Governance and Accountability

Governance sets out the process by which an organisation operates and the systems that hold the organisation and its people to account. In this section you can find out about SMV’s governance model and areas of accountability.

SMV has evolved significantly over the past 470 years, with the pace of change accelerating more than ever during the current decade.

Once a trade association for Bristol’s maritime merchants, SMV is now a social purpose organisation whose members share a determination for Bristol to become a place of equality and inclusion. Our activities today are focused on helping communities across Greater Bristol to thrive.

The breadth of our activities covers several key sectors that are highly regulated by external bodies, such as education, care for older people and charitable giving. As public office holders we are held to account for our decisions and actions.


“Making sure that every student has the opportunity to fulfil their potential during their educational journey is a serious responsibility. As trustees, we’re ultimately responsible for the strategic direction and performance of the multi-academy trust and the eight schools within the trust family. The Nolan Principles provide an excellent framework to ensure that we bring the best version of ourselves to the role.”

Gail Bragg Chair of Trustees, Venturers Trust

Governance model

Every member of SMV, when representing the organisation in any role of responsibility, for example as a governor or trustee, is expected to act in accordance with the Nolan Principles.

In 1995 the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Lord Nolan, received its first report establishing the Seven Principles of Public Life. Now referred to as the Nolan Principles, the recommendations aimed at improving standards of behaviour in public life, setting out seven basic principles:

1. Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

2. Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3. Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4. Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5. Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6. Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.

7. Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

The Nolan Principles apply to anyone who works as a public office holder, including those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies, in the health, education, social and care services, and in all other sectors that deliver public services. All public office holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources.

For SMV, our governance model strictly adheres to the Nolan Principles. Identifying and declaring potential conflicts of interest in all aspects of our public office roles is integral to this transparent model.


“Members of the Downs Committee make recommendations and decisions that we believe will safeguard the future of the Downs for generations of Bristol residents who also care deeply about this precious green space in the heart of the city.”

Jonathon Baker Member of the Downs Committee

Conflicts of interest

SMV’s members often belong to private, public and charity sector organisations across the region. As such there may be occasions when an individual member has interests in one or more partner organisations with whom transactions occur.

The Standing Committee, essentially SMV’s board of directors, records declarations of interest from its members at least annually.

To ensure that potential conflicts of interest are understood and recorded, declarations of pecuniary interests are a standard agenda item for committee meetings. ‘Pecuniary interests’ refers to a person’s business interests, for example their employment, trade, profession, contracts, or any company with which they are associated, and their wider financial interests, for example investments and assets including land and property.


“SMV’s strategy is to deliver the highest standards of safe, compassionate care for older people with optimal outcomes and the best experience for residents, their families and staff. This is effected through a governance framework using external audit from quality assured bodies and internal processes including regular surveys, in a fluid sector under continuous pressure.”

Dr Jacqueline Cornish OBE Chair of SMV Care for Older People Committee

If a conflict of interest were to arise there is a formal process whereby a conflicted member would not participate during the relevant committee discussion and would abstain from any vote on the matter.

The Conflicts of Interest Advisory Sub-Committee was established in 2021 and comprises two individuals with no connection to either the Society of Merchant Venturers or SMV Trustee Company Limited, who can advise on areas where a conflict of interest might arise.

For example, SMV provides administrative services to the charities listed below, of which SMV Trustee Company Limited is the trustee and, as permitted by the Charity Commission, makes a charge for necessary administrative services. These services are charged at cost. The Conflicts of Interest Advisory Sub-Committee regularly reviews these charges and makes a recommendation to the board of SMV Trustee Company Limited as to whether the proposed charges are, in the opinion of the members of the Sub-Committee, appropriate and fair.

SMV provides administrative services to the following charities of which SMV Trustee Company Limited is the trustee:

  • The Cote Charity
  • W H Blandy Trust
  • The Charles Dixon Pension Fund
  • Montpelier Collegiate Trust
  • Montpelier High School Bursary Fund
  • Susie Hopes Scholarship Fund
  • The Roger Newport Foundation
  • The Society of Merchant Venturers’ Almshouse Charity
  • The Merchant Venturers Charity
  • The Merchant Venturers Charities Investment Pool


SMV’s relationship with the St Monica Trust

SMV has delegated authority to manage St Monica Trust’s permanent endowment, under the overall direction of St Monica Trust. This responsibility was given to SMV by the charity’s founders in 1922, and is enshrined in the St Monica Trust constitution. The endowment, and the income it generates, belongs to St Monica Trust, the governance of which is completely independent from SMV. While SMV also has the right to nominate six of the fifteen members of the St Monica Trust Council (its board of trustees), under charity law those SMV nominees once appointed must act solely in the best interests of the St Monica Trust charity and therefore quite independently of SMV.


All of SMV’s work in education, care and charitable giving is regulated and assessed by official bodies including the Department for Education, Ofsted, the Regional Schools Commissioner, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the Charity Commission, the Care Quality Commission and Bristol City Council. To find out exactly which organisations we are accountable to across our core activities, click here.