Evening Standard Business Awards: Sir Martin Sorrell, Nick Varney and more to decide our business honours

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell joins EasyJet boss Dame Carolyn McCall and HSBC UK chief Antonio Simoes on our panel: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

The countdown is on to the Evening Standard’s Business Awards next month. The prestigious ceremony will bring together the City’s finest to celebrate the companies making waves in the capital.

Here, we introduce the distinguished panel of judges, made up of high-flyers in every field of business, who will be running the rule over the shortlist to pick the winners.

The shortlist will be revealed next week.

Vis Raghavan

The head of JPMorgan’s investment banking operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa is gearing up to make a success of Brexit and has made it clear that the bank will maintain as large a presence in London as possible. Cricket-loving Raghavan leads one of the City’s most prolific teams of rainmakers and has fingerprints on almost every deal that happens in the Square Mile.

Sir Martin Sorrell

The man who heads the world’s biggest advertising company is never without an opinion and is not shy of sharing it. With a presence in 112 countries and 205,000 staff around the world, Sir Martin has unrivalled knowledge of markets and the current strengths and weaknesses of the world’s biggest brands.

No stranger to controversy – not least over his astronomical pay packet, recently cut by almost a third – he has unparalleled experience and clients in every sector, making him the perfect judge of London’s best businesses and their leaders.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia

One of the country’s best-known businesswomen, Gadhia is chief executive of challenger bank Virgin Money.

She has been working hard to counter a prevailing City culture that holds back women from reaching the top and says that her “sheer bloody-mindedness” helped her reach her current position.

As someone who has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to grow a business both organically and through acquisitions, she will make a discerning judge.

Sir Ian Cheshire

There is not much that Sir Ian Cheshire cannot tell you about British business. The newly installed chairman of Barclays UK bank was chief executive of DIY retailer B&Q and then-owner Kingfisher from 2005 to 2015.

He is also chairman of department stores chain Debenhams, which he is modernising apace. Before Kingfisher, Cheshire worked for a series of large and small retail business, including US store chain Sears. Known for his commitment to protecting the environment and businesses in the community, Cheshire is aware of the role of responsible capitalism.

Darren Westlake

The co-founder and chief executive of Crowdcube, Westlake is one of the most influential people in the emerging fintech sector.

Crowdcube is the world’s first, largest and most active investment crowdfunding platform and has helped more than 450 businesses raise over £200 million since it was founded in 2011. He’s a seasoned entrepreneur as well as an investor and knows London’s vibrant tech scene inside out.

Nick Varney

The boss of Merlin Entertainments, which owns and operates some of the world’s most famous visitor attractions including Madame Tussauds and the London Eye (pictured), has over 24 years’ experience in the leisure industry.

Varney won praise for his swift and humble handling of the Alton Towers Smiler rollercoaster accident, which left two people with life-changing injuries and exposed the company to a £5 million fine for health and safety failings.

In the last decade, he has overseen a global expansion of Merlin Entertainments’ most successful theme parks and is now adding more hotels to its estate. As someone who successfully exports some of

London’s best known brands around the world, Varney is wellqualified to judge the capital’s leading business gongs.

Stacey Cartwright

The chief executive of Harvey Nichols arrived in 2014, fresh from her role as chief financial officer of Burberry.

Since she joined the iconic Knightsbridge-based group she has been rejuvenating the brand, accelerating its digital presence and opening a new store in Birmingham, all while overseeing a major transformation of the Knightsbridge flagship.

Cartwright also has wider business experience having worked at Granada, Egg and been on the boards of Liverpool FC and GlaxoSmithKline.

Sir Ian Powell

Chairman of the outsourcing company Capita since the start of this year, the former chairman and senior partner at PWC leads a company that touches almost every Londoner’s life, providing services from collecting the BBC’s licence fee to running payroll for many organisations, including parts of the NHS.

While he was in charge at PwC, he led a push to increase diversity at the Big Four accountant and even published analyses of its gender pay gap.

Antonio Simoes

The chief executive of HSBC’s UK bank, Simoes also has responsibility for continental Europe. The Portuguese banker has been living and working in the UK for many years, having joined HSBC from McKinsey.

Simoes is openly gay and has spoken about how this has helped him in his career ascent. He has been a rising star since he joined HSBC 10 years ago, so no wonder some are tipping him for the top job at the bank when Stuart Gulliver steps down next year.

Anya Hindmarch

From her “I’m not a PLASTIC bag” canvas tote to her classic Ebury, Anya Hindmarch’s handbags are some of the most recognisable and popular in the capital.

The designer started her luxury accessories business in London when she was just 19 and has since grown a global brand with over 45 stores. A passionate advocate of British design, Anya is also a UK trade ambassador.

Dame Carolyn McCall

The former Guardian Media Group chief executive has been piloting easyJet for almost seven years and this last year has been one of the most testing. She has steered the airline through terrorist attacks, a government ban on flights to Egypt and the Brexit referendum, which sent easyJet’s share price down a third.

As the airline prepares to open a European base and takes delivery of new aircraft for the summer peak, she has revealed that she spends a quarter of her time talking to customers and staff.

With broad business experience, she has also been a non-executive director on the boards of Lloyds TSB, Tesco and New Look. She was awarded France’s highest merit, the Legion d’Honneur in 2016 and sits on the Royal Academy’s Corporate Board.

She has been a non-executive director of Burberry since 2014 and, at the start of this year, she joined the board of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as a nonexecutive director.

She scooped the personality of the year award at last year’s Evening StandardBusiness Awards ceremony.

Sacha Romanovitch

Grant Thornton’s boss since 2015, Romanovitch was the first woman to reach the top of a global accountancy business and has been shaking things up ever since. She has capped her own pay at 20 times the staff average and introduced a John Lewis-style profit share for the 4500 staff.

She is dedicated to understanding the big picture and wants businesses to take a longer term view. Her latest mission is to encourage businesses to work together to create a vibrant economy.

The Evening Standard Business Awards, in association with HSBC, will be held at Banqueting House, Whitehall, on June 29. For more information, visit: standard.co.uk/businessawards