Rolls-Royce chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic has replaced the group’s finance director and installed new leaders at its two main businesses in the first major shake-up of his top team since joining the UK’s flagship engineering group in January.

The FTSE 100 group said on Friday that Helen McCabe, currently senior vice-president of finance for the customers and products division of BP, would take over as chief financial officer. She will replace Panos Kakoullis, who will leave at the end of August after two years in the job.

As part of the overhaul, Rob Watson, who has been leading the company’s electric aviation activities, will become head of the company’s important civil aerospace business with immediate effect.

Adam Riddle has been appointed the new head of its defence business, as well as chair and chief executive of Rolls-Royce North America. The company had previously announced that incumbent Tom Bell had decided to leave at the end of March to become chief executive of US group Leidos.

Rolls-Royce is also shaking up the leadership of its small nuclear business. It said that Tom Samson, who has led Rolls-Royce SMR since its inception, would be leaving with immediate effect.

Chris Cholerton, who had led the company’s civil aerospace business but was moved to the position of group president this year, will take on executive responsibility for all nuclear operations. Cholerton will also take on the role of interim chief executive of the SMR business until a replacement is found.

Rolls-Royce said the changes were part of the transformation programme launched by Erginbilgic in January. The former BP executive has moved quickly to make his mark on the company since taking the helm from Warren East at the start of the year.

In January, Erginbilgic delivered an unflinching assessment of the group, telling staff that Rolls-Royce had underperformed all its key competitors and describing it as a “burning platform”. In February, he announced a strategic review of the company’s activities.

The appointment of McCabe marks the second time that Erginbilgic has turned to his former employer for expertise. In February, he brought in Nicola Grady-Smith, another BP executive he worked with during his time at the oil company, to head the transformation programme.

Erginbilgic said on Friday that McCabe’s “track record of promoting rigorous financial discipline and experience of delivering performance management to achieve dramatic improvements will be invaluable as we move, at pace, to transform Rolls-Royce”.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Panos for his dedication to Rolls-Royce and support to me since my arrival,” he added.

The leadership changes, said Erginbilgic, showed that the group was “acting at pace and gaining the momentum we need to transform Rolls-Royce”.

“Together, my leadership team has a winning mindset, strong strategic alignment and a shared ambition to make Rolls-Royce a company that delivers for all stakeholders.”

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