The rush to sign Andrew Higginson

TESCO is to lose one of its most highly respected executives yesterday when Andrew Higginson, the former FD and man in charge of Tesco bank steps down from the board.

The departure is amicable and needless to say Higginson will leave quite a wealthy man, by senior executive standards. And yet it’s interesting to ponder Higginson’s departure against all the recent chatter about finance directors becoming chief executive.

When Sir Terry Leahy stepped down as CEO of Tesco it was Phillip Clarke, the international director, the board turned to. In effect they turned their back on the FD’s potential and plumped for a man steeped in the Tesco way – since he joined the business as a graduate trainee.

How much Clarke’s appointment has affected Higginson’s career decision is an interesting question to consider. He was touted as a possible CEO for Tesco and he may feel he still has a top post left in him. At 55 though, and without the top job, he may well have considered it time to call it a day – especially if the Clarke way wasn’t in tune with the Higginson’s view of the future.

But the Tesco board is full of former FDs now working as non-execs and Higginson may see that as a more entertaining way of spending his time. Higginson is a strong but steady personality with financial expertise and commercial experience second to none. He would be a calming influence on any board as well as bringing a keen commercial instinct.

Higginson is a graduate from Birmingham Poly and worked as FD at Laura Ashley and Burton Group and never seemed like he had a passion for being an accountant.

In an interview in 2008 he told Accountancy Age: “My internal debate when I was offered the Tesco job was not ‘Do I want to be FD of Tesco, or do I want to be FD of Burton Group?’ – that was obvious because Tesco is massive in comparison. The debate was whether I wanted another FD job at all. Did I not want to look around for a chief executive role?’ he recalls asking himself after four years with the then-listed fashion retailer. But Terry persuaded me at the time that he could fulfil those aspirations at Tesco. I’m very glad he did because I’ve loved every minute of it.”

But clearly it’s time for something else and the rush to sign him up must be on.



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