Sara Weller - Professional Summary:
Sara Weller is a passionate and hugely customer-focused leader with outstanding experience, in some of the largest and most competitive consumer markets in the UK.
Having spent 25 years in a wide range of leading customer facing businesses, in fmcg, financial services and retail, Sara is now a full time Non Executive Director, bringing her customer and commercial experience to a range of organisations with millions of UK customers. Sara is a Non Executive Director on the boards of Lloyds Banking Group and United Utilities, where she also chairs the Remuneration Committee. Both are FTSE 100 businesses, in strongly regulated markets with major government interfaces, where the sectors are undergoing substantial change, and are seeking greater customer understanding and service to achieve competitive success.
In the public sector, Sara is the Lead Non Executive Director at the government's Department of Communities and Local Government, which leads policy on housing, planning and driving local growth, through the LEPs and Enterprise Zone initiatives. Sara Chairs the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol, and is a member of the advisory board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, a member of the governing Council at Cambridge University and a Visiting Fellow at the Said Business School of Corporate Reputation.
By working at the interface of private and public sectors, Sara is able to bring customer and commercial insight from both to great effect.
Sara's executive track record was built up in a range of well respected customer facing businesses. From 2004-2011 Sara was the Managing Director of Argos, a £4bn turnover business with 25,000 people; over 7 years, under her guidance, the business was firmly established as the UK’s leading multi-channel retailer: with a £1.5bn internet business and its much copied “check and reserve” service. Sara streamlined the business operation, responding to fierce competition by driving up productivity to deliver outstanding value to her customers, but her most lasting legacy is in over-seeing a sea change in customer focus that was recognised both by Argos’ customers and by those working within the business.
Sara was also a Non-Executive Director, and Chair of the Remuneration Committee, at Mitchell’s and Butlers (2003-2010), the UK’s leading pub restaurant business, with fascinating brand and regulatory challenges. It was a time of much corporate change for M&B; this provided valuable experience and fuelled Sara’s interest in the power of the Non-Executive role, which is now her full time career.
After leaving Oxford University, with a first class honours degree in Chemistry, the foundations of Sara’s career were laid in 13, hugely successful, years at Mars Confectionery, a renowned training ground, where she launched many new products to a wide range of customer segments, from Mars King Size to inventing Milky Way Stars, and forged a reputation as a principled, intellectually rigorous, hugely demanding but extremely loyal colleague.
In 1996, Sara moved to lead Abbey National’s Customer Management and Marketing Division, at an exciting time of change in Financial Services. Sara led Abbey's transformation to a customer-centric culture, lived from senior managers through to branch staff, whilst simultaneously reshaping the product range to better meet customer needs, and so deliver her vision for the Abbey National brand of “making customers’ lives easier”, communicated in the proposition “Because Life’s Complicated Enough”.
After 3 years leading change at Abbey National, Sara was attracted to Sainsbury’s, as Marketing Director and then as Assistant Managing Director, on the J. Sainsbury plc Board. Within a few months Sara had secured Jamie Oliver as the face of the brand, and soon after Sara was instrumental in the creation of the Nectar Loyalty Scheme, now the largest customer loyalty programme in the UK. Sara also ran Sainsbury’s To You (on line grocery service), transforming its profitability, and Sainsbury’s Bank, returning to her previous Financial Services experience to deliver the Bank into substantial growth.
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