Anglian Water boss Peter Simpson is Britain’s most highly rated CEO: and here’s why

23 June 2017 -


A sharp decision-maker, scientist and environmentalist, the utility boss is a manager at the top of his game and has just been rated Britain’s top CEO

Jermaine Haughton

Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson is the winner of this year’s Glassdoor annual “Employees’ Choice Awards”, honouring the highest rated CEOs in 2017 across UK, France, Germany and North America.

Simpson has led the water utilities company since October 2013 as chief executive, and been a board member since November 2004. He earned the award based on the opinions of his employees, who praised his leadership skill and the company’s working culture and environment.

CEO approval ratings are gathered through Glassdoor’s community which sees employees rate what it is actually like to work at or be interviewed by the company they work for, including whether they approve or disapprove of the way their CEO is leading the business.

Earning an impressive CEO Approval Rating of 98%, the highest of any other CEO in the study, Simpson and his team of executives were especially commended by Anglian Water employees for the opportunities and support given for career development.

Anglian Water’s head of tactical operations explained: “The development of people is a key success factor. The directors are very supportive and very visible to their employees. For the right people who want key roles within the business the company is prepared to offer assistance in making this happen.”

Employees also praised Anglian Water’s camaraderie and close-knit working environment. “From the beginning of my employment with Anglian Water I have had a great team of support from management to team leaders and mentors. The working environment is great as everyone is really friendly and welcoming. The job itself is hard and there is a lot to learn but this isn't a problem with the training given,” an Anglian Water customer service specialist posted on Glassdoor.

Patrick Woodman, CMI’s head of research, said that CEO approval ratings “aren’t just a popularity measure. They’re a great business metric, because organisations with high levels of trust in senior leadership also tend to be high performing. CMI’s own research makes clear that employee trust and growth go hand in hand: in growing organisations, 68% of managers trust their leaders, while in declining businesses it’s just 15%.

“Public trust in business and political leaders alike is at an all-time low, so there’s never been a more important time for CEOs and managers to focus on building trust in their businesses.”

What’s Britain’s most highly rated CEO really like?

An Honorary Fellow of the Society of the Environment and a Companion of The Chartered Management Institute, Simpson is also currently president of the Institute of Water (IoW). In that role, he has been particularly enthusiastic about attracting, nurturing and encouraging the next wave of professionals in the industry. This is reflected in his work on the company’s “Rising Stars” programme, which gives  extra professional development opportunities to young employees in the water industry.

Simpson told Utility Week magazine: “Professional qualifications are important for an industry that is so critical to the environment and public health. But the programme is also important in terms of the discipline that comes with it, that opens the mind to development. It’s about committing to continuous professional development, keeping up to date with what’s going on in the industry and keeping yourself current.”

Simpson is admired by colleagues for his willingness to be open and collaborate with customers, seeking feedback on services. “Whenever I get the opportunity I always like to hear first-hand what customers think about Anglian Water,” Simpson has said.

In the company’s biggest ever consultation called Discover, Discuss, Decide, Simpson and his team gave Anglian Water’s reported six million customers the chance to give their thoughts on how their services could be run better in future years.

Speaking on the role his employer can play in having a greater impact on the environment in the East of England, Simpson has said: “Anglian Water is one of the largest users of electricity in our region too, owing to the power we need to treat and recycle water, and pump it around such a geographically flat area. So we are acutely aware of our responsibility to cut carbon. In the last five years we have delivered around 1,000 energy projects, bringing savings of well over £16m, which takes us a long way to achieving our goal of reducing embodied carbon by 60 per cent by 2020.”

People also love these CEOs

Simpson was pushed narrowly to the award by Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff and HomeServe UK boss Martin Bennett, who received CEO Approval Ratings of 97% and 96% respectively.

Founder and CEO of Salesforce, Benioff has built the pioneering cloud computing company into a multi-billion dollar business that provides on-demand, information management services to businesses of all sizes.

According to the Glassdoor survey, the company’s success is underpinned by good management, particularly regarding recruitment and the general treatment of employees. One London-based Salesforce customer success manager explained: “The place is welcoming. When they talk about Employee Success they mean it. On my first day induction, a member of the leadership team gave us a number of tips, the top 2 were, 'Look after yourself' and 'Look after your work/life balance.'”

In third place, Martin Bennett, who was appointed CEO of HomeServe Membership in January 2014, has had a major impact as a leader on its 2,000-plus employees, steering the company back to growth after significant regulatory, commercial and reputational challenges, and is much admired for encouraging strong people engagement throughout his organisation via regular communication with all employees.

A HomeServe UK customer service manager, based in Walsall, said on Glassdoor: “Lots of engagement investment to help retain talent and increase performance. A CEO and CMO that have open door policies and a real passion to grow the business and truly make it the best place to work in the UK.”

How the survey was done

In the UK, Glassdoor has expanded its awards to recognise the 50 highest rated CEOs, at employers with 1,000 or more employees. Winners are ranked based on their overall CEO approval rating from employees during the past year.

When employees anonymously provide a company review, they are asked to share their opinion on some of the best reasons to work for their employer (pros), any downsides (cons), and are encouraged to provide advice to management. Employees are also asked to rate several factors tied to their employment experience, including sentiment around their CEO’s leadership, in addition to rating workplace attributes such as senior management, among others. Specifically, when rating their CEO on Glassdoor, employees are able to choose from one of three options: approve, disapprove or no opinion of the CEO.

Here’s more information on the 50 highest rated CEOs and the complete results to the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards.

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