Aston 50th Anniversary: Rob Perrins Q&A

50 Aston Greats: Rob Perrins

Rob Perrins

Rob Perrins was educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, and at Aston University where he gained an honours degree in Geological Sciences. He joined The Berkeley Group in 1994, having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in 1991. He was appointed to the Group Main Board in May 2001, becoming Group Finance Director shortly afterwards. In September 2009, he rose to the top of the company, becoming Managing Director of the Berkeley Group. The next year, Rob devised and launched a major new strategy for the company called 'Vision2020'. This set out a plan to make Berkeley one of the most successful and sustainable businesses in Britain. It focused the whole company on four key goals and commitments to the quality of service and product Berkeley would deliver. Under Rob's management, the Berkeley Group has earned a reputation for outstanding commercial performance and the ability to create beautiful homes in sustainable places where people want to live. In 2012, Berkeley sustained 16,000 jobs across Britain and generated £2.6 billion of economic activity in the UK. In 2013, Berkeley was voted Britain's second Most Admired Company across all sectors.

What made you choose Aston University?

Perhaps the greatest virtue of Aston is breadth. It embraces all types of people. The courses have always been very vocational and, by nature, that attracts entrepreneurial people. People who are job-focused. Aspirational types with no complacency, no airs and graces, no assumptions that a job in banking is waiting for you. Aston is about social mobility. That appealed to me hugely then, and it still does now. There are also some big advantages associated with a regional city. Inner-city living is available to students in Birmingham, while in London it's a fantasy. The cultural and sporting offer is often just as good, at a fraction of the price. (And the same is true of rent and beer!) The facilities, the transport and your quality of life can be fantastic compared to the stress and strain of trying to see or do anything in the capital.

What has your experience at Aston given you personally?

I took a degree in Geology and the thing about this subject is there are no right or wrong answers. You can't simply teach the facts. You have to inspire students to examine what they see and to interpret what they find. And because it depends upon interpretation, rather than on how many of the right answers you know, there is no sense of hierarchy, of who knows the most and is therefore in charge. That gave me confidence and a feeling there were no limits or barriers to what I could achieve.

What is the best advice you can give to today's graduates?

I had a great time at Aston, played a lot of hockey, and then got a job in a profession. It was gloriously simple. Today, it's not so easy. Don't wait three years to decide what you'll do.Think about it early. Do some placements. Exploit any contacts. Don't worry about rejection. Get in front of the right people and ask them directly for what you need. It works.