When your boardroom has as many empty chairs as it has full, it makes sense to hire people with a good breadth of skills. On this level at least, Kingfisher’s appointment of Bernard Bot as its new chief financial officer makes perfect sense.
Bot’s skillset extends well beyond finance to logistics, ecommerce, technology and digital services – a pure numbers man he is not. Indeed, it’s easy to envisage Bot taking an active role in strategic decision making across all areas of the Kingfisher business when he joins later this month.
It has been well-publicised how depleted the Kingfisher group executive has become in recent times amid the organisation’s struggle to effectively execute its One Kingfisher plan. Along with new CEO Thierry Garnier, who is just weeks into the job, chief offer and sourcing officer Henri Solère was until recently the only sole permanent member of the group executive team not attached to a specific brand or country.
Bot’s appointment will help ease some of the burdens on the pair, as will the news that interim chief financial officer John Wartig, from whom Bot will take over, will be staying on in the new position of chief transformation and development officer.
The appointments, however, don’t mask the challenges faced by former Carrefour executive Garnier; nor do they answer some of the questions the group has been facing from the media and investors.
Neither appointment, for instance, addresses the shortage of DIY retail skills at the top of the organisation. Bot most recently worked for technology platform Travelport Worldwide and his other experience is largely in logistics, aviation and consultancy roles. Wartig, meanwhile, has spent the majority of his career in the food and beverage and fitness industries.
Nor do the pair help redress the imbalance of continental European versus British influence in the Kingfisher boardroom. The UK business, which operates the B&Q and Screwfix chains, was understood to favour a British successor to outgoing CEO Veronique Laury ahead of Garnier’s appointment. With the likes of group finance boss Karen Witts and group trading director John Colley among the list of the recently departed there is a conspicuous lack of experience of the UK retail market among those tasked with implementing the next phase of Kingfisher’s strategy; something the latest appointments do little to redress.
One thing Bot and Wartig share in common is experience of leading business transformation projects. This could be instructive when considering whether Garnier will decide to ditch its One Kingfisher plan entirely, or at the very least undertake a significant reset.
Kingfisher chair Andy Cosslett opened the door to a wholescale rethink in September when he declared that he was “ruling nothing in or out at this stage”.
Further executive appointments are certain to follow in the months ahead, each of which will help add a little more colour to the picture of what Kingfisher in the Garnier era will ultimately look like.