James was chairman and managing director of Stewart Ivory Limited from 1989 until 2000. He is chairman of Value & Income Trust plc, The Monks Investment Trust plc, North American Income Trust plc and The Scottish Oriental Smaller Companies Trust plc, a non-executive director of The Independent Investment Trust plc and a former deputy chairman of the Association of Investment Companies.

He was appointed to the Northern 3 VCT board in 2001 and became chairman in 2009.