Weir in the John Lewis way of doing things

Interesting news at the end of last week when Helen Weir, the former finance director at Lloyds TSB and once of Kingfisher the retail group, was revealed as the new finance chief at John Lewis, the employee owned department store chain.
Weir left Lloyds last year after the arrival of new chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio. It was reported that she had wanted the CEO's post at the bank, but Horta-Osorio's arrival might well have prompted a clear out of the old guard in any case.
This week, however, it emerges Weir has had her last bonus from Lloyds docked by some £218,000. She is among 13 directors to have been subjected to bonus claw backs. In short they have been made accountable for the performance of the bank through their bonus cheques. Nice to see executives putting their money where their mouths once were. 
The news keeps up the pressure on executive bonuses in the City where Weir was seen as a high flyer.
But the move to John Lewis takes her well away from that world. No more analysts. No more institutional shareholders to please - no more City establishment to network with, no more share price to keep her awake at night. John Lewis is a world away from that. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg recently said he wanted big business to be a bit more like John Lewis - with employees taking a greater stake in their companies. In short he made John Lewis the poster boy for the kind of economy he'd like to see.
That's a big responsibility for Weir who comes from quite a different world. John Lewis should be more comfy, focused on long term investment, the interests of its 'partners' (permanent employees) and its all consuming customer service ethos. It will be quite an adjustment, and one wonders whether after so many years in the City just how large the cultural gap might be. One can imagine boardroom meetings where chairman Charlie Mayfield has to dampen the City-inspired ardour of Weir to slim budgets, think short term.
Having said that, and having once spent an agreeable evening sitting next to Weir at a dinner, she's super sharp, savvy, and approachable, a bit like the brainy one from St Trinian's. I doubt she will struggle to get a grip on the John Lewis way of doing things. But it really does mean coming to terms with a whole new set of drivers. Of course she does have experience of retail, with Kingfisher. But John Lewis sets its own standards. It's a very different kind of retail. (And we got our curtains there).
And the bonus? Everyone gets the same percentage bonus at John Lewis, regardless of their role. Weir is in the trenches with the staff in a way she surely wasn't at Lloyds.


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