Rolls-Royce appoints first female finance chief in boardroom shake-up
Rolls-Royce has appointed its first female finance chief as part of a boardroom shake-up by the chief executive, Tufan Erginbilgic, who has promised to instil a “winning culture” at the engineering and aerospace firm, whose past performance he has criticised.
Helen McCabe will start in the role later this year, taking over from Panos Kakoullis, who has only been in the job since March 2021. She joins from BP, where she had previously worked alongside Erginbilgic, who was named the CEO of Rolls-Royce last year and took up the role at the start of 2023.
Erginbilgic has not been shy about highlighting the 108-year-old engineering firm’s flaws since takeover over, telling staff in January: “We underperform every key competitor out there.”
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During the address, at Rolls-Royce’s main UK manufacturing side in Derby, he said: “Every investment we make, we destroy value.
“We do have a burning platform,” Erginbilgic added, evoking the analogy the former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop made in 2011 when he told his staff they faced the same stark choice as a worker on an oil platform in the North Sea whose rig was aflame and who had to jump into freezing water to survive.
McCabe’s appointment, amid a broader executive overhaul, heralds major reforms at the British engineering champion, whose stock market value has tumbled by two-thirds over the past five years.
In a statement to the stock market announcing McCabe’s appointment, Rolls-Royce said the changes were part of a “transformation programme requiring a winning culture and shared determination to deliver sustainable earnings growth and cash generation”.
Erginbilgic was head of BP’s downstream division – including global fuels, jet fuels and petrochemicals – for six years, where he worked with McCabe, whose move will end almost three decades with the oil company. He said: “I have experienced her abilities first-hand and her skillset will complement the existing capabilities of the executive team, contributing to Rolls-Royce delivering on its significant potential.”
In the shake-up Rob Watson will also become president of the civil aerospace division, having previously run Rolls-Royce’s electric aviation operations.
The incumbent head of civil aerospace, Chris Cholerton, will become group president and will oversee the group’s submarine division and serve as the interim boss of the company’s small modular reactor unit until a permanent appointment is made. The division is developing “mini-nukes” to increase the UK’s nuclear power generation capacity.
Adam Riddle has been appointed president of defence and will also lead the company’s North America division, with immediate effect.