales in 2002. He resides in Australia.

Professor Nicholas Petford DSc

Independent Non-Executive Director

Professor Petford is Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Northampton, UK. He is a former Royal Society University Research Fellow and Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. A geologist by training, with a Doctor of Science (DSc) from the University of Liverpool, Professor Petford has worked in industry and on academic and commercial research projects throughout the world. He is currently a visiting professor at Macquarie University, Sydney and Communications University China in Beijing. He has an Honorary DSc from Amity University, India, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Professor Petford is currently championing social enterprises and social entrepreneurship across the UK university sector and beyond. During his time as Vice Chancellor, the University of Northampton worked with partners such as Social Enterprise UK, Big Society Capital, Berenberg, Social Economy Alliance and UnLtd, an organisation that finds, funds and supports social enterprise and enterprises people with solutions that change society for the better. Professor Petford is a trustee of UnLtd. He has worked recently with the UK Cabinet Office to promote social value in procurement. The University of Northampton's overseas activities in this area include university partnership activities and collaborations with the British Council in South Korea, China, India, Egypt and Iraq. In 2017, under the leadership of Professor Petford, the University of Northampton was awarded the Social Enterprise Gold Mark in recognition of its excellence in a number of areas, including governance, business ethics, good business practice, social impact and financial transparency, and achieved a gold standard in the UK National Teaching Excellence Framework in recognition of its embedded approach to the involvement of students in research, scholarship and professional practice with strengths in community-based research and scholarship and sector-leading work on social enterprise.

Professor Petford has extensive experience serving on professional bodies at board level. He is chair of the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board and board member of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society and Royal Society of the Arts. He is also director of Fluvial Innovations Limited a university spin-out company that manufactures and sells flood defence barriers. He currently resides in the UK.

Norman Cumming

Independent Non-Executive Director

Mr. Cumming is an experienced debt and equity market specialist advising global funds as well as serving on the investment committee of various organisations. He is a founding member of CR Global LLP, a global macro hedge fund investing across the world's bond and currency markets authorised by the FCA. He has been a member of the investment committee of Clare College, Cambridge and a member of the investment advisory board of Stairway Partners LLC.

Over the past 30 years he has worked in various funds and was responsible for managing assets across different markets, maturities and credit quality, for institutional clients and mutual funds. He was a trustee and chairman of the investment committee of UnLtd and was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the investment of UnLtd's endowments across global equities, bonds, property and alternative assets. He was also a director of the Foundation for Social Enterpreneurs. Prior to this Mr. Cumming acted as a non-executive director of MetLife Assurance Ltd. He was a partner at Makinson Cowell advising blue chip companies on their relationships with bond investors, and all capital markets. He was a founding partner of Brinson Partners which was acquired by Swiss Bank Corporation ("SBC") in 1995 before SBC merged with Union Bank of Switzerland in 1998. He also worked at Shell International Petroleum Co. for six years and H.M. Treasury for four years.

He was the Global Head of Fixed Income for UBS Global Asset Management having worked there and at its predecessor asset management firms for 14 years. Mr. Cumming graduated with a degree of 1st class honour in Economics from Clare College, Cambridge in 1977. He currently resides in the UK.