Skip to main content
Julia Unwin


Dame Julia Unwin Appointed as New Chair for Smart Data Foundry

10th September 2021

Dame Julia Unwin joined Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (Rebranded as Smart Data Foundry in February 2022) as their inaugural Chair on 13 September 2021. This marks an important step in the journey for Smart Data Foundry as they head towards incorporating as a stand-alone not-for-profit organisation later this year.

Dame Julia is an excellent fit for Smart Data Foundry with huge experience of working across multiple sectors during her social campaigning career, including as a charity commissioner. She was Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust for 10 years before stepping down at the end of 2016.

Her professional leadership experience in the fields of housing, social care, and corporate social responsibility includes senior-level roles at the Housing Corporation, Charity Commission, and the Food Standards Agency. Most recently, she was appointed as the Chair of the Governing Body for York St John University in April 2020. She has extensive experience as a well-known and respected senior strategic leader, as a non-executive director for Mears Group plc and Yorkshire Water, as well as a previous role at the Financial Reporting Council, and recently chaired a major inquiry into the future of civil society in England. A life-long campaigner for social justice, she was made a Dame in December 2019 for services to civil society.

Commenting on her new role, Dame Julia said:

“To work with an organisation that has such a powerful social purpose was too good to miss. I always look for opportunities where I can truly make a difference, and I can’t wait to start working with the team to make things happen. I’m already working with Kevin Collins to recruit his successor as he returns to his role as Assistant Principal at the University of Edinburgh and looks forward to meeting some incredible candidates to become our new CEO.”
Dame Julia Unwin

“Our purpose is to improve people’s lives by safely unlocking the potential of financial data” said Kevin Collins, interim CEO of Smart Data Foundry. “Having someone like Dame Julia join us with her mix of leading the social agenda, coupled with commercial experience, is a great fit. We’re on an exciting journey to become an independent not-for-profit organisation, and the timing is perfect to have Dame Julia join us to help shape the road ahead and build the new board, starting with a new CEO.”

“Dame Julia brings an extraordinary portfolio of experience to this role. Her passion and commitment to initiatives that have successfully delivered true social impact are well demonstrated, and sit in alignment with the vision for Smart Data Foundry to safely enable financial data for better consumer outcomes” said Richard Prior, CEO of FDATA. “Smart Data Foundry has reached a stage-gate in its evolution toward becoming an independent entity. Having Dame Julia in place to contribute at this exciting and critical juncture is invaluable for the pathway forward”.

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson, CEO of FinTech Scotland added “This is a great appointment for Smart Data Foundry, and Dame Julia adds tremendous experience that will be a valuable addition to the team at this important point in Smart Data Foundry’s journey. I look forward to welcoming Dame Julia, to her leadership and working with her to continue Smart Data Foundry’s mission, including helping to accelerate innovation within the FinTech sector and delivering real change to help improve people’s lives.”