AstraZeneca this morning said it has appointed a new chief financial officer from outside the pharmaceutical industry as it looks to bring in experience from other sectors to deal with the new challenges facing pharma.

The appointment of Simon Lowth – who joins from energy firm Scottish Power - follows the sudden departure in July of former CFO Jon Symonds to investment bank Goldman Sachs. AZ was caught on the hop by the move and has spent the last months searching both internally and externally for a suitable replacement for Symonds, who was a well-respected figure within the financial community. Symonds lost out to David Brennan for the post of chief executive at AstraZeneca when Sir Tom McKillop stepped down two years ago.

The company is facing uncertainty as it has a bare late-stage pipeline and a whole host of patent expiries to key products looming on the horizon. To deal with these problems, AstraZeneca has signed a number of collaborations recently, including the acquisition of MedImmune for $15.6 billion and - although some analysts feel the firm is paying too much - they were somewhat reassured that Symonds was the man controlling the purse-strings.

Lowth will join as an Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer with effect from November 5, when he will be responsible for the firm’s Finance and Information Services.

Prior to Scottish Power - where he was Finance Director following two years as Executive Director, Corporate Strategy and Development - Lowth spent 15 years with the global management consultancy, McKinsey & Company.

“Simon has unique insight into the dynamics of companies driving change and re-structuring for future success. He put this experience into practice driving the turnaround at Scottish Power, contributing to significant improvements in business and financial performance. AstraZeneca has embarked on its own change journey including the transformational move into large-scale biologics this year, so Simon’s background makes him particularly well-suited to this role,” said Louis Schweitzer, Chairman of AstraZeneca.