Asda COO Judith McKenna has been promoted to executive vice president, strategy and international development at Walmart International.

McKenna will start her new role in April, reporting directly to Walmart CEO & president, Doug McMillon. Her key responsibilities will be to lead strategy, real estate, mergers and acquisitions and integration and purchase leverage. 

Asda will not directly replace McKenna, but will split up her role internally, creating a major management reshuffle.

Retail operations manager Mark Ibbotson will be promoted to retail director. Ibbotson was responsible for the development of Asda’s We Operate For Less programme and Grocery Home Shopping. He will now be responsible for retail and distribution operations, home shopping and click and collect. 

Karen Hubbard will expand her remit to include Multichannel strategy and Asda Direct, alongside her existing responsibility for Retail Development and In-store Proposition. Jon Wragg will continue to lead Multichannel strategy and Asda Direct and will report into Karen.

Chief marketing officer Steve Smith will take control of Asda’s Financial Services business, which was recently expanded to offer a host of financial services under the Asda Money brand.

All changes will take effect from Monday 28 January.

In an internal memo, CEO Andy Clarke paid tribute to McKenna, saying: “Judith’s operational and finance experience mean she is perfectly placed to help shape the future of the International division in this role. She will help define International’s strategic growth, ensuring international markets work more effectively together across the company.”

“This is great news for Judith but also another example of Asda exporting talented leaders to play key roles across the world for Walmart. We are a global centre of excellence and Judith joins a growing list of Asda colleagues who have chosen to develop their careers internationally.”

“As some of you will know, Judith has dedicated over 17 years to Asda since she joined in 1996 and in that time has been instrumental in helping us to become the multichannel, multiformat business we are today. During her ten years as our chief financial officer Judith led a number of teams across the business including Finance, Property and Retail Development. She was also the architect of Asda’s purchase and integration of the Netto business, which involved over 190 stores and 2,500 colleagues.”

“We would not have embraced technology in the way we have had it not been for her vision and courage to push the button on grocery click and collect, to install free WiFi in all our stores, and of course issue iPads to our GSMs. Judith has also ensured we have truly leveraged Global Ecommerce to drive our mobile development with her focus on using technology to enable retail.”

“I do not intend to appoint a new chief operating officer. Instead I am taking the opportunity to split out the areas Judith is accountable for. As you know the Exec has an extremely strong blend of both internal and external talent and I’m pleased that once again I am able to recruit from within.”

“I’d like to add that Judith has given me a huge amount of support over the last two and a half years. It goes without saying she will be sorely missed by us all. But our loss is most certainly Walmart’s gain.

We are a stronger business thanks to Judith’s leadership, drive and determination. Although she doesn’t leave us until March, please join me now in wishing her well on the next leg of her fantastic career.

Mark you have very big, or should I say, very sparkly shoes to fill.”

However Investec analyst Dave McCarthy described McKenna’s departure from the UK as good news for rivals. “This is a loss to Asda, but is good news for the competition, as we regard Ms McKenna as top drawer,” he said. “We credit her with some significant improvements at Asda, as well as her keeping a tight financial control of that business.”

“Any weakening of the management team at Asda is good news for the competition. The impact will not be obvious nor immediate, but as we have said before, judge a decision on how the competition view it. We believe that Asda’s competitors will be pleased to see McKenna depart for the US, so bad news for Asda, good news for Morrisons in particular.”