Men at the Top – Jon Randall PJGD PGStB MetGrandInsp
In conversation with W Bro Simon Bennett LGR MetJGD
Despite having spent over 30 years working in the accountancy profession, mostly in London, Jon remains very much a "West Country boy".
Jon was born in Somerset on 9th September 1966 and grew up in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. His family had been very prominent in the timber trade, and his grandfather and father ran a small business, "Randall's Timber", on the outskirts of Bristol, making and selling sheds, greenhouses and basically any form of wooden buildings from Wendy Houses to railway ticket offices. From an early age, Jon spent his weekends and school holidays working in the business, and he claims he could still build a garden shed from scratch if his life really depended on it!
His family caught the "Good Life" bug when it was all the rage in the 1970s and 80s, having acquired a smallholding in a drive to become self-sufficient. Jon's school day started and finished with feeding the cattle, chickens, and pigs, milking the goat and collecting the eggs.
Having been the first person in his family to have taken A Levels, he was strongly encouraged to go to university. There, he read international relations with a subsidiary in geology at Keele University in North Staffordshire, where he graduated in 1989.
The family business was sold in the mid-1980s, and the smallholding was traded for a commercial beef and sheep farm in the Wye Valley in Monmouthshire. By this time, Jon had started work for an accountancy firm (the "C" in what is now PWC) in Bristol specializing in tax. He was still living at home, and he would continue to work on the farm in his spare time. This led to a few family tensions with requests to leave work early in the summer to attend the haymaking and, on one occasion, to go home to help skin a cow. He had several arguments with his father that he really had to study for his chartered tax adviser exams rather than spend all night lambing or calving.
In 1992 Jon was offered the opportunity to take up an 18-month secondment to a position with his employer in London as a training manager. Renting a small flat in Tower Hamlets proved to be quite a change for Jon. Nevertheless, the "Big Smoke" worked its magic on him, and when offered the chance to move to London permanently to work in the firm's professional practices team, he jumped at it.
It was whilst working at PWC that Jon met his future wife, Jo. When Jon finally popped the question, Jo was working in the Edinburgh office on secondment from Birmingham. They were therefore faced with the choice of living in Bristol, London, Birmingham or Edinburgh – they settled for London and moved to Hertfordshire following their marriage in 1995.
After the birth of their third daughter, they decided that the girls would enjoy the "Country Life", and in 2002, the family home was moved to a small town in Gloucestershire called Berkeley. Thus began a 20-year-long weekly commute for Jon from Berkeley to London, leaving on Sunday and returning on Friday.
Jon's decision to focus his career in London paid off. He moved to Baker Tilly (now RSM) in 1996 to specialize in Professional Practice and Private Client Tax, becoming a Partner in 1997, London Regional Managing Partner in 2004, a Board Member in 2006 and COO in 2010. The firm had grown considerably since he joined and was turning over in excess of £200m per annum. As COO, Jon took responsibility for a wide portfolio, including HR, marketing, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions, as well as leading a number of projects, including the restructuring of the business and conversion from a general partnership to a corporate group. It was at this point, therefore, that Jon ceased his client practice to specialize purely in management.
Jon left RSM in 2014 to become a Board Member and COO of City firm Moore Stephens which was particularly known as a shipping and insurance specialist. Jon was tasked with restructuring and growing the firm. Jon refocused the firm, including orchestrating several acquisitions, diversifying the core client base and increasing the sector and service offerings. By 2018 the firm had significantly improved profitability and doubled the annual turnover to £120m, growing to 85 partners and 1,000 employees.
At this point, Jon initiated a strategic review which highlighted the opportunity to take the firm to the next level. It was decided to undertake a series of transactions, hiving off some specialist teams and merging the core practice with BDO to create the largest mid-tier accountancy firm and the largest firm outside the "Big Four" in the UK.
Jon joined BDO on the merger as a Board Member and Head of Integration and Transformation in February 2019. It was Jon's intention to retire once the integration work following the merger was complete; however, this was postponed as he was asked to oversee the firm's response to COVID and the adoption of new working practices, including "Agile Working". Finally, Jon was able to retire at the end of June this year, allowing him to focus on his other interests, which, alongside Freemasonry, include motorcycling, skiing, diving and City livery activities.
A big part of Jon's retirement plan is also to spend time travelling the world with Jo, even though travelling rarely goes without some form of incident or mishap for the pair. Their last major trip before lockdown to the Serengeti involved what they thought would be a sedate and picturesque balloon ride but ended up with the balloon being blown miles off course in mist and fog and an emergency landing in the middle of the bush, leaving the party lost and out of contact. It was at this point that the balloon Captain (who had neglected to bring any flares or emergency equipment and supplies) admitted he had never flown in Africa before, had no idea where they were or how they would get rescued and then started to cry. For Jon, it was a great adventure, lighting a signal fire and trying to decide which one of the others they were going to eat first if help didn't arrive!
Motorcycling has been a passion of Jon's since an early age, and over the years, he has owned over 20 motorbikes, 10 of which were Ducatis. Jon enjoys any form of motorcycling on the road and off, often doing his 130-mile weekly commute to and from London by motorbike. Realizing that Jon was likely to want to devote even more time to this pastime once retired and with no desire whatsoever to ride pillion with Jon, Jo passed her motorcycle test and bought her own motorbike so that they could enjoy this pursuit together. Various motorcycling tours around the world are now part of their joint bucket list.
Jon and Jo are almost as happy on four wheels as they are on two and have a small collection of vehicles, amongst which is Jo's prize possession (her 40th birthday present from Jon), a 1957 Morris Minor convertible. Her only complaint is that when they go out in it together, Jon always insists on driving!
Jon and Jo have a parcel of land on the river Avon, just outside Bath, where they enjoy camping, canoeing, paddle boarding, and generally messing about on the land. Jo often (jokingly?!) refers to Jon as "Forrest Gump" due to his spending hours riding around the land on his ride-on mower. It is not surprising, therefore, that another item on the bucket list is to buy a narrow boat and travel the canals and waterways of England. Also on Jo's bucket list is to sail around the Greek Islands, and she has started to learn to sail on the Severn Estuary on the basis that if you can sail the Severn, you can sail anywhere. Jo is yet to convince Jon to overcome his fear of small sea boats and join her!
Jon is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his three daughters, Josie, Jess and Jamie (we like names that begin with "J", Jon explains). Josie is a teacher married to a Royal Signals officer and Jess is an engineer, and Jamie is training to be a mental health nurse. Jon comments, "I think it is obvious that they get their looks from Jo, not me, and Jo would say most of their brains too, or at least their common sense!"
Jon is a member of the tax advisers livery company and on the Court of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, as well as the chair of their finance committee. Jon was Worshipful Master of the Plaisterers Lodge No 7390 in 2017.
Jon was initiated into his father's Lodge, Staple Hill Lodge No 6043, in Gloucestershire in 1988. Although his work commitments in London meant he had to resign in 1999, he has recently re-joined (proposed again by his father) and is currently serving as the Junior Deacon. Jon has served Metropolitan Grand Lodge as a VO and held active office as the Metropolitan Senior Grand Warden prior to his appointment as a Metropolitan Grand Inspector in March 2021, taking over from W Bro Clive Hawkins.
Jon is thoroughly enjoying his new role and is supported by an excellent team of SVOs and VOs. Visiting is his favourite part of the role, and he is determined to visit every one of his 57 Lodges by the end of the Masonic year, having already undertaken 33 visits since visiting recommenced after COVID.
Jon's priorities for the year are:
- To work with the SVO/VO team to increase their understanding and promotion of the Members' Pathway to all Lodges.
- To really push talent identification and encourage Lodges to identify worthy individuals, have a proper succession plan and a Lodge plan in place, including having an agreed rationale for what makes that Lodge "special", particularly what there is about it that would be attractive to new members.
- To encourage Lodges to actively contact members who have not yet attended the Lodge since the lockdowns and to consider what they can do to help members come back.
Five things you didn't know
- 1) Jon once had his own herd of pedigree Piedmontese cattle, a breed of domestic cattle that originated in the region of Piedmont in northwest Italy.
- 2) Despite his motorcycling and skiing activities (crashes!), Jon has never broken a bone in his body.
- 3) Jon owns four chainsaws.
- 4) Jon's oldest friend is his schoolboy French Pen Pal.
- 5) Jon is a Trustee of the Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research (FFSR). The fund provides research fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) with annual grants to pursue cutting-edge research work which might otherwise not have been funded. He is also a member of the Royal Arch Committee of General Purposes.
1988 – Initiated into Staple Hill Lodge, Gloucestershire No 6043
1998 – Joined Rectitude Secundus Lodge No 6778
2004 – Worshipful Master of Rectitude Secundus Lodge No 6778
2009 – Worshipful Master of Rectitude Secundus Lodge No 6778
2011 – Joined Plaisterers Lodge No 7390
2013 – Joined City of London Lodge of Installed Masters No 8220
2013 – Joined Old Wycliffian Lodge, Gloucestershire No 7228
2017 – Worshipful Master of Plaisterers Lodge No 7390
2018 – Worshipful Master of Old Wycliffian Lodge, Gloucestershire No 7228
2021 – Re-joined Staple Hill Lodge, Gloucestershire No 6043
2011 – Exalted into Anglo-Colonial Chapter No 3175
2018 – MEZ of Anglo-Colonial Chapter No 3175
2019 – Joined Paviours and City Chapter No 5646
2013 – LGR
2020 – VO, London
2020 – PProvSGD (Glos)
2020 – SLGR
2020 – MetSGW
2021 – MetGInsp
2021 – PJGD
Royal Arch Ranks
2021 – SLGCR
2021 – MetGInsp
2021 – PGStB
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 50 December 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 50 here.