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Elizabeth Bingham OBE: oration

Read the oration on Elizabeth Bingham OBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in June 2016.


Elizabeth Bingham OBE
Elizabeth Bingham OBE

Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Elizabeth Bingham OBE, a highly successful finance professional who is also a campaigner for diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.

Liz Bingham is a member of Ernst and Young’s (EY’s) senior management team in the UK. As Managing Partner for Talent in the UK and Ireland, it is Liz’s job to not only ensure that EY’s 12,000 employees are able to achieve their full potential but also that this famous professional service firm is poised to compete by attracting, retaining and developing the brightest and best talent in the world.

At school she wanted to be a pathologist but, on discovering it was going to take her ten years to qualify, Liz’s eagerness to get out into the wider world meant she decided not to go to university. Instead she enrolled with the accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward in their Corporate Restructuring business. This exposed her early on in her career to a mix of finance, accounting, legal and business experience. Liz has practised in Corporate Restructuring for over 30 years. She specialises in helping clients exit from non-core businesses to ensure the correct solution is determined in order to maximise value and minimise risk. She led EY’s £100 million turnover restructuring practice of 500 people and is President of the UK’s restructuring industry body, R3.

Whilst she is now a very senior professional in her own field, Liz continues to champion diversity, inclusion and social mobility within the workplace. For this endeavour she has received many awards. As well as receiving an OBE in the New Year Honours List in 2015 for services to Equality in the Workplace, in 2012 Liz received an award for Women in Banking and Finance and was ranked 31st in the World Pride Power List of Influential People. In 2013 she was ranked 27th by Accountancy Age in the Financial Power List and named in the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List. In 2014 she was ranked 18th in the Financial Times’ Top 50 Outstanding in Business List. Liz has also been named a Stonewall Role Model.

Liz has said that “at its heart diversity is about recognising, celebrating and fostering difference”. She argues that if businesses do not think more broadly about winning and developing talent they will struggle to innovate and compete in a global business world. For diversity to be championed with any seriousness Liz believes that it needs constant and close attention for sustainable change to take place. What does that mean in Liz’s mind? She has said it means placing diversity on a firm’s agenda “on a daily basis rather than once in a blue moon on International Women’s Day”. Liz also advocates that executive boards should set diversity targets with real “teeth” and then hold themselves completely accountable for meeting those targets.

Of her own professional path, Liz has reflected that people should think about their careers as more akin to ascending a climbing wall rather than just going in a straight line up a ladder. In other words, in Liz’s terms at least, this means advising people to take advantage of job opportunities that present themselves in avenues that are not automatically the next step up the ladder but also reassuring them that getting to the top is completely within their grasp.

However, Liz has also said that perhaps the best advice she was ever given came from her mother who said to her at an early age, “If you aim for the moon you might just hit the top of a tree”!

Chancellor, I present to you Elizabeth Bingham who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey

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