UM's UK and Ireland leader Rachel Forde is leaving the agency for a fresh challenge at the end of this year.
Chris Skinner, the president of UM EMEA, will take the helm of UM’s UK and Ireland business on an interim basis until a replacement is hired.
Forde has been the agency’s chief executive for the past four-and-a-half years, joining from Publicis Groupe, where she spent two decades and was the UK chief executive of Spark Foundry.
Under her tenure, UM has won clients including Just Eat, American Express and Purple Bricks, and introduced purpose-driven programmes including UM’s Better World Marketplace, its schools outreach programme Futureproof Academy and the agency’s ongoing partnership with UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance.
Forde joined UM in 2018, filling a leadership void left by Russell Place and at a time the agency was ranked 13th in the market, with estimated billings of £191m. She led the agency through the Covid-19 pandemic and helped it grow estimated billings to £273m (12th place), including 25% growth in 2021.
Forde has championed the idea that media agencies need to work smarter, including the automation of low-value tasks, as well as improve the diversity of teams and thought to remain relevant. She is an advocate for inclusivity, integrity and responsible leadership, previously highlighting its importance at a time when "narcissism has been given free rein and there are egos everywhere".
On her decision to leave UM, Forde said: “When I came to UM, my goal was to put UM back on the map. With the support of a brilliant team, I am confident that I have done that, as well as developing a company culture that is inclusive, empowering and pioneering.
“I have always championed the idea that diversity of thought brings about progress and positive change. We have built a brilliant foundation for the next trajectory of growth, and, whilst I will miss UM dearly, it’s time for me to embrace my next challenge, too. It’s how we keep growing; applying all the lessons we’ve learnt along the way."
Forde, who was co-chair of judges at this year’s Media Week Awards, said she could not yet reveal her next move but will spend time with her family and “reset before I emerge in the summer”.
IPG Mediabrands UK and Ireland chief executive Richard Morris said Forde has been a valuable member of the holding group’s executive leadership team.
“She is a leader who cares deeply, breaks down barriers and one who believes in the value of culture to create business transformation,” he said.
“Her leadership, energy and ambition has helped UM grow at a market-leading rate over the last four years; something of which she can be rightly proud. We wish her nothing but the best as she embraces her next challenge.”