New Severn Trent boss Liv Garfield boosts ranks of female chief executives

38-year-old executive is leaving BT Openreach to become chief executive of the FTSE 100 water company

Liv Garfield, responsible for the £2.5bn roll-out of super fast fibre broadband as BT’s boss of Openreach, is leaving to become chief executive of FTSE 100 water company Severn Trent.

Garfield, 38, will take up the role in spring 2014 following the retirement of current chief executive Tony Wray. Her annual salary will be £650,000, with a 25% pension contribution taking the package up to £812,500, and will also be eligible for an annual bonus of up to 120% of her salary.

The surprise move will be considered a blow for BT and the appointment will see Garfield become one of just four female bosses in the FTSE 100, along with easyJet’s chief executive Carolyn McCall, Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts, and Imperial Tobacco chief executive Alison Cooper.

That number will fall back to three when Ahrendts leaves Burberry in the middle of next year to join Apple. Ahrendts’ replacement will be Christopher Bailey, currently creative director at the luxury fashion brand.

Yorskhire-born Garfield, who is also a non-executive director at supermarket chain Tesco, has held a number of roles at BT since joining the company in 2002 and was tipped as a potential future chief executive of the telecoms group.

She was named in September as one of the top 10 young business high flyers in Fortune Magazine’s annual 40 under 40 list, making her the highest ranking Brit in the league table.

Garfield said that while it was a “huge wrench” to leave Openreach it was the right time to go.

“Our commercial programme to bring fibre broadband to two thirds of UK premises is almost complete, whilst BT’s public sector broadband partnerships are making good progress.

“It has been a tough decision but I leave Openreach in fantastic shape and have every confidence it will continue to thrive.”

She was praised by BT chief executive Gavin Patterson as having made “an enormous contribution to BT”.

Since Garfield was appointed boss of Openreach from April 2011, the availability of fibre over BT’s network has risen from around 4m premises to more than 17m, BT said. The number of customers adopting fibre has increased from just over 100,000 in April 2011 to more than two million subscribers today.

Garfield said she was looking forward to joining Severn Trent, “a leader in an industry going through significant change” and with, “at its heart, a commitment to serving its customers well.”

“I look forward to … ensuring that Severn Trent continues to go from strength to strength, whilst delivering for all of its stakeholders.”

Andrew Duff, chairman of Severn Trent, said: “Liv brings experience of managing customer service delivery and complex organisations in a regulated environment.

“It is a testimony to the quality of this company that we have been able to attract someone of Liv’s capabilities.”

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