The banking and supermarket conglomerate said Euan Sutherland, currently chief operating officer at home improvement retailer Kingfisher, will replace Peter Marks when he retires next year.
The mutually-owned group said Sutherland brings with him “considerable experience of the strategic leadership needed in complex customer-facing businesses”.
The 43-year old, who has also held senior roles at Superdrug and Mars, has sat on the board of the Co-op’s food division since 2010. Nevertheless his departure from Kingfisher came as a shock.
He was considered an heir apparent to Ian Cheshire, the retailer’s chief executive, and was promoted from running its high street business B&Q to his current role in June.
“Sutherland was, in our view, a major contributory factor in the recovery of the UK business over the last five years,” said Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George.
The Co-op bought 632 bank branches from Lloyds this year, transforming the group into a powerful new rival to the UK’s big retail banks, and expanding Co-op’s high street presence to around 1,000 branches.