From rubbing shoulders with The Who to top non- executive

David Rasche is recognised as one of the top non-executive directors in the country but now his skills are being tested more than ever, writes Lizzie Murphy.
David Rasche, chairman of GB GroupDavid Rasche, chairman of GB Group
David Rasche, chairman of GB Group

The birds are singing in the garden of David Rasche’s villa in Mauritius when I call, but it’s not as idyllic as it sounds.

He and his wife had arrived there a few days before to escape Covid-19 in England but have ended up in lockdown on the tropical island.

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“We came here because there were no reported cases of the coronavirus at the time,” he says. “Then we ended up in lockdown.”

It’s been an eventful week for Rasche, chairman of identity data and fraud prevention firm GB Group. Earlier, he also won the FTSE/AIM category in the Non-Executive Director Awards, run by stockbroker Peel Hunt.

The awards recognise the achievements of non-executive directors who contribute daily to the success and growth of businesses and not-for-profit organisations across the UK.

Rasche, 70, who lives in Ilkley, has 50 years of IT experience, predominantly leading and growing application software businesses.

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He has overseen the phenomenal growth of several companies over his career, including the transformation of SSP (a global insurance and financial services software provider) from a £20m company into a £200m one.

Since 2013 he has been instrumental in overseeing AIM-listed GB Group’s global acquisition strategy as chairman of the firm.

The Chester-based company, which employs just over 1,000 staff and posted a £179.5m turnover last year, counts Yorkshire firms Morrison’s, Bettys and Taylors, Skybet, GHD, DFS, and Direct Line which has a large Leeds base, among its customers.

Like every other business on the planet, it is currently working out how to successfully navigate Covid-19. Even though he’s thousands of miles away, he’s in constant contact with chief executive, Chris Clark.

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“As someone who’s been in business for 50 years, I’ve seen recessions and stock market crashes but I’ve never seen anything of this nature before,” he says.

“I think our chief executive is doing really well making sure that we’re stress testing everything and making sure the business is planning in how things may happen over the next quarter.”

Rasche believes the attributes of a good non-executive director include objectivity and the ability to challenge executives in a constructive manner.

He’s also fascinated with psychology and the different personalities needed to create a diverse board of directors.

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Rasche is a fan of the popular Myers Briggs personality test, which groups everyone in the world into 16 different personality types and he insists on all the board directors taking it.

“I’ve always used it to see how people solve problems to make sure I get a good balance of people,” he says.

He adds: “Another reason for it is to make sure that people understand the perspectives their colleagues are coming from. It’s easy for people to think that the person who’s sitting quietly in the corner is not contributing the same but once you know people’s personalities you see how everybody thinks and reacts.”

Successfully working in groups with different personalities has become a huge skill for Rasche.

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With 25 years under his belt, he is the longest serving member in the country of the peer mentoring membership organisation Vistage. “I probably shouldn’t be a member any more because I’m not a chief executive but they either put up with me or value my advice, I’m not sure which nowadays,” he says.

Rasche firmly believes in the importance of lifelong learning.

“It probably comes from when I was young and worked in sales and marketing. I worked for a business called Burroughs, which became Unisys. In my first year, I had 16 weeks’ training and that training continued each year. I joined Vistage to keep getting that education and I still attend events run by the likes of Deloitte, KPMG and EY for non-execs. I think lifelong learning is an important thing for everyone.”

Rasche describes himself as self-motivated and persistent, which he admits can be as much of a weakness as a great strength.

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“You’ve got to know when to give up as well as how long to carry on,” he says. “I’ve managed to bounce back from a few setbacks in my life.”

Rasche, who was brought up in Skipton, made his first foray into entrepreneurship with a mobile disco while at university in Nottingham. He brushed shoulders with some of the biggest music names of the late 60s/early 70s. One of his claims to fame was introducing The Who when the band visited the city in 1970.

But Rasche is most well- known as one of the founders and former executive chairman of Halifax-based SSP (Software Solution Partners) along with Laurence Walker and Nick Bate in 2002 through a £20.8m management buy-in of the Yorkshire-based division of US giant Computer Sciences Corporation.

The company started providing software systems to small and medium-sized insurance brokers.

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LDC took a 30 per cent stake in the business in 2004, allowing it to hit the acquisition trail.

SSP floated on the junior stock exchange in 2006 with a market capitalisation of £70m.

A year later, the company made a £44m recommended offer for fellow AIM-listed business rival Sirius.

In summer 2008, Hellman & Friedman took SSP private for a recommended offer valued at £162m.

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In 2015, private equity investor LDC backed the management buyout of the firm in a deal thought to be worth more than £200m. It was Rasche’s exit out of the business.

As well as his chairman commitments, for the last eight years Rasche has also run a charity golf day at Skipton Golf Club for the On Course Foundation which helps seriously injured veterans rehabilitate through golf. It has raised £150,000 to date.

A loyal Yorkshireman, he says he is proud of never having had to live outside of Yorkshire during his business career.

“Everyone says it, but the people are straight, they’ve got a great sense of humour, they’re friendly, they work hard and they back each other,” he says.

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“You get that elsewhere but Yorkshire people have that extra dourness at one end and humour at the other.”


Date of birth: October 23, 1949

Education: Ermysteds Grammar School, Skipton; Economics with marketing degree from Nottingham University

First job: Driving tractors and cutting greens at Skipton Golf Club in summer holidays at 14 and working at John Phillips record shop.

Favourite holiday destination: Mauritius.

Favourite film: Martin Scorsese’s film of my favourite band The Rolling Stones – Shine a Light.

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Last book read: My Life and Rugby, by Eddie Jones. I’m a Wharfedale RUFC patron and England Debenture holder.

Most proud of: My family. A supportive wife and three really well adjusted adult children who all look after each other with seven lovely grandchildren.

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