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The Centre for Digital Banking & Finance


Meet the people who support the Centre for Digital Banking and Finance. We are network of subject matter experts, practitioners and associates with years of experience growing digital businesses, deploying digital solutions and leading digital organisations.

Renier Lemmens


Renier is our Visiting Professor of Fintech and Innovation. He has held leadership roles in a variety of financial institutions in Europe and the USA including GE Capital, Barclays and PayPal. Renier has also held a number of non-executive and advisory positions in fintech start-ups.


Chris Ray

Assistant Director

Chris is Director of Innovation and Transformation and he is responsible for delivering and supporting strategic change initiatives and product innovation.

After working at the British Bankers Association (BBA) – which is now UK Finance – and at the Financial Times, Chris moved into financial education. He has vast experience of developing, delivering and promoting education programmes in the financial services sector.     

Helene Panzarino

Associate Director

Helene is a former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech.

She is a mentor and advisor who has helped over 15,000 of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) understand, prepare for, and access funding options at all stages of their business growth.

Helene is an adviser to a number of fintechs, including Yovo, a fourth generation utility token business, and Biid, a digital identity platform based in Spain.

In 2016, her book – Business Funding for Dummies – was published by Wiley and she was named a Top 10 Influencer in SME Funding in 2016. She has also contributed to The Entrepreneurs’ Network (TEN), The Parliamentary Rose Report on Female Funding in FinTech and The Scale Up Summit on Female Founders Raising Post-Seed Finance.


Rob Thurner

Associate Director

Rob is a digital marketing strategist and trainer specialising in digital transformation, digital banking, customer journey mapping, website and app user experience, ecommerce and mobile marketing.

He is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Burn the Sky – a digital strategy and training business that works with over 20 financial services clients. These include American Express, Aviva, AXA, Barclays, Barclaycard, CVC Capital Partners, Commercial Bank Qatar, Coventry Building Society, Danske Bank, Deutsche Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Faysal Bank, HBL, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Mashreq Bank, Piraeus Bank, Qatar National Bank, Public Bank, Santander and UOB.

Rob has written three best practice books:


Richard Johnson

Associate Director

Richard is a specialist in the convergence of digital technology and financial services. Richard started his career at NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, working retail banking, and front-line, advisory, strategic and senior line-management roles.

After 20 years, he became the Strategy Director of Monitise – a technology start-up specialising in mobile banking and payments software. The business grew to a peak $2bn valuation with deployments in Europe, the US and Asia.

Richard now advises businesses on their fintech strategies, as well as writing industry research and delivering executive education on fintech.


Dr Raoul-Gabriel Urma

Associate Director

Raoul is the CEO and Founder of Cambridge Spark, a leading learning organisation for data scientists and developers.

He is author of several programming books, including the best-seller Modern Java in Action: lambdas, streams, functional and reactive programming, which sold over 30,000 copies globally. As an international speaker, Raoul has given over 100 talks covering artificial intelligence, business, Java and Python.

Raoul has advised and worked for several organisations on large-scale software engineering projects including at Google, Oracle, eBay and Goldman Sachs. In 2017, he was nominated an Oracle Java Champion.

He has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge and an MEng in Computer Science from Imperial College, London. He graduated from Imperial with first-class honours, after winning several prizes for technical innovation.

Laura Bailey 

Chair, Qadre

Laura, Chairperson of Qadre, is a leading entrepreneur in the field of blockchain technology and a trailblazer for women in fintech. She has co-founded three successful blockchain ventures and is currently developing Qadre into a global technology leader – working with UK parliament, industry, and regulators alike to drive policy and cultural changes to technology.

Laura acts as a Non Executive Director of StateZero Labs, is an active member on the Board of techUK and is also a Founding Member & Advisor for the British Blockchain & Frontier Technologies Association. Laura is a regular speaker in domestic and international governments, regulators, and NGOs, promoting technology for good. Laura has an extensive background in finance and began her career at HSBC across a variety of areas, including Leveraged Finance, Marketing, and Corporate Banking.

Ashley Kemball-Cook

Head of Business Development, Qadre

Ashley is Co-Founder and Head of Business Development for Qadre, a blockchain product development firm. Qadre focuses on developing, scalable, practical applications of blockchain that deliver solutions.

He also led blockchain projects across the pharmaceutical industry with Roche and Merck, Luxury goods including Patek Philippe and Rolex as well developing some world firsts for blockchain in the media industry.

He has worked on projects to advise Magic Circle Law Firms, Facebook, UK Regulators, EU Parliament, the UN, and USAID.

Ashley is currently an advisor to Disberse, which he was Lead Business Analyst for as they worked with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to issue the first ever international distribution of humanitarian aid on a blockchain.

Before entering the world of blockchain Ashley was Head of Research for a boutique London strategy consultancy deliver projects for Unilever, easyJet, EDF Energy, and analysis for BlackRock and Hermes Investment Management.