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Regent's University London Professorship | An interview with Michael Ward, MD of Harrods and Chairman of Walpole

Following last week's launch of the Walpole x Regent's Professorship - in which senior management from the UK's best-known luxury brands become visiting professors at Regent's University London - we speak with Michael Ward, the MD of Harrods and Chairman of Harrods, and one of the founding members of the professorship.
14th Sep 2021
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Walpole Programmes Regent's University London Professorship | An interview with Michael Ward, MD of Harrods and Chairman of Walpole

Michael began his career in chartered accountancy, training originally with Ernst and Young in 1980, before taking his first Group Finance Director position at Bassett Foods PLC in 1986 gaining an MBA during this time. 

In 1989 he was appointed Group Finance Director of H.P. Bulmer Holdings PLC, before moving in to the retail space in 1994 as Managing Director of Lloyds Chemists PLC. After a period of senior directorship roles in retail, Michael was invited to join Harrods as Managing Director in 2005. During his time at Harrods he is overseen programmes of huge growth and expansion within the luxury department store, as well as the transition to new ownership by the Qatar Investment Authority.

Michael is a leading voice in the luxury industry and currently holds the position of Chairman of Walpole. He was also appointed to the V&A Corporate Advisory Board in August 2020.

The future of British luxury is being shaped by the next generation; a generation that is entirely global in its mindset and shaped by our digitally interconnected world.

For Harrods, the partnership with Regent’s University London provides their international students with real-world experience of a fast-paced environment, while allowing us to learn from this next generation of leaders from around the world.”

Michael Ward, Chairman of Walpole and MD of Harrods

1. Why did you become involved with The Walpole Professorships initiative?

I am very fortunate in my work and home life, so it is only right to give something back and working with young bright things keeps me young.

2. What key insight will you share with students as the luxury leaders of tomorrow?

Many people say I have been lucky, the advice I always give is: ‘The harder you work the luckier you are’.

3. Looking ahead to British luxury in 2030, what skills and qualities will we most need to cultivate in our talent pipeline?

This is really difficult and should be split between creation and execution. The creative skills have still to reflect the heritage of our industry; change happens, but the past is importance 10 years ago. I was told the watch market would disappear for digital but, of course, it has not. For the execution, the ability to change and follow the customer is absolutely key.

4. What are some of the medium- or longer-term challenges and opportunities ahead for your business?

In the short term it is Covid, Brexit and VAT res recovery, everything else is secondary.

5. Beyond your own professorial lecture, in what ways will Harrods support the students participating in the Professorship initiative?

This is the question I have learned not to answer as my inbox would be instantly full; however, I have a deep passion for this initiative and will do all I can to make it successful.


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