Telecom star Liv Garfield set for splash landing

Liv Garfield, head of BT Openreach, will become only the fifth female CEO in the FTSE 100 when she takes over at Severn Water

For anyone lacking a subscription to Telecom Networks News the name Liv Garfield might well have come as something of a surprise when she was appointed next chief executive of the giant Severn Trent Water yesterday.

After all, in her stint at BT Ms Garfield ended up running probably the most boring part of a not so exciting company. For the last two and half years she has been chief executive of Openreach – which looks after the “last mile” of copper wire or fibre to a home or business, and whose name you see on thousands of engineers’ vans.

Seventeen million premises now have fibre connections, up from four million when she took over. Yet this is hardly the stuff of the £1bn Champions League football rights deal with which BT was grabbing the headlines last week.

Of course, the fact that Ms Garfield is blonde, 38, has two young children and sports a natty line in heels ensures she is today’s headline in the predominantly grey-suited, male world of business.

Ms Garfield is likely to be only the fourth serving female chief executive of a FTSE 100 company when she joins Severn Trent next spring.

The company has only recently seen off a £5.1bn hostile takeover bid from a Canadian-led consortium and is facing increasing furore over rising water bills for consumers. An appearance before the Commons Business committee is certain to be one of the early dates in her diary.

Her appointment – after a long search by headhunters, Severn Trent assures us – also raises the question: can anyone at the top of business run any company?

If a methodist minister can head a bank why can’t a telecoms engineer build a new sewer?

To be fair to Ms Garfield, most of her 11 years at BT have been spent in just the kinds of places Severn Trent needs her to be seen in. Latterly she has been photographed wearing a hard hat, up a telegraph pole. Look out for the new shots of her knee-deep in something down a main drain.

The fact is Ms Garfield has spent time on BT’s big two things: infrastructure and customer services. Both have improved under her tenure.

As Gavin Patterson, who beat her to succeed Lord Livingston as BT’s chief executive, said: “Liv has made an enormous contribution to BT over the past 12 years and she’ll be greatly missed. With her leadership we have taken the company’s commercial fibre rollout from conception to delivery. That is one of the fastest fibre deployments in the world.”

Andrew Duff, her new chairman at Severn Trent, said: “Liv brings experience of managing customer service delivery and complex organisations in a regulated environment. We are all looking forward to working with Liv and warmly welcome her to Severn Trent. It is a testimony to the quality of this company that we have been able to attract someone of Liv’s capabilities.”

Some analysts questioned whether Ms Garfield might yet have the boardroom skills to fight regulators or even potential bidders. But those who know her say she is particularly hands-on in management and regularly gets her way when changing organisations from the inside.

Ms Garfield will be paid a basic salary of £650,000 a year, but with pension contributions and short and long-term bonuses that could rise to £2.4m if she hits all her performance targets.

Severn Trent will also make up for cash bonuses she will lose from BT through its own long-term incentive plan over the next three years.

Ms Garfield replaces Tony Wray, who announced his intention to step down from Severn Trent seven months ago, after more than six years in the role.

Her move from one utility to another comes as water companies are facing increasing pressure from the regulator to keep customer bill increases at a minimum while continuing mutibillion-pound investment in their infrastructure.

Ms Garfield, who read German and French at Cambridge, began her career with a year at the British Consulate in Brussels. She then worked at Accenture for six years, before joining BT in 2002. She is a non-executive director of Tesco.

She said: “It’s a huge wrench to leave Openreach but I feel now is the right time to take on a new challenge. I am really looking forward to joining Severn Trent. It is a leader in an industry going through significant change and has, at its heart, a commitment to serving customers well.”

Ms Garfield, who was born in Yorkshire and is a keen Everton fan, lives in London. It is not yet clear whether she will move closer to Severn Trent’s headquarters in Coventry.

She will join Imperial Tobacco’s Alison Cooper, easyJet’s Carolyn McCall and Royal Mail’s Moya Greene as female bosses of FTSE 100 companies. Burberry’s Angela Ahrends plans to leave the luxury group by the middle of 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living