New CEO for Co-op Food – and other changes at the top of the Group

Jo Whitfield takes charge of Co-op Food – and a shuffle at the top of the Group as Steve Murrells looks to create 'a smaller exec team'

Jo Whitfield has been appointed CEO of Co-op Food – and the organisation’s executive team has been shuffled as CEO Steve Murrells looks to create “a smaller exec team with wider accountability, which will help us to make decisions more quickly and make things simpler”.

Ms Whitfield joined the Co-op in 2016, initially as food finance director. She became the interim CEO for Food in February, replacing Steve Murrells on his appointment as Group CEO. Her permanent appointment follows a successful interim period in charge.

“Jo possesses all the key qualities of a Co-op leader,” said Mr Murrells. “She is able to marry commercial acumen with the need to do business the
Co-op way for the benefit of members and the communities in which we operate. I’m delighted she’s now confirmed fully in post and I look forward to working with her in the years ahead.”

A qualified chartered accountant, Ms Whitfield joined the Group from Asda, where she held various roles over eight years, including finance director for George, VP for George operations, international and strategy and finally VP for Asda general merchandise, money and mobile. She is an ambassador for Girls Out Loud, a member of the Women in Retail group and an ambassador for the Women of the Future programme.

Under her direction, the Food business “has maintained a strong performance, moved to support UK farmers by only providing 100% fresh British meat and has announced exciting trails to develop its wholesale and franchising capabilities”, said the Group.

“It’s a great honour and privilege to become CEO at such an exciting time for Co-op Food and the Co-op as a whole,” added Ms Whitfield.

“While our market continues to be highly competitive, it is also clear that our focus on delivering a high quality shopping experience, built around value, convenience and provenance is working for our members and customers. My role is to ensure that we continue to deliver on the great progress we’ve made over the past few years and I’m excited by that challenge.”

Other changes at the top:

Alistair Asher has stepped down as general counsel but will remain on the exec team until the end of the year as director of strategic projects, continuing to work on the NOMA property joint venture, FRTS and fulfil his non-executive director responsibilities for Co-op Insurance, Legal Services and the Co-op Bank. From January he will “continue to focus on strategic projects and developing his non-executive portfolio”.

Helen Grantham is joining the organisation permanently in the newly combined role of group general counsel and group secretary after an interim appointment as group secretary.

Richard Lancaster (Funeralcare and Legal Services businesses) is leaving the business on 1 November.

Pippa Wicks is remaining deputy CEO and will take on exec responsibility for the Funeralcare and Legal Services businesses. Robert Maclachlan (Funeralcare) and Matt Howells (Legal Services) will step-up to lead these businesses, reporting to Ms Wicks.

Mike Bracken (Coop Digital) is leaving the business this summer to pursue his own consultancy work. Stephen Foreshew-Cain will step up to take accountability for the Digital function covering Digital Products and Services, Ventures (including The Federation), Data and Membership. The IT team will transfer to report to Ian Ellis.

Exec responsibility for the Digital function will now sit with Pippa Wicks for Digital Products and Services and Rod Bulmer for Membership, Data and Ventures (including The Federation).

Rufus Olins’ (Membership) current accountabilities will remain the same but he will step down from the exec team and focus on developing and delivering the Group’s community proposition, as director of community and campaigns, reporting to Greg Nugent (interim chief marketing officer).

“There is much work to do to complete the rebuild of our Co-op and plan for our future,” said Steve Murrells, “but I’m confident that this new more focused exec team, together with all of you as leaders, means we are well placed to do more great things together.”

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