Thames Water has announced Severn Trent’s Sarah Bentley as its new chief executive – almost a year after Steve Robertson left the role.

Bentley, who is currently chief customer officer at Severn Trent, will start in the autumn bringing customer-focused experience as well as technology and transformation expertise.

Ian Marchant will continue in his position as interim executive chairman until that point, before reverting back to non-executive chairman.

Thames said Bentley would be paid £750,000 a year in the role, with a maximum annual bonus of 120 per cent of salary, and a long-term incentive plan with an annual award up to a maximum of 200 per cent of salary.

This will be an increase from previous chief executive Robertson’s £610,000 basic salary in 2018/19. He also received benefits and bonuses totalling £170,000 however the company deferred all incentives from 2017 for three years until an agreed transformation plan had been delivered.

At Severn Trent Bentley played a key role in the company’s management restructure of 2017 when her position as chief customer officer was expanded to see her leading the customer delivery team. As well as being responsible for customer retail and network operations, Bentley headed up group technology and transformation.

“Sarah’s done a wonderful job for us at Severn Trent in the five years she’s been with us, helping us improve, streamline and modernise the way we work with our customers, whether in our call centres or on the front line,” said Liv Garfield chief executive at Severn Trent.

“We’ll be sorry to see her go, but we’re also pleased for her in equal measure as she takes on this new challenge within the sector.”

Marchant said: “Our board has conducted a thorough search to find the best candidate to fill this important role, and we’re delighted to have secured someone of Sarah’s calibre. Her natural ability to inspire and motivate customer-facing teams will ensure that our collective focus is always on delivering for our customers regardless of the circumstances we face, not least those we’re all experiencing today.

“Sarah has invaluable experience in the water sector and has demonstrated an outstanding ability to innovate and meet customer needs in a regulated environment. This is a critical time for the company, and alongside her passion for customers, Sarah is clearly the perfect person to lead our multi-billion pound investment programme and develop our longer term strategy to ensure a resilient water and waste service for generations to come.”

Before Severn Trent, Bentley was managing director of Accenture’s digital business unit in the UK & Ireland. Prior to this she worked internationally in a number of roles, including CEO of Datapoint, a private equity-backed company delivering customer relationship management services.

She said: “Firstly I want to thank everyone across the water and wastewater sector for their absolute dedication and service in these challenging times. I am delighted to be joining Thames Water, a business that clearly plays an essential role in London and the Thames Valley and which has such a strong sense of public value. I look forward to working with the team to deliver a service that delights our customers, create a company where our colleagues are proud to work and build a business that is recognised for making a positive contribution to the communities we serve and the environment around us.”

In addition to the Thames salary, Bentley will receive an estimated £3.1 million for surrendering potential bonuses, deferred bonuses and long-term incentives from Severn Trent – payable over the next three years. An element of this award will be subject to achieving targets in relation to Thames Water’s return on retained earnings (RoRE), customer and environment performance over a two-year period from April 1, 2020.