Career Insights: David Tannahill CA

David Tannahill Photo
Mark Lewis By Mark Lewis, CFO Services, Rutherford Cross

25 July 2018

Financial services and global drinks giants don't seem natural partners. But it's been a winning combination for David Tannahill CA, who shares his "exciting and dynamic" career journey with Rutherford Cross’ Mark Lewis. 

David Tannahill is head of Finance for Star Pubs and Bars, part of the HEINEKEN Group.  Qualifying as a CA with PwC in Glasgow, David trained in audit before moving into Transaction Services. In 2004, David moved to a position with Anglo Irish Bank, drawn by the opportunity of working in a smaller Financial Services organisation in a more involved role, whilst developing his relationship management skills.

The economic downturn led to David taking voluntary redundancy from Anglo Irish and he embarked on a range of consultancy projects, firstly in property and then with Highland Spring. 

It was after implementing an ERP system for the bottled water producer that David moved to take on his current role at HEINEKEN in early 2013.

Star Pubs and Bars is a leased and tenanted pub business which comprises an estate of around 1,050 pubs throughout the UK. Following completion of Heineken UK’s agreed £305m deal to acquire part of Punch Taverns plc, a further 1,900 pubs will be added to the portfolio creating the third largest pub group in the UK.

What are your primary deliverables as Head of Finance for Star Pubs & Bars?

My role is to lead Star Pubs & Bars (Star) as part of the senior management team, setting the strategic plan and to devise and drive the execution of operational plans to achieve these goals.  I provide the financial backbone to all strategic transactions including target selection/disposal portfolio build, transaction execution and integration planning and execution.

You’ve been busy with the Punch deal for the last 18 months now.  How do you balance those additional activities with your “business as usual” role?

Being part of a large organisation like HEINEKEN is definitely an advantage.  All major acquisitions of this size within HEINEKEN are supported by the team in Amsterdam and we have created a highly experienced transaction and integration team in the UK to deliver the project.  Prior to the deal being announced on the 15th of December 2016 there were less than half a dozen HEINEKEN UK staff working on the deal and there were certainly many long days (and nights) and a lot of delegation to the Star finance team for BUA.

What will this deal mean for SP&B and how will your role evolve in future? 

This deal will triple the number of pubs owned by HEINEKEN in the UK and with it increase the importance of the role that Star plays within the wider HUK business.  This will increase our ability to support Great British pubs around the UK through enhanced investment in line with the investment we have made in our existing estate over the past five years.  

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My role will change significantly as I have to step further back from directly being involved in the day to day running of the business and focus more on influencing the operational and strategic direction of Star.  For example, at the moment I would review all CAPEX schemes where spend exceeds £100K, but this will be devolved to one of my direct reports in the enlarged Star finance team.

What are the best and worst elements of your job?

I love the culture within HEINEKEN, Star and especially the Star Leadership team.  It is very supportive, collaborative and fully focused on driving the business to maximise long term and sustainable returns. The worst thing is the time away from my family.  Whilst getting a full night’s sleep staying in a hotel has its benefits - I have four young children at home - it is necessary to travel the country to work with colleagues and stay close to the business.

What does success look like to you and how do you measure it?

Success is having a motivated and fully engaged team that are actively contributing to the growth and prosperity of Star.  Measuring that is not objective, but feedback from business partners is a good way to get a sense of the positive impact the team are making.

What personal traits do you feel typifies an ideal HEINEKEN employee?

The great thing is that there isn’t a typical HEINEKEN employee but what unites us all is passion, quality and enjoyment of life.  

How would you pitch HEINEKEN to a potential employee?

HEINEKEN is a global organisation with a significant pubs, cider and beer business in the UK providing significant opportunities both in the UK and Internationally.  It is an exciting, dynamic and fast paced environment to work in.

What are the key challenges facing the SP&B business over the next three years?

Delivering our business plan post-acquisition for the benefit of HEINEKEN, but probably more importantly, our lessees, customers and employees.   The aspect of the business plan, once the Punch pubs are successfully integrated, that keeps me awake at night is our ability to deliver the expansionary transformational CAPEX plan to the same high quality and with the same level of innovative design and value creation.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to a CA wanting to do your role in future?

Have a passion for the on-trade.  It is difficult to see anyone driving this business who does not care passionately about pubs, customers, and lessees.

When you’re not working, what do you do to unwind?

I spend time with my wife and four children, which often involves some sort of sporting activity, or visiting Culzean Castle in Ayrshire.

To find out more about how Rutherford Cross can help you or your business, contact Mark directly at

This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.


  • Career development
  • Leadership and management

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