James became Chair of Newcastle Building Society in 2021 after 15 years as Chief Executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. He was previously Chairman of Darlington Building Society and Vice Chairman of Esh Group. He had 14 years in corporate banking and strategic marketing in Barclays Bank. After leaving school he spent 12 years soldiering in the Royal Green Jackets (now The Rifles) all around the world. He is also Pro-Chancellor of Sunderland University, Deputy Lieutenant for Co. Durham, and Honourary Colonel for The Rifles. He is also an Honourary Fellow of the Association of International Accountants.