Comment: Centrica shake-up | exports | indyref

LOSING one senior executive may be unfortunate, but losing three looks like a looming management crisis. Centrica, the parent company of British/Scottish Gas, is facing an unforced boardroom makeover that will be providing a lot of work for the headhunters.

Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull

Chris Weston’s departure for Glasgow-based power company Aggreko leaves a gap at the top of British Gas, while Nick Luff, the finance director, is off to Reed Elsevier. But it is the likely loss of group chief executive Sam Laidlaw that is the biggest hole to fill. He has indicated a desire to retire.

What is capturing analysts’ imagination is that British Gas may gets its first female boss. Former McKinsey partner Nina Bhatia, who is currently commercial director, and Susan Hooper, who runs British Gas Services, are among those tipped to take the top job.

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For those campaigning to get more females into top positions this would be a significant development in gender-balancing British boards. It coincides with moves by Lloyds Banking Group to hire a female partner at KPMG to help it increase the number of women in senior roles.

Whoever takes the helm of the parent company will need to be adept at building trust – an important element in business and particularly in the energy industry which has lost the faith of its customers. Only this week Laidlaw welcomed the regulator Ofgem’s proposal to refer the sector to the Competition and Markets Authority as the only way to restore confidence.

Laidlaw believes that only a comprehensive review will help customers to understand the pricing and investment pressures on suppliers. It seems certain, though, that it will be his successor who takes up this “value for money” argument with cash-strapped consumers.

Exporters may want more than Wilson offers

Scotland’s exporters need more help, says former UK trade and energy minister Brian Wilson who has set out his recommendations to boost the volume and value of goods sold overseas.

In a 52-page report published yesterday at the behest of the Scottish Secretary, Wilson proposes a more focused advisory network, and one that is more visible and easily understood. Put simply, it appears that lots of firms wanting to export don’t know where to find the help they need.

There are too many agencies doing their own thing and the creation of Scottish Exports as a single portal might therefore help. Whether it provides a real boost, or would be mere window dressing on a bigger problem remains to be seen.

Wilson’s review identifies many of the shortcomings in the current set up which includes access to finance and skills shortages. There are not too many recommendations on these issues which may leave potential exporters feeling a little short-changed.

Indyref is not about pound in your pocket

The politicians have been trading contrasting forecasts on whether we’ll be better off under independence or as part of the union.

This begs more questions about the reliability of forecasts and whether the statistics are being manipulated to suit the argument.

More to the point, the constitutional debate is supposed to be about power and control, not the pound in your pocket. Leave that to the general election.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1