Coles and Woolworths appoint McKinsey alumni to top-level roles

19 March 2023 Consultancy.com.au 8 min. read
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Incoming Coles CEO Leah Weckert and newly-appointed Woolworths director Warwick Bray – both McKinsey alumni – have continued an MBB trend among the leaders of Australia’s supermarket giants.

A pair of McKinsey alumni have landed in top-level leadership roles at Australia’s largest competing supermarkets. Appointed last month, McKinsey associate principal Leah Weckert will make history in May when she takes over as the first female CEO of Coles in its more than 100-year history.

Former Telstra CFO Warwick Bray, who also kicked off his business career at McKinsey & Company, has meanwhile joined the Woolworths board.

Leah Weckert and Warwick Bray

Weckert has been with Coles since late 2011, crossing to the supermarket after close to six and a half years at McKinsey & Company across two stints, with a global strategy and business development role at Fosters in between. Weckert first joined the strategy consulting giant after completing an engineering-science double at Adelaide University, and has since added an MBA from Harvard. For the past four years she has served as Coles’ chief financial officer.

“Leah has an outstanding track record of leadership and driving change inside Colesacross key operating areas,” said Coles chairman James Graham. “I am confident that she’ll maintain the focus of Coles in driving our strategy, building trust with all stakeholders and growing long term shareholder value. Leah has personal andprofessional qualities which together with broad business experience uniquely qualify her for the role as our next CEO.”

Weckert takes over from a retiring Steven Cain – who himself started out with Bain & Companyand will continue the MBB trend among senior leadership at Australia’s two supermarket giants. That includes Weckert’s direct contemporary, WoolworthsCEO Brad Banducci, a former Boston Consulting Group (BCG) vice president who spent a decade and a half with the strategy firm and led its Australian Consumer & Retail Practice and Sydney office.

In fact, Woolworths leadership group is packed with BCG alum. Among others still, chief customer transformation officer Von Ingram spent a decade at the firm before joining Woolworths; chief analytics officer Amitabh Mall spent twice that time, leading BCG’s APAC consumer practice as a senior partner; and former ANZ Gamma head and two decade BCG veteran Jane Danziger was appointed as Woolworths’ chief transformation officer at the end of last year.

Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Natalie Davis is almost the odd one out, coming to the supermarket chain via a decade and a half at McKinsey, as is board director Holly Kramer, who is also a member of Bain’s Advisory Council. Joining that mix is new Woolworths board appointee and audit and finance committee chair Warwick Bray, who spent a decade at McKinsey and was a partner in Europe before later serving for nine years at Telstra, including three as CFO.

Meanwhile, it’s a little more diverse across the aisle. While Coles director Jacqueline Chow put in a four-year later career stint as a senior advisor at McKinsey, fellow board member Wendy Stops and CTO John Cox come rather from an Accenture background, Cox as a management consultant and Stops at one point as Asia Pacific senior managing director for technology.

Weckert’s previous replacement, CFO Charlie Elias, kicked off his career with a decade at Deloitte.