Rona Fairhead

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Fairhead in front of the public accounts committee, March 2015

Rona Fairhead CBE is on the board of HSBC Holdings plc and the chairman of the BBC Trust.


Fairhead has held roles as the CEO of the Financial Times Group Limited; finance director of publishers Pearson plc; executive vice-president, strategy and group control of Imperial Chemical Industries plc; chairman and a director of Interactive Data Corporation; a non-executive director of The Economist Newspaper Limited; and a non-executive member of the board of the UK Cabinet Office.

Fairhead left her role at the Financial Times after being overlooked for the top job at Pearson - the parent company of the newspaper. She received a payoff of around £1.15 million, which caused great unrest among the shareholders.[1][2]

As well as her roles with HSBC and the BBC, Fairhead is also a non-executive director of PepsiCo Inc. and by invitation from the Prime Minister a British Business Ambassador.[3] She currently works 25 days a year at PepsiCo Inc.[4]


Fairhead joined the board of HSBC in December 2004 and is currently an independent non-executive director, member of the financial system vulnerabilities committee and nomination committee. She is also chairman of the HSBC North America Holdings Inc.[3]

In 2014, Fairhead was paid more than £500,000 by HSBC for non-executive roles, working the equivalent of one day a week.[5]


In 2014 Fairhead was nominated by culture secretary Sajid Javid to succeed Lord Patten as the chairperson of the BBC Trust - the governing body of the BBC. She is the first woman to hold the role.[6]

Tax avoidance scandal

In February 2015 HSBC were embroiled in a tax avoidance scandal, where it was revealed the Swiss subsidiary of the bank were helping clients, including some of the richest men and women in Britain, to avoid tax laws. [7]

Members of the HSBC board, including Douglas Flint and Stuart Gulliver and Fairhead, have been questioned by the public accounts committee. Fairhead insisted no evidence of tax avoidance at the Swiss bank had been brought to her attention during her ten years on the board of the bank. She placed the blame on tax avoiders, the Swiss bank's customer relationship managers and its in-country managers.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, has urged Fairhead to resign from her role as chair of the BBC Trust or to be sacked by the government.[8]

Hodge said:

'I want to come to you, Ms Fairhead, and I’m going to say something. It’s a bit unpleasant to say, and I’m just saying it as a licence fee payer. Having watched your performance this afternoon I’ve got to say this to you, that either you knew... or you didn’t know. And in that case you are either incredibly naive or totally incompetent.
'I don’t think that the record that you have shown in your performance here as a guardian of HSBC gives me the confidence that you should be the guardian of the BBC licence fee payers’ money. I really do think that you should consider your position and you should think about resigning and if not, I think the government should sack you.'[4]


Personal life


  1. Miranda Prynne Businesswoman Rona Fairhead the preferred choice for next BBC Trust chairman Telegraph, 31 August 2014, accessed 12 March 2015
  2. Henry Mance Pearson suffers shareholder protest over executive pay policy Financial Times, 25 April 2014, accessed 12 March 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 HSBC, Rona Fairhead, accessed 12 March 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 Matt Dathan BBC Trust chief Rona Fairhead should quit over HSBC job, Margaret Hodge tells Commons committee Independent, 10 March 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  5. James Titcomb, and Hannah Furness Rona Fairhead should 'resign or be sacked' as head of BBC Trust Telegraph, 9 March 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  6. BBC Rona Fairhead set to be BBC Trust chairwoman], 31 August 2014, accessed 12 March 2015
  7. HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver apologises as tax avoidance row grows Guardian, 15 February 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  8. Juliette Garside and Jane Martinson Rona Fairhead should lose BBC job over HSBC role, says influential MP Guadian, 9 March 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  9. 9.0 9.1 BBC Profile: Rona Fairhead, 9 September 2014, accessed 12 March 2015