In April Alex Matthews, who has been a non-executive director since 2013, took over from Henry Thornton as Chairman of Cognatum Estates. His first official duty was to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to open the new development at Stuart Court, Minchinhampton, in June.

For much of his career Alex was at Marks & Spencer, rising to running their flagship store on Oxford Street and launching the M&S credit card. During this time he was also seconded to the Cabinet Office, helping to develop the government’s Citizen’s Charter Programme, an initiative designed to improve the performance of key public services.

Following his time with M&S he held senior positions at HSBC in London, Moscow and the Middle East, before setting up his own consultancy advising such diverse organisations as the government of Trinidad and Tobago and Jaguar Land Rover. Conservation and the countryside are two of his main interests, together with politics, travel and, above all, his family.

In his last annual statement as chairman, Henry Thornton wrote:

“Ten years ago we created a unique club of 60 of the best private retirement estates in the country, with a common ethos and identity, and with freeholds protected within a not-for-profit company without shareholders. It has been a turbulent ten years politically and economically, underlying the importance of holding true to strong values and sound finances. Whilst maintaining buildings and improving our beautiful gardens are fundamental to our estate management, tastes change and smart technology has been moving apace and so we are making plans to address these and see how we can improve both the delivery and range of services and ensure that our residents and owners can truly retire in style.

Whilst Cognatum Estates concentrates on estate management, and Cognatum Property provides a tailor-made sales and valuation service to owners, during the year we set up two new companies, Cognatum Projects and Cognatum Services, to help meet some of our future objectives. Over the past few years there have been three small developments linked to our existing estates. Through Cognatum Projects we now want to use our expertise and reputation to increase the number of our estates from the current 60, promoting new top end retirement schemes, contemporary and energy efficient, partnered with like-minded funders and developers.

Over time Cognatum Projects involvement in new developments should not only be a valuable source of funds for Cognatum Estates but also enable us to stay abreast with the latest technology and innovation. We will be exploring through the second company, Cognatum Services, how this can be developed and delivered for the benefit of all our current estates, particularly in property refurbishment work and alongside other new app based services.”