Back to News
Plain (44)
Share this Article

MERJE Meets: Kate Davidson MBE, CEO - Dignity Plc

  • Publish Date: Posted 2 months ago
  • Author:by MERJE

​We continue our MERJE Meets series - where we get to know a host of inspirational senior business leaders - with Kate Davidson MBE, Chief Executive Officer for the crematoria business for funeral-related service provider Dignity plc, which is the only listed company in the sector.

About Kate

Jump to the Q&A

Kate, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to bereaved people during Covid, has over 15 years of experience in the bereavement and end-of-life sector. She began her career in funerals and crematoria within local authority services, which is where she realised - being new to the sector - her passion for this area and what a special place it is to work in. Having gathered a host of industry experience, she joined Dignity plc in nationwide management and strategic roles in the crematoria division - including heading up the memorial business team - that now span eight years.

While working at Dignity plc, Kate went on to complete an Executive MBA with Warwick Business School in early 2020, which she completed with a focus on strategic leadership and a final dissertation on how organisations can better support the bereaved. Before that, she studied for an undergraduate Law degree - later realising just how much of a perfect fit bereavement services was for her skills and expertise - and has also completed the industry specific Cemetery & Crematorium Management diploma.

Kate was headhunted to join Westerleigh Group - one of the leading developers and operators of crematoria and cemeteries in the UK - as Commercial and Operations Director in early 2020. Following a challenging pandemic-induced 18-months, she was asked to return to Dignity plc, firstly as Chief Operating Officer before being promoted to the top role of Group CEO and latterly Crematoria CEO in 2022.

Outside of her primary role, Kate is a Member of the National Executive Committee of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities and the Burial, Cremation & Exhumation Law tutor for the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management.

So, without further ado, it’s over to Kate as she talks about what it felt like to be granted an MBE, what makes the bereavement sector so unique, her career highlights and challenges and why it’s ok to march to a different beat…

What are the three main traits that make a good CEO?

Resilience: It's the single most important thing I've learned. To be able to get up when you are knocked down and balance how you respond to difficult crisis situations is vital.

Leadership: Is it a bit of a cop-out to say this? I don’t think so. It’s important to have the ability to inspire and engage with everyone you meet, even more so than the technical skills or expertise you have at your disposal.

Passion and drive: It would be impossible to do this job without having major get-up-and-go and really caring about what you're doing, the people you’re helping and how.

What’s the biggest learning curve or obstacle that has made you better at what you do?

I would say the period of time during Covid. I had just joined a new organisation to head up its operations in the bereavement sector and found myself leading a new team in a completely unprecedented, uncertain and volatile environment. This included a full crisis management response to changing health and safety requirements and restrictions around funeral attendees.

On top of this, I was trying to support colleagues who were undertaking difficult, often emotional work under extremely challenging circumstances. At the time it was very, very difficult - both professionally and personally - but looking back it offered me a transformational experience in terms of my leadership skills, as well as increased confidence and the ability to truly care for others.

What key skills did you develop early in your career which allowed you to get to where you are today?

It’s so important to always learn and be inquisitive. I’ve always said yes to any opportunity that came my way (even the most random ones!). I also stand by the value of listening and understanding people and finding ways to motivate, encourage and develop them. In addition to this, extensive technical and sector experience has been so valuable in helping me lead with credibility and authenticity.

How did you decide that a career in the bereavement and end-of-life sector was right for you?

On my very first day working in the sector, I overheard a colleague helping a family who were experiencing a very tragic bereavement. The way that he looked after them was inspirational and that experience has always stayed with me. I always say I'm a bereavement person first and foremost before any of the other hats I have to wear. I’m always focused on helping bereaved people in the best possible way and everything else has to follow that.

You were recently awarded an MBE for your services to bereaved people during Covid. How did that feel?

It felt, and still feels, like a dream. I couldn't believe that I was nominated and still feel so humbled and honoured to have been recognised when in fact the entire sector was going through the same challenges as I was. I think of it as belonging to all of us. I just feel very very lucky and proud and it's something that I will never, ever forget. When I met Prince William at my investiture, I explained to him that whilst I was incredibly excited and proud to be there, actually I keep remembering all of the people who lost loved ones during Covid and the hundreds of colleagues who went above and beyond every single day to care for them. That's who it is for.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?

That it's ok to not be the popular one and to be different. I was very quiet, studious, nervous and school focused (ok - a bit of a geek!) and I had a rough time at school because of that. But I can totally see now that persevering and working hard and developing a really positive and committed attitude at that time has made me a stronger person now.

Quick Fire

If you could instantaneously gain a new skill, what would it be?

I think I'd have to say something mathematics or finance related. Maths was always my least favourite subject at school and I'm definitely more into words than numbers! So now I really admire my colleagues in those functions and often wish I could be as skilled as they are.

Favourite book?

Any of the Harry Potter books. I absolutely love Harry Potter and have read it sooo many times and will never ever not love reading it.

Mastermind subject?

See above! Actually I genuinely do always say Harry Potter would be my Mastermind subject. But if I can't use that twice, probably the UK funeral and cremation industry 2018 to 2022?!

Desert island disc?

My go-to artist is Adele, so I'd have her back catalogue on shuffle.

Many thanks to Kate for taking the time to chat with us and share her insights for this fantastic piece! Connect with Kate on LinkedIn here, and if you're interested in working with us on an article or blog, get in touch at

Related Articles

MERJE Meets: Ryan Swann - Founder, RiskSmart

How long does executive search take?

Case Study: Director of Risk & Compliance for a Real Estate Fund Management Business