The Leadership Symposium
RothamSteD Research Centre for Research & Enterprise - Thursday 8th November 2018


Our Host Jeremy Thompson

Jeremy Thompson is one of the UK’s most experienced and acclaimed TV newsmen. A journalist for over 50 years, he’s worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News reporting from every corner of the world. He ran bureaux in Asia, Africa and America, covering many of the most important news stories of our times, including Tiananmen Square, the election of Nelson Mandela, 9/11, two Gulf Wars, the Genocide in Rwanda and the Balkan Conflict. He became Sky’s early evening news anchor and pioneered presenting from the frontline, winning countless accolades, including three Emmys, three BAFTAs and the Royal Television Society’s Presenter of the Year Award. Jeremy retired from full-time TV news presenting at the end of last year. He signed off his illustrious career with coverage of his sixth and most unusual US presidential campaign - the election of Donald Trump.

Christine Tacon CBE - Groceries Code Adjudicator

Christine Tacon has been the Groceries Code Adjudicator since 2013, regulating the 10 large grocery retailers in the way they treat their suppliers. She is working to achieve behaviour change and a more equitable relationship between retailers and suppliers through persuasion and the promotion of good practices.

She is also a non-executive director of Anglia Farmers a co-operative procurement business for agricultural members and Chair of MDS Limited, a training provider for graduates in the fresh food and produce industry.

Christine’s professional background is as a Chartered Engineer with 12 years’ experience in sales and marketing. Her early career was with Coats Viyella, Mars Confectionery, Anchor and Vodafone. For 11 years until 2012 she ran the Co-op’s farming business and was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004.

Dave Lewis - Tesco CEO

Dave Lewis joined the Board of Tesco PLC as Group Chief Executive on 1 September 2014.

Dave has significant experience in brand marketing, customer management and general management. Prior to joining Tesco, he worked for Unilever for nearly 30 years in a variety of different roles across Europe, Asia and the Americas. He has experience across many sectors in the UK and overseas, and has been responsible for a number of business turnarounds. He was previously a non-executive director of Sky PLC.

Dave is also a member of the Governance Committee of the Consumer Goods Forum and Chair of Champions 12.3, a UN programme seeking to add momentum to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Target 12.3 by 2030.

Andrew Hawes - Founder of Newton

Andrew founded Newton in 2001, age 26, and has grown the firm at an average of 30% per year ever since. The business’s only asset is it’s people and all the growth has been achieved without external investment. Newton has achieved growth and success that less than one in 10,000 businesses achieve. 

He has built Newton on a belief in ‘fun, friendship and high performance’ and a relentless focus on ensuring Newton add value on every engagement. Newton work with organisations in the Grocery sector and beyond to design and implement large scale improvements to the way their operations perform, delivering 10’s or 100’s of million of pounds of savings and improving performance. He doesn’t believe in the traditional consulting model of clients paying for advice, ideas and reports and insists that Newton put 100% of their fees at risk on every programme, guaranteed against the implementation of results.

Andrew has a unique perspective on both the leadership of large, complex organisations and growing and leading a professional services firm.

Newton were awarded the ‘UK Best SME’ and ‘Enabler of the Year’ at the National Business Awards.

Kris Gibbon-Walsh - Head of Network of FareShare UK

FareShare is a UK Foodbank working with 9,000 charities and community groups redistributing over 16,000 tonnes of surplus from the food industry. I manage the analysis, insight, customer journey, customer service and growth for FareShare across all channels. I have also founded and developed FareShare Go, a tech solution for store level redistribution in 3,000 stores in collaboration with the Irish social enterprise, FoodCloud.

Before working for FareShare I coordinated research for the French Navy after completing my PhD in engineering.       

Debbie Robinson - SPAR UK Managing Director

As UK Managing Director, Debbie Robinson has guided SPAR through year on year growth whilst reducing costs for shoppers and retailers alike. Both sales and profits at SPAR have continued to increase, during a period where there has been a substantial reduction in revenues and profits across the retailing market. SPAR has consistently performed where many of its competitors have unsuccessful. 

Debbie champions the need of the consumer resulting in SPARs ability to meet and exceed their expectations. This is reflected in SPAR’s commitment to improved health and well-being and providing a wider range of products to cover all diets. SPAR own label soft drinks category has seen dramatic sugar reduction saving almost a million pounds in sugar tax.

Debbie has also continued to drive SPAR’s investment in innovation in store and also in products. SPAR was the first UK retailer to introduce Apple Pay. Innovation in wines and spirits has seen multiple awards for the category including SPARs botanical gin. Debbie supports stores seeking licenses for on trade sale of alcohol. All this has helped create a more modern and contemporary shopping experience.

SPARs leadership in entrepreneurialism and independent retailing remains Debbie’s number one priority. Her passion for retail has been built over 30 year with the likes of Co-op, M&S and WHSmith amongst others. She has held directorships for food retailers specialising in store innovation and brand strategy and development globally.

Debbie is a keen supporter of local community programmes and is heavily involved in SPAR’s sponsorship of athletics including the launch of the People’s Podium campaign and SPAR’s national charity, Marie Curie.

Debbie sits on the board of the ACS and BRC and holds a position with the NCCRRC. Outside of work Debbie has many hobbies and interests in the art and music world. She is a very keen marathon runner and has completed numerous charity cycle rides including the convenience & wholesale charity cycles for MAG (Mines Advisory Group).


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Kate Swann - CEO, SSP Group

Kate joined SSP as Chief Executive Officer in September 2013.

Kate began her retail career with Tesco before working with some of the UK’s best-known companies, including Homepride Foods, Coca-Cola Schweppes and Dixons Stores Group. She then joined Homebase, ultimately in the role of managing director, and in 2000 was made managing director of Argos. Kate joined WH Smith as Chief Executive Officer in 2003. Kate joined SSP in 2013 floating it on the London Stock Exchange in 2014. SSP won the best new PLC in 2015 and its share price has well over trebled since flotation.

She was ranked number 21 in the Financial Times’ ‘Europe’s Top 25 Women in Business’ in 2006, and in the same year Fortune listed her as one of the 50 most powerful women in business. In 2012 she received both the Daily Telegraph award for Business Leader of the Decade at the National Business Awards and the Institute for Turnaround Chairman’s Special Award for exceptional and extraordinary performance in the transformation of WH Smith.

Kate graduated from the University of Bradford in 1986 with a BSc in Business Management, received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2007 and was appointed Chancellor in 2015.

Kate also joined England Hockey as a Non Executive Director in 2016 and became a Non Executive Director of Independent Vetcare in 2017.

Piers Morgan

Rob Kelly
Founder – Thrive Programme

Nick Claridge
Odgers Berndtson

Includes The Grocer's Top New Talent Panel

MICHEL ROUX (Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, OBE)
Selecting canapés, tapas and drinks from various retailers for a networking session at the end of the day


“I enjoyed my first symposium last year. I hadn’t appreciated the quality of the speakers, the breadth of topics and the sheer inspiration of sharing a room with so much youth and ambition. I’d recommend the day to anyone in our industry.”

Alison Horner, HR Director, Tesco