UCL boss named civil service chief people officer

Fiona Ryland joins alongside former HMRC and NHS staffer Mike Potter, who has been appointed chief digital officer
Photo: UCL

University College London's chief operating officer Fiona Ryland will be the government's next chief people officer, the Cabinet Office has announced.

Ryland joins the department as the civil service's most senior HR official alongside Mike Potter, who will become the next government chief digital officer, the department said in an announcement yesterday.

Ryland has spent the last five years at UCL, first as HR director before taking responsibility for the university's finance, HR, IT, estates, procurement and legal teams in January 2019.

However, the bulk of her career has been spent in the private sector in HR roles. She was UK and Ireland HR director for the contract catering firm Compass Group for eight years, after working in HR and operations for a range of companies including supermarket giant Asda.

Ryland will lead the HR function "at a time of huge change, as we work in partnership with ministers to equip our people to deliver civil service reform", civil service COO and Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm said.

"Setting the standard on people issues across the civil service is a tremendous opportunity to focus on skills and professionalisation."

Major HR changes currently under way include the introduction of capability-based pay; efforts to cut down on the number of consultants working for government; and the introduction of “milestone-based rewards” to incentivise senior officials to stay in their roles for longer and see important projects through.

Ryland will take up her new role alongside Potter in the autumn.

Potter, a former HM Revenue and Customs and NHS senior manager, joins from Thames Water, where he is currently group chief information officer and executive director of digital transformation. Prior to joining the utilities firm, Potter spent 15 years in the public sector – including 15 months serving an interim group CDIO of HMRC. 

Beginning in 2004, the new government digital leader also spent a cumulative five years at the Environment Agency and Rural Payments Agency, followed by another half decade at NHS Blood and Transplant, where he held the post of director of business transformation.

Following his stint at HMRC, his final job before departing for the private sector was as director of EU Exit capability at the Cabinet Office, according to his LinkedIn profile. Earlier in his career, Potter worked for companies including Boots and ICI.

In his new role – which was advertised with a salary of up to £190,000 a year – he will take on responsibility for “owning the vision and strategy for digital, data and technology” across government, as well as leading the civil service DDaT function and working with HM Treasury to oversee the £8bn-plus spent by departments on tech products and services each year.

Alex Chisholm said both roles will be "at the centre of our current civil service transformation"

As GCDO, Potter "will be harnessing the unprecedented opportunities for digital technologies and data across the civil service, strengthening UK government delivery both immediately and in the years to come", he said.

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