Executive Team

Chris Payne – Executive Director Partnerships & Assurance and Acting Chief Executive

Chris has worked in Education for the last 15 years in a variety of management roles. Starting in 1998 as the Adult Training Centre Manager for a Sixth Form College in Leicester he subsequently developed his expertise in funding and information systems to take this lead at Directors level for a large college in Nottingham.

Chris joined NCG in February 2010 as Group Director for Planning and Performance. He now has responsibility for Management Information, Quality, IT  and e-learning across the group as well as being the lead with each of our funding main agencies. Chris is responsible for funding across NCG as well as being the lead on Performance Monitoring and Planning. He also works nationally with the Education Funding Agency and Skills Funding Agency through his work on their Technical Advisory Groups.


Karen Heaney – Chief Operating Officer

Karen joined NCG in September 2018 from her role as Director of Regeneration at social housing and adult residential care providers Home Group. She has substantial experience in asset management and development, and in delivering improved services to internal and external customers in a large group.

As COO, Karen oversees Group Services functions at Executive Management level and is directly responsible for HR, Organisational Development, Communications, IT, Procurement, Property and Estates. Karen also takes a leadership role in building, implementing, and overseeing NCG’s systems, processes, workflows, and procedures ensuring overall quality and efficiency of operations.


Mike Wilmot – Chief Finance Officer

Mike took up his role as CFO at NCG in September 2018, joining from Parkdean Resorts, where he was involved in acquisition projects, business growth strategies and mergers.He also brings experience from Big Four accounting firm PwC, where he worked on some of the North East’s largest audit accounts.

Mike has overall responsibility for the financial management and reporting across NCG, as well as contributing to the overall strategic direction of the Group. Mike also leads the financial aspects of planning and budgeting, manages cash flow and ensures the accounting integrity of the Group is consistently maintained.


David Balme – Executive Director of Governance, Assurance & Risk

David joined NCG in August 2018 from his role as Director of Continuous Improvement, Change and Compliance at the University of Sunderland. David brings a wealth of education experience, having worked at the University for in excess of 13 years in a number of finance, assurance and student data roles. Prior to this, David worked within the HE and FE sectors whilst employed in financial advisory and assurance roles within KPMG.

As an Executive Director, David has responsibility at an Executive level for governance compliance across the group, leading on risk & assurance, the HE registry and information governance (including FOI and data protection).


Steven Wallis – Executive Director, Quality

Steven joined NCG in April 2018 and is responsible for the Group’s policy and approaches to education and training performance, quality of provision and continuous improvement, working closely with the leaders, managers and staff within NCG’s colleges and training providers.

A former project and manufacturing engineer, Steven has over twenty years of experience in further education and skills, in a variety of teaching and managing roles.

Before joining NCG, he spent the last decade in the executive team of a successful Further Education college specialising in curriculum and quality strategy, operations and overseeing the delivery of high quality teaching and training. Steven is no stranger to the classroom, having maintained a teaching caseload, whilst concurrently working in senior management; he is a former technical author and has produced several textbooks and good practice guides during his time as a college lecturer.