The Business On...Kate Swann, Chief executive, WH Smith


Still gliding serenely, or sinking in the retail slowdown?

The former – the business has managed to ride out the worst of the slowdown and is using its cash wisely. Yesterday, it unveiled a £50m share buyback programme to follow a £55m scheme recently completed.



Can't Ms Swann put the money to better use?

Well, there have been some acquisitions, including 22 British Bookshop sites, but Ms Swann insists headline-grabbing M&A is not usually for her.



Isn't that a bit conservative?

Sensible would be a better word – and you can't argue with Ms Swann's record during her tenure at the top of WH Smith, which has now lasted almost eight years. She turned a failing business around, sold off the entertainment division, which looks an ever smarter move, and turned the travel business into a real winner.



Is the job done then?

One might think so and it has to be said that Ms Swann is linked to every big job that comes up in retail. So far, however, she has seemed perfectly happy to stay put at WH Smith, where she's still chipping away at cutting costs and battling the high street malaise.



What might change her mind?

Hard to say. There has been speculation that WH Smith might demerge its travel and high street businesses – maybe completing that sort of restructuring might be the time for Ms Swann to seek a new challenge.



Or a tempting pay offer?

To be fair, she's not doing too badly for herself at WH Smith, where her total pay packet was worth around £4m last year – too much according to some governance activists.



Staying put then?

So it would seem, much to the relief of colleagues who always talk about her using terms such as "focused" and "driven".



No time for a private life?

Yes, though she prefers to keep itprivate, never talking about her family in public. That may be another reason for not taking a really big job, where the profile would be higher.

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 People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering