Jonathan Plumtree

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Non-profit - Other
Job title: Non-Executive Director
Subject of study: Engineering Science
Year of graduation: 1989
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name


What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I was sponsored through my engineering degree at Exeter by the Royal Navy, but chose not to continue on this path after graduating and took up the offer of an accountancy training contract with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) instead. This involved three years studying for my professional accountancy qualification while working on assignments with a variety of clients. I qualified as a chartered accountant after three years in 1992, by which time I had started to specialise in the insurance industry. I spent 8 years at Coopers & Lybrand, working in London and Boston (USA) and rising to Senior Manager before leaving to join insurer Unum as Senior Financial Accountant. I worked at Unum for 10 years until 2007, becoming Director of Finance a year after joining and joining the Board in 2003. This gave me excellent experience of working within a fast-growing, complex business in a leadership role and I became increasingly involved in the strategic side of the business. In 2007 I was approached by a former Unum colleague who had moved to Zurich Insurance Group and was looking for someone to set up a new insurance business. I jumped at this opportunity, building and running the new business for six years until I was asked to run a different business within the Zurich group. The first business I ran at Zurich was involved in the same insurance sector as Unum, whereas the second business was a Pension business, a new area for me. In 2017 I was approached by a head-hunter to become CEO of Omnilife, a small life insurance company based in London. I was attracted by the chance to put my arms around an SME business and grow it. This was great fun and even though the business was ultimately sold to a larger insurance group, was a nice was to end my executive career. In addition to my paid roles, I have also had some voluntary roles during my career, becoming a Trustee Director for the charity CLIC (now Young Lives Vs Cancer) from 2004 to 2014 and being a Trustee Director for the Zurich Community Trust from 2013 to 2017. These were both excellent experiences. I have recently retired from full-time work and am looking to take on 1 or 2 non-executive director roles.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I decided a career in finance would give me more options than pursuing the Royal Navy opportunity and this has proved to be the case. I enjoyed being part of successful businesses and particularly enjoyed the final role, working in a small business.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was a member of the Hockey club and played for the second team. I was also a member of the golf society and played squash.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

Engineering Science was a broad-based engineering degree, which was right for me. It also gave me the option of taking a ‘Finance & Management’ option in the final year which helped with my move into accountancy. The Royal Navy sponsorship gave me great work experience / travel during the holidays.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I lived in Birks Hall in the first year and then moved out to share a house with friends.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Great combination of campus and small city

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Accountancy qualification has given me a strong foundation on which to build my career Working overseas (Hong Kong with Royal Navy; USA with Coopers & Lybrand) were excellent experiences Charity roles were very satisfying and helpful for getting Board experience.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Keep your eyes open for opportunities – I did not plan the career I’ve had, but responded to opportunities which interested me. My network was not that wide, but I kept in contact with good quality people, which has helped with my career.

What are your plans for the future?

I am retired from full-time work and intend to continue as a non-executive director in the corporate and charity sectors.


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