James has worked in construction his entire life and feels passionately that it plays a crucial role in the UK’s economic and social well-being. Through his numerous roles, he champions change in the sector – encouraging the investment in skills development, greater collaboration, and the application of modern methods of construction, with the ultimate goal of creating a higher quality built environment, stronger communities and a better society.
James read estate management at college and joined Wates Construction in 1983, progressing through the management to running sites, before taking on a General Manager role in 1989. He joined the Wates Construction Board in 1994, was appointed to the Wates Group Board in 1997, and became Chairman in 2013.
His key positions in the sector include: Past Chairman of CITB, Past President of CIOB, Chairman of the BRE Trust, and Non-executive Director of Argent Services LLP. To help ensure that the UK punches its weight internationally, he has accepted the role of Co-chair of Infrastructure Exports: UK.
In line with his belief that good business, well done, is good for society, he has taken on a number of roles outside of the construction sector, including Chairman of the think tank Tomorrow’s Company, Chairman of the Princes Trust Corporate Advisory Group, and Ambassador for the Young Women’s Trust. In 2018 he was invited by the Business Secretary to Chair a new industry group on corporate governance.
In 2012 he was awarded the CBE for services to construction and the charitable sector.