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Our history

Historical photograph of 116 Pall Mall


Ever since its formation in 1903, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has been at the forefront of British business. The Royal Charter, received just three years later, charged the IoD with promoting free enterprise, lobbying government on behalf of our members and setting standards for corporate governance in the UK.

The IoD has always spoken its mind, without fear or favour. Sometimes that has meant saying things political leaders do not want to hear; at others, it has meant criticising leading companies or businesspeople whose actions may be damaging the reputation of UK entrepreneurialism.

The IoD has hosted prime ministers and presidents, royals and raconteurs, artists and adventurers. But, as its history, now well into its second century, demonstrates, it has always done so with the best interests of British business in mind.


The first council

Twenty-three leading businessmen create the first council of the Institute of Directors at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Moorgate Place.

Lord Avebury, the former Liberal MP for Maidstone and London University, is appointed as the IoD’s first president. He is best known for introducing the Bank Holidays Act of 1871.


Inaugural dinner

Lord Avebury addresses the IoD’s inaugural dinner at the Hotel Metropole, London. In his speech he states, “One of the objects of the institute will be to protect the interests of directors. Still, I should regard that as being quite a subsidiary object for the institute to put before itself. It is much more important that it should enable directors to carry out the great responsibilities which they have undertaken; that it should be the centre from which they might obtain information upon various points of interest; that it should be the meeting ground on which they might consult together.”

IoD first president, John Lubbock, 1st Baron of Avebury


Royal Charter

The IoD is awarded a Royal Charter in 1906 and begins lobbying Parliament on company legislation. The Royal Charter remains an acknowledgement of the work the IoD does in promoting professionalism in business.

The Institute of Directors Royal Charter crest

Stanley Baldwin MP

Stanley Baldwin MP is elected as a member of the IoD. Baldwin will later go on to serve two terms as prime minister, from 1924-29 and 1935-37.


Poutney Lane

The IoD moves to new premises at 25 Laurence Pountney Lane, Cannon Street. The first edition of The Director magazine is published in January of that year.


Suffragette, businesswoman and Welsh peer

Lady Margaret Mackworth, suffragette, businesswoman and Welsh peer, is elected as the Institute of Directors' first female president. Mackworth had previously spent a month in prison, and been on hunger strike, after participating in a suffragette campaign to burn letterboxes.

IoD first female president, Lady Margaret Mackworth

Tothill Street

The IoD moves to 21 Tothill St, SW1. The building becomes an air raid shelter during World War II as the IoD temporarily ceases activity.


Director magazine

Following a hiatus, Director magazine is resurrected. In the same year, the IoD’s policy and executive committee is established – the drive against state intervention becomes its first major campaign.

Director magazine cover first edition 1949

Palace Street

The IoD moves to 51 Palace Street, Westminster and holds its first annual convention at The Dorchester.


The IoD philosophy

The IoD sets out its philosophy in the Golden Jubilee edition of Director and states that “the institute subscribes to the doctrine of equality of opportunity


Lyttelton and Powell

Oliver Lyttelton MP is appointed as the new president. Lyttelton had previously served as a member of the war cabinet from 1941-45.

Sir Richard Powell becomes the first director general of the Institute of Directors. During World War II, Powell escaped from German captivity, worked with the French Resistance and took part in the Normandy landings. During Powell’s 21-year reign as DG, membership doubles from 20,000 to 40,000 and he raises £2m for charitable causes.


Supporting the Hungarian Aid Fund

The Hungarian Aid Fund is launched in response to the Soviet invasion of the country. More than 20 aircraft are chartered by the IoD to fly supplies to Austria and to bring Hungarian refugees back to the UK.


Macmillan attends the Annual Convention

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan attends the Annual Convention, which by now has moved to its new home at the Royal Festival Hall.

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister, Howard Macmillan

'Mind Your Own Business'

Harold Wilson, then shadow chancellor, claims the IoD cost Labour the general election. When the party announces it would nationalise all companies that had “failed the nation”, the IoD publishes a pamphlet titled Mind Your Own Business and lists 600 of Britain’s largest firms that would face state ownership. Labour devotes an entire party political broadcast to criticising the IoD’s stance on nationalisation.


'Or Britain Goes Down'

The Institute of Directors Export Action Now Committee erects a neon sign in Piccadilly Circus. The message changes to “Or Britain Goes Down” with a ‘thumbs down’ sign and is switched on by President of the Board of Trade Reginald Maudling.

The success of the Annual Convention leads to the event moving to its current home at the Royal Albert Hall.

IoD 'Either Exports Go Up, or Britain Goes Down' campaign sign, Piccadilly Circus, 1961


'The Assault on Free Enterprise'

The IoD publishes The Assault on Free Enterprise in response to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jim Callaghan’s budget proposals.


Ronald Reagan at the Annual Convention

Governor of California, and future US president, Ronald Reagan receives a standing ovation following his now legendary speech at the 1969 Annual Convention.

Ronald Reagan at the 1969 IoD Annual Convention

116 Pall Mall becomes the new home of the IoD.

This prestigious and famous venue is one of London’s great Georgian landmarks. It is a Grade I listed building designed by John Nash, the architect responsible for much of the layout of Regency London.

IoD premises 116 Pall Mall

A new logo

Award-winning graphic designer Alan Fletcher creates a new logo for the IoD. His other famous works include logos for Reuters and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The Daily Telegraph hails Fletcher "the most highly regarded graphic designer of his generation.

IoD 1985 logo by Alan Fletcher

IoD Australia

The Institute of Company Directors in Australia becomes an IoD affiliate.


Doing a Ratner

Gerald Ratner’s speech at the Annual Convention wipes £500m off the value of Ratners jewellers. He jokes that their sherry decanter with six glasses on a silver-plated tray sells for just £4.95 because “it’s total crap”. ‘Doing a Ratner’ enters the British lexicon.

Gerald Ratner speaking at the IoD Annual Convention, 1991

The IoD launches its first website,


Chartered Director qualification

The world’s first independently accredited qualification for directors, Chartered Director, is launched.


IoD Bristol

The first IoD regional hub opens in Bristol.


123 Pall Mall

Prime Minister Tony Blair officially opens the IoD’s new ‘young entrepreneur’ premises at 123 Pall Mall.

The new website '' goes live.


Centenary celebrations

The IoD celebrates its centenary with Baroness Thatcher, Sir Richard Branson, Buzz Aldrin and Sir Steve Redgrave addressing the Annual Convention.

In the same year the IoD’s commitment to business excellence expands globally with the launch of IoD International.

Maggie Thatcher, celebrating IoD centenary

New constitution

For the first time in 100 years, the IoD unveils a new constitution. A new board is also established with both executive and independent directors answerable to a slimmed-down and more effective council.


National Director of the Year

The IoD launches its National Director of the Year awards to recognise and celebrate directors at the forefront of leadership excellence.


Simon Walker, Director General

Simon Walker is appointed as director general having previously been communications secretary to Queen Elizabeth II. The IoD hosts bilateral trade talks between the chancellor, George Osborne, and China’s vice premier, Wang Qishan.

Simon Walker, IoD Director General

Bankers bonuses

Walker speaks out against bonuses paid by Barclays Bank: “Thousands of people in those two companies alone earn more even than the prime minister. This is in scandal-hit companies who have had a far from successful year."


IoD 99

IoD 99 is launched to create a network for young business owners with the aim of supporting start-ups through the early growth period.

Entrepreneurs at an IoD 99 event

Lady Barbara Judge - the first female chair

Lady Barbara Judge is named as the first female chair of the Institute of Directors. She has been a member of the IoD since 1985.

Lady Barbara Judge, chairman, the IoD

London mayoral debate

The IoD hosts a heated London mayoral debate between the leading candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith.

Sadiq Kahn and Zac Goldsmith debate at The IoD

Stephen Martin, Director General

Stephen Martin becomes director general of the Institute of Directors in February 2017. Originally from Northern Ireland, Stephen comes from a background in construction, having run the Clugston Group, one of Britain’s leading private businesses, for 10 years before joining the IoD.

Headshot of Stephen Marting, Director General, IoD