Debbie White will have to draw on her wealth of experience to steady the ship at troubled Interserve.
More from: Interserve appoints new chief executive
The construction and support services giant has endured a rocky time, and last week revealed a £94.1m pre-tax loss for the year to 31 December 2016.
The hefty losses were attributed to spiralling costs from its exit from the energy-from-waste market. Outgoing chief executive Adrian Ringrose said the firm had taken the “difficult decision” to temporarily suspend its dividend.
But based on her impressive CV, Ms White is well set to get to grips with Interserve’s issues.
Disgruntled investors will be pleased to hear the Cambridge economics graduate has a well-proven head for numbers.
Despite vowing to avoid accountancy, Ms White started her career as a self-confessed “bean counter” at Arthur Andersen in the UK.
She spent the first 14 years of her career in financial roles, including a spell at pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. She also spent time at PwC Consulting advising on finances and post-merger integration.
“I never saw myself as a bean counter. I had trained for that but I really wanted to do something broader”
Support services group Sodexo spotted Ms White’s talents and appointed her chief financial officer for its UK & Ireland division in 2004.
By 2007, she had landed a role as Sodexo’s group head of projects, reporting to chief executive Michel Landel.
But before long, Ms White was jetting off across the Atlantic to be finance boss of Sodexo’s key North American division.
In 2012, she returned to the UK as chief executive for Sodexo UK & Ireland. After three years she gave up that role to run the company’s global government and healthcare business.
Leading by example
In an industry of relatively few high-profile women, Ms White appears to recognise her position as a role model.
While in the US, she was a founding member of Sodexo’s Women’s International Forum for talent.
She is currently a member of the Women 1st Top 100 Club – a network of the most influential women in hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism, who act as ambassadors and role models for future female leaders.
And as a mother of three boys, Ms White has plenty of domestic experience of male-dominated environments.
As Interserve faces an uphill battle, the firm will welcome an analytical and experienced head at the helm – especially one with passion for a cause.
In an interview in 2012, Ms White said: ”I never saw myself as a bean counter. I had trained for that but I really wanted to do something broader.”
Now she really has her chance.
Interserve's new boss: What do we know about Debbie White?