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14 Dec 2020 | 07:38

Dignity unveils board shake up as strategic review continues

(Sharecast News) - The long-standing finance chief of Dignity has stepped down, prompting the funeral services firm to shake up its board ahead of the conclusion of a wide-ranging strategic review. Dignity said on Monday that finance director Steve Whittern will leave at the end of this year to pursue other interests, along with corporate services director Richard Portman. Whittern joined Dignity in 1999, becoming finance director in 2009. Portman has also been with the firm since 1999.

Portman's functions will be transferred to executive chairman Clive Whiley, while non-executive director Dean Moore becomes interim chief financial officer. Andrew Judd, director of group funeral operations, will join the board as an executive director.

In addition, a new role of chief operating officer will be created. The firm will also start looking for a suitable candidate to replace Whittern; the search for a new chief executive continues, "coterminous with the outcome of the strategic review", it noted.

Whiley said: "We would like to thank both Steve Whittern and Richard Portman for their contribution to the company over the last 20 years. I look forward to working with Dean on completing the transformation strategy and safeguarding the future success of the business."

Dignity is currently undertaking a wide-ranging strategic review of the business with Phoenix Asset Management, its largest shareholder.

"While 2020 has proved to be a unique and challenging year, the board has not lost sight of the need to drive the ongoing root and branch review though to an economic conclusion," it said.

"Accordingly, given that our over-arching desire to grow sustainable long-term market share could have ramifications for short-term performance, we are working closely with our largest shareholder in order to endorse the combination of compelling propositions and price points to best leverage the strengths of our existing resources."

Charles Hall, analyst at Peel Hunt, said: "Presumably, this is referring to price action in order to maintain/build market share.

"In the short term, volumes should be strong, however, this is likely to be a material pull-forward in the death rate, meaning a marked reduction post Covid."

The next update on the review is scheduled for March 2021, when Dignity is due to publish its full-year results.

As at 1000 GMT, shares in Dignity were off 6% at 684.0p.
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