What will £450k buy you? A new CEO at Softcat

Tech distie veteran Graeme Watt set for April Fool's Day start

Ever wondered how much the CEO at a big box shifting reseller gets paid? Wonder no more, for Softcat has revealed its new head honcho Graeme Watt will be on a cool £450,000 yearly base salary.

London Stock Exchange-listed Softcat today confirmed Watt, a veteran of tech distribution, will take control of Marlow-headquartered business from April Fool's Day - so presumably he'll not make this year's naked Xmas festivities.

"Our extensive search generated an impressive field of candidates and Graeme stood out for his knowledge of the sector and the reseller channel as well as his strong leadership skills," said chairman Brian Wallace in a prepared remark.

El Reg understands around 75 people were considered for the role, including many captains of industry.

Watt replaces Softcat boss Martin Hellawell, who signalled back in May his intent to retire from operational duties and move into the non-exec chairman's office.

Hellawell notched up 12 consecutive years of double-digit top and bottom line growth at Softcat: it turned over £57m in sales and banked net profit of £819,000 during 2005, his first year in charge, and had swelled to sales of £832.5m and profit of £40.1m by the close of fiscal '17, ended 31 July.

In addition to his £450k basic, Watt will also be in line for a “variable incentive opportunity” that will be 100 per cent of salary for the annual bonus and 100 per cent of salary for the long term incentive plan.

In contrast, Hellawell was paid a salary of £257,500 in fiscal ’17 and received a bonus of £515,000. Over at Computacenter, which turned over £3.24bn in calendar ’16 and made a net profit of £63.8m, CEO Mike Norris was paid £1.9m in total compensation.

These are big boots to fill: El Reg always considered recruitment for Softcat's new CEO as being akin to Manchester United replacing Alex Ferguson – who served as manager of the venerable footie team for 26 years. Hellawell will also be lurking in the background for added pressure.

Watt, a chartered accountant, has been in tech distribution for more than a quarter of a century and knows that landscape well, having headed EMEA ops for some of the titans of that sector, including Tech Data and Avnet. Softcat is also a highly transactional company.

The business is unashamedly a reseller in an era when most of its peers have tried – and some have failed – to shift into higher margin tech services. Softcat has relentlessly hired graduates to train as sales reps and attributed much of its growth to this tactic, along with old fashioned customer service.

Onlookers have previously told us that Softcat's model had a finite shelf life, and that it will need to start to embrace the new ways customers are paying for and consuming technology: the cloud. But that could just be wishful thinking on their part. ®

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