All change at Tesco as Higginson hands in his notice

The man behind Tesco's banking arm is off to pastures new after 15 years.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The guard’s a-changing at Tesco: Andrew Higginson, the man behind the supermarket’s move into banking, has handed in his notice after 15 years on Tesco’s board. It’s a sad loss for the supermarket: Higginson is widely credited with helping former CEO Sir Terry Leahy turn Tesco from a parochial UK supermarket chain into the world’s third-largest retailer (behind Wal-mart and Carrefour, since you asked). And while Higginson might also be tempted to shed a tear, we expect the £6.1m pension pot and £18m worth of shares will serve as a nice comfort…

Although he was group finance and strategy director for 11 years, Higginson’s most notable achievement is undoubtedly Tesco’s banking arm. Back in 2008, he played a crucial part in the supermarket’s £950m acquisition of a 50% stake in Tesco Personal Finance then owned by RBS.

Since then, getting the bank of the ground has been a gradual process, working with the bank’s CEO, Benny Higgins, to win the regulatory approval it needed to offer mortgages, which should happen later this year. Higginson, set to leave in September 2012, said of his timing, ‘we will have completed the creation of the bank as a standalone entity, and that seems an appropriate moment to hand over’. Although it remains to be seen how the Tesco brand will fare as and when it has to deal with the non-payment of mortgages.  

Higginson isn’t the first person to have resigned since new CEO Philip Clarke took over the reins at Tesco from Leahy earlier this year: chairman David Reid is also retiring in November, to be replaced by Barclays deputy chairman Sir Richard Broadbent. Other, less senior resignations include Laura Wade-Gery, Tesco’s e-commerce director, Colin Holmes, its fresh food director, Lance Bachelor, chief of Tesco Mobile, and Mark Horrobin, the COO of Tesco Mobile.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not implying any suspicious goings-on behind the scenes: as one analyst put it, ‘it is all part of the cycle’. Four years ago, the company suffered a similar mass departure as Dido Harding, Julia Reynolds and John Browett all beat a path to the door. But that doesn’t make replacing them any less irritating to Clarke.

Not that he needs to panic quite yet: Higginson’s last day isn’t until September 1 next year, which gives Clarke plenty of time to find a replacement. Aah. Love is… giving your boss sufficient notice to effect proper succession planning. 

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