OUR EXPERTS

GOVERN’s strategic expansion is piloted by its Founder and Managing Director Alissa Kole, supported by a team of senior professionals with targeted expertise.

For each project, GOVERN gathers a set of experts from the relevant countries and disciplines, to perfectly fit the unique needs of each of our clients.

Collectively, our team boasts over 250 years of experience dedicated to advancing sound strategy, good governance, prudent risk management and robust compliance in global markets.

Alissa Kole


Alissa Kole is a senior advisor to governments and private sector leaders, leveraging her experience as an internationally recognised expert specialising in economic and corporate governance. She is the founder and director of GOVERN Center, awarded for its work with governments and companies on the design of custom governance regulations and frameworks, as well for its work in defining governance frontiers globally.

Prior to founding GOVERN, Alissa launched and led the OECD’s regional project in the Middle East and North Africa for a decade, in particular developing a unique programme on governance in the region. She has been closely involved in the development of national corporate governance, capital markets laws and regulations. In recent years, she has been advising boards and executives on a range of governance and strategy reforms.

Alissa is also a prolific author, including a number of books and articles on corporate governance, capital market development, sovereign governance and related topics. She is a sought-after speaker and commentator with contributions including a TED Talk in 2018 and regular articles in the FT, WSJ, Project Syndicate and other recognised international media sources. Alissa holds a business administration degree from York University in Canada and a degree in political economy from the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom.

For her influence in advancing good governance in the Middle East, she was named one of the Top 100 Leaders in Europe and the Middle East by the Centre for Sustainability and Excellence in 2011 and was recognised by Columbia Law School as the Rising Star of Corporate Governance in 2014. Ms. Kole is fluent in English, French, Russian, Italian and has notions of Arabic, Ukrainian and Portuguese.

Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis is a Senior Governance Advisor at GOVERN, an associate director of the Harvard Law School Programs on Corporate Governance and Institutional Investors, and a senior fellow at the Program on Corporate Governance. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Group on Active Investor Stewardship.

In January 2020, he was named chair of the independent committee overseeing the global proxy voting industry’s Best Practices Principles for Shareholder Voting Research; he was also elected co-chair of the Advisory Board of Hawkamah.

Davis has been a non-resident senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution, a senior advisor on governance at Teneo, and outside advisor to the Nissan Special Committee on Improving Governance. From 2007-2012, he was executive director of the Yale School of Management’s Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance.

He has been non-executive chair of the board of Hermes EOS, the shareowner engagement arm of Hermes Pensions Management, the UK’s largest retirement fund, and a trustee of Share Action, the London-based NGO focused on institutional investor accountability.

Davis is a co-founder of many institutions that now comprise the global corporate governance architecture including the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, the International Corporate Governance Network, Chairmen’s Forums in North America and South Africa, the Conference of Fund Leaders, and many other organisations.

Davis is co-author of What They Do With Your Money: How the Financial System Fails Us, and How to Fix It (Yale University Press, 2016) and The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors are Reshaping the Corporate Agenda (Harvard Business School Press, 2006).

He has been named by Directorship as among the 100 most influential figures in corporate governance and by Trust Across America as among the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior.

Dr. Davis earned his doctorate in international business and security studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and completed undergraduate studies at Tufts and the London School of Economics.

David Beatty

David Beatty is a Senior Governance Advisor at GOVERN and the Chair of the Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics and Board Effectiveness at the University of Toronto in Canada. David is also currently a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management where he teaches corporate strategy and corporate governance.

He is the creator of the Directors Education Program that has so far trained over 4000 participants in Canada and internationally. He is also a Senior Advisor to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation on corporate governance.

Over his career he has served on over 40 different boards of directors in Canada, America, Mexico, Australia and England and been Chair of 9 public companies. In the not-for-profit sector, David had served on Peter Drucker’s Foundation Board as a Vice Chairman and was the Chair of Upper Canada College.

Currently, he serves as chair of Rubicon Minerals and on the board of Colliers International, both traded Toronto and New York. He also serves on the boards of privately held Canada Steamship Lines in Canada and City Financial in the UK.

David was the Founder and Managing Director of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (2003-2008), an organisation that now represents 50 institutional investors with $1.3 trillion Canadian dollars of assets under management. The Coalition is widely recognized as a premier investor association not only in Canada but also globally.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor and in 1994 he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. David holds an MA in Economics from Cambridge University and a BA in Political Science & Economics from the University of Toronto.

Lamees Al Baharna

Lamees is a Senior Risk and Governance Advisor at GOVERN with enterprise risk expertise across a broad range of asset classes and a multi-billion credit portfolio. She is a trusted advisor to boards and C-Suite stakeholders with a history of driving transformation and change to keep pace with regulatory requirements whilst enabling growth, profitability, and operational resilience.

Lamees is skilled in leading multi-disciplined professionals, designing and implementing enterprise risk management frameworks in both private and public entities covering strategy setting, data management, risk mitigation, and operational best practices. A current focus on financial technology and innovation has led to recent involvement with digital banking initiatives.

Her impactful roles in the financial sector include serving as a Risk Consultant at Kelix Bio PE Fund, UAE, Chief Risk Officer at Oman Arab Bank, and Head of Risk Management at Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding. Her extensive career also features key positions, such as Senior Credit Group Officer at Gulf International Bank, Senior Compliance and Admin Officer at Lehman Brothers, Private Banking Unit Manager at National Bank of Bahrain, and Financial Consultant at Merrill Lynch, Bahrain.

Lamees holds leadership and committee roles, currently chairing the ESG Committee at CFA Society Bahrain.
Lamees has made substantial contributions to the CFA Institute, representing CFA Societies EMEA East Region and serving on the Presidents Council. Notably, she is a Founding Member & past President of CFA Society Bahrain. Additionally, Lamees contributes her expertise to the Bahrain Government Capital Secretary Council Advisory Committee on Global Risks at the World Economic Forum.

Steffen Hertog

Steffen Hertog is a Senior Economics Advisor at GOVERN and an associate professor at the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. He has recently been nominated a member of the Advisory Committee to the UAE’s Education and Human Resources Council. He was previously the Kuwait Professor at Sciences Po Paris, a lecturer in Middle East political economy at Durham University, and a post-doctoral research fellow at Princeton University.

Steffen’s main research interests lies in Saudi, Gulf and Middle East political economy. He is a leading expert on public administration and labor market issues in the MENA region and has participated in and led policy and consultancy projects on administrative restructuring, public industry and labour market reform issues, often working on ministerial or cabinet level.

He has been travelling and working in the Middle East since 2000, both as an academic and as resident consultant for a Saudi government agency.His academic publications have appeared in leading social science and area studies journals, including World Politics, Comparative Studies in Society and History, European Journal of Sociology, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Review of International Political Economy.

Steffen has worked with numerous public and private institutions in Europe, the US and the Gulf region, including a variety of GCC government agencies, the European Commission, the World Bank, GIZ, the OECD, European and GCC chambers of commerce, Accenture, BCG, Deloitte and Touche, PWC, McKinsey, Oliver Wyman as well as numerous private clients. He holds an MA from the University of Bonn, an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford.

Mohammad Al Zuhair

Mohammad Al Zuhair is a Senior Governance and Finance Advisor at GOVERN, currently also serving as a faculty member at Kuwait University’s College of Business Administration, where his areas of expertise include corporate finance, foreign direct investment, and corporate-governance issues, particularly in the public sector.

Throughout his over 25-year career, Mohammad was appointed as Chair of the founding Board of Directors for the Kuwait National Fund for SME Development. He has previously contributed extensively to several governmental councils and committees, including his membership in the of the Supreme Council and Executive Committee and the Supreme Council for Privatization. He also served as an Advisor to the Director of the Government Performance Monitoring Agency (Cabinet Office) and in the Office of Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs.

His international advisory roles have included both academic and private sector leadership roles including as a Lecturer and Research Fellow at The George Washington University and Vice President for Private Equity at a boutique investment firm. Mohammed also has experience in international organisations having contributed to the efforts of the Executive Director for Arab Countries at the World Bank.

Mohammed holds a Ph.D. in Finance and International Business, an MBA in Finance and Investment from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering from Tulsa University. His multifaceted background underscores his commitment to academic excellence and practical contributions to public policy and governance.

Ayesha Sultan

Ayesha Sultan is a Senior Strategy and Governance Advisor at GOVERN with over 20 years of expertise across various sectors such as transport and logistics, real estate, and government sectors. She is a Fellow and Chartered Director at both the UK Institute of Directors and the GCC Board Directors Institute

Throughout her career spanning private and public sectors, Ayesha held key roles including Group CEO at Tecom, Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President at Dubai Holding, and Director of Corporate Strategy at DP World, among others.

Since 2012, Ayesha has held multiple board roles, including currently serving as an Independent Board Director at the GCC Board of Directors (UAE Chapter Advisory Board) and a Non-Executive Board Director at the Alliance Française Institute in Dubai. Previously, she held key positions such as Executive Board Director and Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee at Smart City, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding.

Ayesha holds an MA in Law from the University of Law, an MSc in Operational Research, and a BSc in Mathematics and French from the University of Southampton, she speaks English, French and Arabic. Ayesha is also actively involved in international arbitration advocacy and mediation.

Erik Vermeulen

Dr. Erik Vermeulen is a Senior Law and Governance Advisor at GOVERN. He is a Director of the Business Law Programme and a Professor of Business and Financial Law at Tilburg University and Tilburg Law and Economics Center in the Netherlands. He is also Head of Governance and Vice-President at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting). Erik is best-described as a “global futurist” and “cross-cultural strategic consultant”. He is constantly fascinated by technological revolutions and how the on-going digital revolution is changing the way we live, work and learn. He has a particular interest in how new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and robotics are affecting business, government, and education. Erik’s thought-provoking and innovative views have attracted international attention. He regularly serves as an expert advisor to international organizations, such as the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, the World Bank, and national and local governments around the world.
He is also a board/advisory member of several organizations,  including of a healthcare provider in the Netherlands, several law firms and start-ups. He has appeared in numerous conferences as a featured or keynote speaker. He is also a co-owner of a Michelin star restaurant in the Netherlands.

Vedat Akgiray

Vedat Akgiray is a Senior Financial Markets Advisor at GOVERN and is currently the Director of the Center for Research in Financial Regulation and Corporate Governance and a Professor of Finance at the prestigious Bogazici University in Istanbul.

In 2009, Vedat was appointed Chairman of the Capital Markets Board of Turkey, the country’s security’s regulator, where he served until 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, he also served as the Chairman of the Emerging Markets Committee of IOSCO, vice-Chairman of the IOSCO Board, member of the Financial Stability Board of G20, member of the International Integrated Reporting Council, and member of the IOSCO Expert Group on Financial Benchmarks.

Vedat has held a number of advisory positions to prominent corporate governance initiatives, including being a member of the Advisory Board of the Millstein Center at Columbia University. In the past, he has led several advisory and research projects for the Bank of Canada and various financial institutions in New York.

During his academic career, he has published and presented more than 100 academic papers, including this latest book “Good Finance” (2019, Bristol University Press) which discusses the current state of global financial markets.

Vedat received B.A. in Management from Bogazici University in 1980, M.B.A. from the School of Management in 1982, M.A. in Economics from the Maxwell School in 1985, and Ph.D. in Finance in 1985, all at Syracuse University in New York.

Ekaterina Zguladze

Ekaterina Zguladze is GOVERN’s Senior Integrity Advisor. Twice Minister in her native Georgia and Ukraine, she is the only female senior official that has been asked to replicate her successful anti-corruption and law-enforcement reforms by stepping in an official office in another country. During this journey, she had received multiple awards by local and international media and observers, including being named as the world’s top reformer, awards for most successful reform, numerous nominations as person of the year and was listed among five most influential female leaders of Ukraine. The Foreign Policy Magazine listed her among 100 Global Thinkers of 2015.

Prior to her service in Ukraine as the Vice-Minister of Internal Affairs, she had served 8 years in the Government of Georgia. During that time, Ms. Zguladze developed, directed and led a wide spectrum of major administrative and law enforcement reforms coupled with an aggressive fight against corruption with a view to promote better integrity. Georgia

underwent a profound transformation, from being one of the most corrupt and unsafe countries in the region, into a functional and transparent state.

She had worked on initiatives that have developed into well acclaimed success stories in the areas of open governance, public sector accountability standards, deregulation, and one-stop shop reforms of public services. She has initiated and drafted multiple anti-corruption, fraud and money laundering, and terrorism financing laws and regulations. She has also developed anti-corruption strategies and action plans, integrity and compliance mechanisms and policies for a number of organisations in her home country as well as internationally.

Ekaterina is a sought-after international expert in public sector reforms with focus on anti-corruption and law-enforcement. In recent years, she has advised 9 governments in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and has worked with the EU, OECD, US State Department and multiple other internationally funded anti-corruption and reform projects as an independent senior expert. In recent years, she has been supporting female leaders internationally, leveraging her experience working with governments and large corporations internationally.