Suzanne Wise

Name: Suzanne Wise
Was: General counsel and company secretary at Premier Foods
Now: General counsel at Network Rail

Career background: Wise started her career as a trainee at Lewis Silkin before becoming an intellectual property associate at Crossman Block. She went in-house in 1989 for the cigarette company Gallaher Group and rose through the ranks to become group head of legal in 2001. In 2008, she moved to Premier Foods to work as general counsel and company secretary. She left in early 2012 for Network Rail.

What did Wise achieve at Premier Foods? Having grown rapidly following a series of acquisitions, Premier had no in-house legal function when Wise joined. She had to create one from scratch. As well as working on a range issues from commercial contracts to employment and property, she focused on training staff on important legal matters. During her stint at Premier, she also headed up internal communications and the company’s CSR activities.

What is she doing now? Wise joined Network Rail at the start of 2012 at what chief executive David Higgins described as a “period of intensive change” at the company. Wise’s FTSE 100 and 250 experience would be invaluable in the drive to develop a “bigger, more reliable and affordable railway”, he said. She was also brought on board to help oversee a shift to greater transparency at the track and signals operator.

How is it going? Network Rail missed targets for safety and punctuality in 2012/2013 and fares continue to rise above inflation, but Wise is at least doing her bit to keep costs down. In April, she slashed the number of legal firms Network Rail works with from 12 to five. By working with fewer firms, Network Rail also hopes to foster better and deeper relationships.