On the money with Gavin Hinks

gavin hinks, accountancy age editor

That’s the inference from news that Byron Grote, the long-serving FD at BP,
is to stay on a bit longer.

Grote was due to go this year and a search for an FD had been underway but
the news is that no one could be found. No one? Not a single professional in the
world was able to come in and do the job?

In view of that it seems odd that Shell achieved what BP found impossible and
appointed Simon Henry as CFO to succeed Peter Voser who moves up to CEO.

Henry is an internal candidate who has clearly caught the eye.

But BP was unable to search among its own ranks and find anyone it trusted
enough with the company books. A damning conclusion about its own staff? A
damning indictment of BP’s succession planning?

A top headhunter told me last year that each time someone was appointed at BP
the rumours began that they were the new Grote. None of these rumours proved to
have any substance it seemed.

But perhaps there is something else going on. When Accountancy Age
spoke to analysts about the Grote decision, the one common theme was
‘continuity’. So, when they also mentioned ‘suitability’ what they perhaps
really meant was that suitability in this case means continuity.

It’s just not true that there’s no one else out there who can do the job.
What it means is that no one else out there gives analysts, investors, the
chairman and the CEO the warm, fuzzy security blanket feeling like Grote does.

He’s been around forever and survived every trauma that has beset the
business and, more importantly, has some inkling where the bodies have been
interred. Now that’s something you can’t recruit.

Gavin Hinks is the editor of Accountancy Age

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