Although some observers have described the exit of Andrew Higginson from Tesco as “unexpected”, in truth the writing has been on the wall for a while.

The highly regarded former finance director was considered by many to be a strong candidate to replace Sir Terry Leahy before Philip Clarke’s coronation. Indeed, for a long time Higginson was Leahy’s most visible lieutenant.

Two other potential candidates, Richard Brasher and Tim Mason, were given shiny new titles having missed out on the top job – with Brasher named UK chief executive and Mason installed as Clarke’s overall number two, with an expanded brief taking in global marketing strategy.

That wasn’t so true for Higginson, whose post as chief of retailing services arguably left him further from the action than he had been as finance director.

Clarke today was warm in his praise for Higginson, who can reflect on a transformational decade and a half in the Cheshunt boardroom.

Yet for all his undoubted qualities, confirmation of his departure next year has not set the alarm bells ringing. Instead the news has prompted talk about the masses of talent Tesco has in line to replace him – and the early indications are that the supermarket will, as usual, promote from within.