Key People

John N M McLean OBE

Non-Executive Chairman

Mr. McLean has extensive public and capital market experience with a specific knowledge of China where he has worked for over 20 years. He is chairman of China based companies including China Food Company Plc, a manufacturer and seller of cooking and dipping sauces in China. He is also the chairman of Sorbic International Plc, a Chinese sorbate producer and distributor. In 2017 Mr. McLean chaired a report on corporate governance improvements between China and the UK for the British Embassy in Beijing and The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr. McLean works closely with the City of London and led the Lord Mayor’s Fintech business delegation to China in March 2019; he is also Acting Chair for the Institute of Directors (IoD) for the City.

Mr. McLean was on the board of CBBC (China Britain Business Council) for 8 years until 2019 and in March 2021, he was appointed as the Senior Advisor to CCCUK (China Chamber of Commerce in the UK) to continue to contribute to the promotion of UK/China trade.

In 2007 Mr. McLean 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, Mr. McLean 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, he was Finance Director of a listed Investment Trust which held investments in Europe and America. Mr. McLean is a Chartered Accountant and was previously with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) in both London and New York.

In addition to these roles, Mr. McLean was a member of the Council of the international charity, VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) and was chairman of VSO China. More recently in 2018, Mr. McLean 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. In May 2021, Mr McLean joined the board of a newly established Fund: The Princess Royal Respite Fund for Carers. 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, Mr. McLean was honoured with an OBE for services to British business interests and the development of civil society in China. He resides in the UK.

Luo Peng

Executive Director

Mr. Luo Peng is a Chinese entrepreneur who is at the forefront of the digital economy. Mr. Luo currently serves as the chairman and founder of Fubao Group as well as holding a number of executive and non-executive directorships in various companies and organisations. Fubao Group is a diversified investment group which has investments across multiple sectors including industrial big data, education and training, and traditional Chinese culture. Fubao Group adopts a capital-driven approach to the education sector and is committed to introducing a successful international schooling experience, establishing and improving the communication and connection between education and vocational training as well as improving the teaching quality and attractiveness of vocational education institutions. Fubao Group’s vision is to create a new global education ecosystem by utilising its knowledge of the digital economy which removes geographical distances and helps to break down cultural and linguistic barriers.

Prior to forming Fubao Group, Mr. Lao worked for Truck Alliances, serving as Truck Alliances’ chief operating officer and chief executive officer, where he helped to create China's largest online highway logistics information platform. In 2017, Truck Alliances merged with another unicorn (a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion) to form the Man Gang Group, currently valued at more than $6 billion. Man Gang Group is ranked as one of China's top ten leading companies within the digital economy, as its shareholders include Softbank, Google, Sequoia, Hillhouse Capital Group, and the World Bank.

Mr. Luo’s career has been repeatedly recognised by the Chinese authorities and business communities. In 2018, Mr. Luo was invited to be a member of the Expert Advisory Committee of the Fourth Global Big Data Expo and was awarded the Private Entrepreneur Medal of Guizhou Province. In 2017, he served on the panel of judges for the China International Big data contest. In 2016, he won the Tsinghua University 'top ten management innovation thinkers and practitioners' title.

Mr. Luo has also held social positions such as the representative of the National People's Congress and the executive committee of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

Mr. Luo graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering of Southwest Jiaotong University in 1997 with a first-class honour’s degree in engineering. He currently lives in China.

Zhang Xiaojun (known as Jeff)

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 Management Company Ltd 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 sector 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 www.zbj.com, a website that provides one-stop business services required for setting up and running an enterprise.

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 the UK.

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 former chair of the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board and served as board member of the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association. He is a Trustee of Silverstone University Technical College and Board Member of EdTech, in partnership with JISC and Emerge Education. 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 investment manager who has run global funds as well as serving on the investment committees of various organisations. He founded and led CR Global LLP, a global macro hedge fund investing across the world’s bond and currency markets, between 2006 and 2020. He is a member of the investment committee of Clare College, Cambridges, and separately of that of the Cambridge University AC Pension Scheme; and a member of the investment advisory board of Stairway Partners LLC.

Prior to founding CR Global Mr. Cumming was a founding partner of Brinson Partners and worked there and at its successor investment management organisations, ultimately as Global Head of Fixed Income for UBS Global Asset Management. He was also a trustee and chairman of the investment committee of UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, and was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the investment of UnLtd’s endowments across global equities, bonds, property and alternative assets. Mr. Cumming has also acted as a non-executive director of MetLife Assurance Ltd. Earlier in his career, he was a partner at Makinson Cowell advising blue chip companies on their relationships with investors He also worked at Shell International Petroleum Co. for six years and H.M. Treasury for four 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.