ICI looks outside for top managers

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The Independent Online
Charles Miller Smith, chief executive of ICI, is seeking to "widen the gene pool" of top management in a radical shift in staffing policies at the giant chemicals group. Mr Miller Smith, who arrived from Unilever at the end of 1994, is to seek replacements for around a quarter of its top 150 executives from outside the group, including recruiting locally for many of its overseas operations.

The indications were yesterday that the new policy, unveiled to a meeting of several hundred senior staff at the end of February, would not result in redundancies, but it will have sent shock waves through the group. Historically, ICI has promoted its senior staff from within. One insider said yesterday: "This change has never been stated before. ICI has always been a company which has grown its own talent internally. This is the first time in [my] eight years with the company that anyone has been so straightforward."

Before Mr Miller Smith arrived, appointments from outside the group at senior levels were rare. The arrival of Colin Short from Chevron as finance director caused quite a stir in the late 1980s. He has since moved on to become chairman of United Biscuits.

After less than a year as chief executive and an extensive review of the business involving management consultants McKinsey, Mr Miller Smith has now said he wants to get new blood into the company. This will mainly affect the operating businesses below main board level, which include paints, explosives, acrylics and polyurethanes. He has said he wants to get local people in on the ground in these operations, which span the world and are increasingly being moved towards the Far East. Around 30 to 40 executives will be recruited from outside.

But ICI sources played down the prospect of senior level redundancies. "I wouldn't think large numbers would be lopped off immediately, but we would be seeking to recruit people over a period of 18 months," the source said.

The latest revelations come after an extensive communications exercise by Mr Miller Smith.

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