Bill Wavish, CFO of Australian supermarket giant Woolworths, has been appointed director of the group's supermarkets division.

An accountant by background, the move will enable 54 year-old Wavish to gain hands-on experience of retail operations. He has previously held CEO, COO and CFO posts at a number of companies in the Antipodes, including that of CFO at Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. Wavish's immediate support team will comprise Tom Flood, chief general manager of supermarket operations, Bernie Brookes, chief general manager of supermarket buying and marketing, and Naum Onikul, chief general manager responsible for Woolworths divisions including liquor, fuel, ezy-banking and e-commerce.

Other appointments confirmed at the same time include that of Peter Pokorny as general manager of supermarket replenishment, its homebrands and buying logistics, while Tony McFadzean was named as general manager of fresh produce and supermarket buying.

Wavish will take up the post once a new head of finance has been recruited. Although market pundits said the announcement meant Wavish is being groomed for an even higher role, CEO Roger Corbett was quick to deny any suggestion that the appointment made Wavish CEO-designate: "I should imagine that when the time comes, Bill will be a candidate, but that type of announcement is for another day."

Nevertheless, the markets seemed to view the news as evidence that a succession plan is in place. Corbett is 59 years old, and retirement is likely to come within the next few years. The group's stock rose 1.7% in a generally sluggish market.