Meet the team: Cheryl Astley


Cheryl Astley, JMG Group chief information officer

How did your career in IT begin?

I worked at a small start-up insurance broker when I was 20. At that time the business didn’t have any IT provision and, like many others, was doing everything manually.

Things changed when it bought a company which had an IT system, and I took ownership of it. It was very hands-on and technical, looking after PCs, setting them up and fixing any issues. The business made further acquisitions and I became responsible for bringing all IT together.

And how did it continue?

In 1999 I joined a larger insurance broker as its IT manager. The business started to grow and was then acquired by Towergate. By that point, I was ready for a more senior role and I stuck my head above the parapet and became head of regional IT for the group.

During my ten years at Towergate, technology had moved on considerably and my role became more strategic than hands-on. I moved to a role at Morrisons, where the IT function was progressive and I was exposed to a wider world of IT, which taught me many strategies which I still rely on today.

Following Morrisons, I became chief technical officer at Jensten Technologies where I built the technology function and grew the team from 20 to 40 technical experts and provided all the technology to support its acquisition strategy. I was part of the board which went through a management buyout and when my role became redundant, I decided to become a consultant for SMEs. I am certainly no stranger to change. In fact, I relish it and the opportunities it can bring.

What brought you to JMG Group?

I had worked with Nick Houghton and several others at JMG Group during my time at Towergate. We kept in touch after we left Towergate and had always said that I’d work with Nick again should the opportunity arise. And then I got a call from Nick in December 2021. The time was right for me to take on a new challenge and the Group was ready to have its first chief information officer.

I was excited at the prospect of taking on a role that I could mould and make my own whilst working as part of an excellent team.

What do you enjoy about your role?

I love bringing everything together into a cohesive and well-functioning operation. It’s exciting to start with a blank sheet of paper and build a team and provision which will be fit for purpose and support the company’s future growth.

What’s the secret to your success?

I focus on what the business needs and build the IT around the business. Relationship building is key to this. I think it’s extremely important to build relationships with stakeholders to truly understand what a business needs and then to deliver solutions which will deliver on those needs.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career?

To go down the business route first and get a feel for all parts of the business and learn how it all slots together. Naturally, they will lean towards what they are most interested in, which will lay the foundations for a more fulfilling career.

What next for JMG?

We will continue to build an environment that will help us achieve our growth aspirations. We are currently creating a blueprint to absorb any future acquisitions into our systems, which will make the integration process much more seamless.

What CEO, Nick Houghton, says:

“One of the great privileges of growing a business is that it creates the opportunity to join forces with people that you trust and respect and would love to work with again. We’ve grown considerably over the last couple of years and approaching Cheryl became an obvious thing to do. Cheryl’s no-nonsense and commercial approach to managing our IT infrastructure is perfect timing. I’m just delighted she said yes! Welcome to the team, Cheryl. It’s great to have you on board.”