Peter Taylor-Whiffen 7 Mar 2018 12:50pm

Cause and effect

Andrew Fane has turned his multiple trusteeships of non-profit organisations into a calling. He tells Peter Taylor-Whiffen why he’s honoured to fight for good causes
Caption: Photography: Richard Ansett
I’ve always been excited by the idea of enhancing an organisation,” says Andrew Fane. “Whether it’s a commercial operation, or a charity helping sick children or preserving historic buildings, you should always be striving to make it more effective. It’s vital to underpin any organisation with sound financial practice to make it work properly.”

Fane was on the board of Great Ormond Street Hospital for 20 years, was chair of trustees at English Heritage for a decade, and is now doing the same job at Chiswick House and Gardens, Stowe House and the Suffolk Preservation Society. His dedication recently earned him an OBE, but he calls simply working with them a “greater honour”.

“They’re all wonderful organisations and it’s a privilege to be asked to be involved with them,” he says. “I like being able to put back, to use what I know to help their present work, but also make them secure for future generations.”

Fane recognised the importance of a professional skillset early in his career. “I read law at Emmanuel and articled at [London firm] Robson Rhodes because I knew both would prove invaluable in my understanding of business.” In the late 1960s he joined “what you’d now call a private equity firm”, Whitburgh Investments. “I was soon executive director and was keen to help businesses grow.”

When he left Whitburgh in 1992 he was asked to join the board at Great Ormond Street. “It was wonderful,” he says. “Some businesses thought that as a charity, we might be a bit soft – but where we needed to we took on law firms, battled with contractors, challenged legacies. We were determined to do the best for the people we were really working for – the young patients in the hospital. Imagine the pleasure you get from seeing patients treated in a brand new modern building your work has helped to create.”

His roles as a councillor in Kensington and Chelsea attracted the attention of then English Heritage chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens. “I was plonked into their Historic Buildings Council and the London Committee, where I oversaw some amazing Millennium works including St Pancras Station,” Fane says. “There were all these experts, and in the middle, chairing, was me, an accountant.” He is now embracing other heritage projects at Stowe House in Buckingham and London’s Chiswick House and Gardens. “I have a passion for great buildings. We have a duty to preserve them.”

Fane, who lives in Woodbridge, Suffolk, with his wife Clare (Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons), was “completely taken by surprise” by his OBE. “I’ve been lucky to have been asked to take on certain roles, and learned from and worked with some inspirational people.

“That recognition says to me I must be doing something right, and inspires me to carry on. I’m 68 now but these roles aren’t a sinecure – there are jobs to be done.”