Whitbread has poached a top banker to become its head barista as it picked Lloyds’ head of retail, Alison Brittain, to succeed Andy Harrison as chief executive of the Costa Coffee to Premier Inns group.
Ms Brittain will become the sixth female chief executive on the FTSE 100 – the highest number ever. She was one of Lloyds’ top executives, brought across from Santander shortly after Antonio Horta-Osorio was recruited from the former Abbey National business to run Lloyds in 2011.
Ms Brittain, 50, a keen Manchester United fan, is a surprise choice by Whitbread but she is highly rated in the banking industry – particularly for advancing digital banking and improving customer relations at Lloyds, the Halifax and TSB.
Lloyds moved swiftly to make David Oldfield, director of IT and operations, her interim successor.
Ms Brittain will receive a base salary of £775,000 at Whitbread, but with pension contributions and bonus, she could earn up to £2.8m. She is buying £500,000 worth of Whitbread shares when she joins at the start of next year and will receive up to £1.75 million worth of free shares vesting in 2017 and 2018.
Mr Horta-Osorio paid tribute to Ms Brittain, saying: “Alison has played a significant role in leading the transformation of our retail business and I thank her for her contribution. I am also delighted we have proven executives able to step up to fill the positions created by her move.”
The Whitbread chairman Richard Baker said: “Alison has vast experience in successfully managing multi-site operations with leading brands. She has a natural ability to inspire and motivate large ... teams to deliver great service, and her strong personal belief in the importance of putting the customer at the heart of the business makes her a perfect fit with our culture and values.”
The number of women in FTSE 100 board positions has risen to just below 25 per cent, after a drive by the last government to increase female representation. However, critics have pointed that most of these positions are non-executive roles. Women account for around 9 per cent of FTSE 100 executive directors.
Among FTSE 250 companies, the proportion is only 5 per cent.