Robert Dudley, BP
Resolution: Stay out of the headlines
When Bob Dudley took over at the start of October, he inherited a company bruised and battered from the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion in April which killed 11 people and unleashed the worst oil spill in US history. Three months later, the group's position has already improved, helped by the departure of Mr Dudley's gaff-prone predecessor, Tony Hayward, and the partial recovery of the share price. But there are all manner of pitfalls ahead. For a start, 2011 will be a year of judgments on the Gulf disaster – from the Presidential Commission, to the Department of Justice (DoJ), to the Chemical Safety Board. The most important is the DoJ, where a gross negligence verdict could see BP fined as much as $21bn (£14bn). Meanwhile, the charm offensive in the US will take years, as will turning Mr Dudley's thorough-going review of safety procedures into accepted practice across the vast, global group. The new boss will also need to get BP's weary investors back on side, while choosing the right point to restore the dividend. And then there are future developments. So far BP has sold around $24bn-worth of assets, out of a planned $30bn programme to help cover the cost of the Gulf disaster. What else to sell, and what new projects to take on, are vexed questions in terms of the group's long-term positioning.
Marc Bolland M&S
Resolution: Work out who your customer is
The former Morrisons chief executive Marc Bolland caused a stir when he took over Marks & Spencer from Sir Stuart Rose in May – in part because the 50-year-old Dutchman was such an outsider, but in the main because of his eye-watering £8.5m remuneration. But industry experts take the view that the scale of the challenge is so significant that Mr Bolland will more than earn his money if he is successful. M&S was once the nation's favourite retailer; the task is to make it so again – mainly by focusing on a specific group of, preferably younger, customers. Nothing less than a major overhaul will do. Mr Bolland set the scene himself last month. The new boss drew a line through several of his predecessor's pet schemes – including axing sales of TV sets and scaling back on stocking branded foods. A new slogan – "Only at Your M&S" – attempts to re-focus the brand, as do plans to "develop our own best-in-class M&S alternatives". Similarly, he is cutting some of the multiple clothing labels. Mr Bolland has added an extra £300m to the group's £550m three-year investment plan, to fund his plans. But he has a tough job on his hands. Sir Stuart only half-succeeded in turning M&S around – 2011 will give the first clues as to whether his successor can complete the job.
John Rishton: Rolls-Royce
Resolution: Avoid emergency landing
When John Rishton takes up the reins at the end of March, the most pressing concern will be to manage the fallout from the Trent 900 engine failure in November that saw one Qantas superjumbo forced into an emergency landing and another five planes grounded. Longer term, Mr Rishton faces nothing less than keeping up the company's cracking pace of growth in a rather trickier market. Rolls-Royce's order book has ballooned by more than seven times in its 14 years under the out-going Sir John Rose, the leading champion of British industry. Mr Rishton will need to maintain the stellar growth if he is to meet the target he inherits of doubling current revenues of £10bn by 2020. It is a formidable task, against a background of intense competition in both military and civilian markets, and sharply reduced defence budgets the company hopes will be offset by growing marine and energy businesses. Mr Rishton's background as finance director of British Airways – one of Rolls-Royce's biggest customers – will help, as will his successful stint as the head of the Dutch grocer Ahold, turning it around after an accounting scandal. In the short term Mr Rishton is relatively safe, thanks to long-term contracts that Rolls-Royce has with both Boeing and Airbus. But he faces hairy decisions about the next generation of fuel-efficient engines for single-aisle planes, an area of particularly savage competition.
Bob Diamond: Barclays
Stuart Gulliver: HSBC
Resolution Cling on to the right to lavish bonuses
These two banks might appear different – Barclays a bulging investment bank largely focused on the developed world, HSBC an emerging markets juggernaut with a substantial UK retail presence – but both face similar challenges. Since neither took direct state aid during the financial crisis, Messrs Diamond and Gulliver will be looking to lavish "top performing" staff with vast bonuses. But public anger is mounting, stoked by politicians anxious to divert the outrage elsewhere. And both men could do with public relations help, not least with regards to badly-received threats to quit the UK if the politicians keep being mean. Mr Diamond will hope for signs that his attempt to "rebalance" Barclays and make it less reliant on volatile earnings from the investment bank is succeeding. Mr Gulliver, having substantially reshaped his top team, will be aiming to boost his wealth management business to capture a greater share of Asia's rapidly growing ranks of "mass affluent" consumers while deepening his bank's enviable relationships in China.
Dan Akerson: GM
Resolution: Learn Chinese
You might think that steering General Motors back to the stock market would be tricky, but for the new man in the driving seat, the giant US carmaker's flotation in November is just the start. In fact, with the shares moving decisively ahead of their float price, living up to expectations really will be the hard part. Dan Akerson – who became chief executive in September – made his name in telecoms and private equity. Not only does he have to familiarise himself with the car industry, he must also persuade the inhabitants of that clubby world that he has their interests at heart. But the biggest challenges may be overseas. Promises of government aid persuaded his predecessors to keep hold of GM's European operations, but the jury is still out as to whether they are yet sustainably profitable. And increasingly GM's fortunes are tied to China, where the group is the biggest foreign manufacturer, but the stonking growth in the market is expected to slow this year.
Philip Clarke: Tesco
Resolution: Step out of Sir Terry's shadow
One of the biggest tests for Philip Clarke when he takes over at Tesco in March will simply be stepping into the shoes of his formidably successful predecessor, Sir Terry Leahy, after 14 transformative years. But the challenges do not stop there. One key priority will be to keep hold of pole position in the UK market. The group's expansion into financial services will be high on Mr Clarke's priority list as he attempts to see off rivals piling on the competitive pressure to knock Tesco off the top spot. And then there is the rest of the world. Mr Clarke should be well-qualified for the role, thanks to his years as the head of the retailer's international operations. But it will still be no mean feat. Tesco is wedded to plans for international expansion it says are fuelled by the search for shareholder value. But there are some marked trouble spots crying out for kill-or-cure attention. Mr Clarke will likely review – if not abandon – the loss-making Fresh & Easy brand in the US, despite Sir Terry's claim as recently as October that it will break even by 2012-13. Another tricky region, where the retailer may yet cut its losses, is Japan. Then there is China, where Mr Clarke inherits a target to quadruple sales by 2015.
Adam Crozier: ITV
Resolution: Make friends with the internet
As the former head of the Football Association and Royal Mail, Adam Crozier has never been one to shirk a challenge. And despite a strong start as the chief executive of ITV, he faces another one this year. Mr Crozier replaced Michael Grade at the free-to-air commercial broadcaster early in 2010 – alongside the new chairman, Archie Norman. The new management team benefited from a return to form from the advertising markets, as well as the success of X Factor, but these masked some of the deeper issues at the broadcaster. Following a root and branch review, Mr Crozier was commendably blunt in his pledge to get the WD40 out and start the "rusty machinery" whirring again. The company needs a new business model. As it weans itself off being quite so advertising dependent, Mr Crozier has already looked to a pay TV model as ITV put the HD versions of ITV2, 3 and 4 on Sky's paid-for platform. The broadcaster also has to find a way of lifting its online revenues, and coping in a world where its audience share is dropping with an increasingly fragmented market. He plans to develop the content arm to produce more hits like Downton Abbey as well as looking abroad to boost profitability.
Stephen Elo: Nokia
Resolution: Take on iPhone and BlackBerry
Once a dominant force in the mobile phone market, Nokia is listing badly. It was the byword for cell phones in the first half of the decade, then high-end smartphones came along and everything fell apart. In March, the stark image of Nokia boarding up its flagship London store on Regent Street as hordes piled into the Apple store opposite was seen as somewhat poignant. In 2010 the board finally noticed something was wrong, and in September ousted chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo after four years in the top job. Stephen Elop was drafted in from Microsoft, marking the appointment of the first non-Finn in the company's 145-year history. Among his first jobs will be to produce a phone that can challenge the iPhone, BlackBerry or Android devices currently on the market. Nokia dominates in low-end, low-margin smartphones but has lost its way at the top end. This was compounded by its latest tilt at the market, the N8, which suffered a series of delays and met with muted response. Mr Elop is hailed as a software expert, and sorting out the phones' operating system is seen as crucial, whether that is an overhaul of the existing Symbian system or a move to team up with Microsoft over Windows Phone 7 or even Google's Android. He can worry about the remaining problems after that.
Antonio Horta-Osario: Lloyds Banking Group
Ana Botin, Santander UK
Resolution: Be nice to your customers
Antonio Horta-Osorio was a clever appointment as the new chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, not least since his old employer, Banco Santander, had the Treasury Select Committee eating out of its hands when extolling the virtues of narrow banking. Mr Horta-Osorio faces a whole new set of problems at Lloyds. Many, if not most, will be political. For a start, there's the EU-forced sale of 600 branches, and potentially more, if the Independent Commission on Banking so decides. Lloyds, Britain's most-complained-about bank, also needs to get its customers on-side. When he gets his feet under the desk vacated by Eric Daniels, Mr Horta-Osorio might also start thinking about how to diversify. As for his successor at Santander UK, Ana Botin, she has the small matter of a partial flotation to deal with as her employer seeks to raise capital by selling off a portion of its UK holdings. She will need to spruce up the business, and rapidly integrate the 300 Royal Bank of Scotland branches Santander bought with its other UK operations.