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BT parachutes in former HSBC exec to run new Digital unit

Harmeen Mehta will handle telco's internal rewiring and tech product strategy

BT has hired former HSBC exec Harmeen Mehta to head up a newly created Digital unit, overseeing the internal shift to digital systems along with the incubation of tech platforms, products, and services.

Mehta, who served for the past seven years as Group CIO at Indian telco Bharti Airtel, will act as chief digital and innovation officer and join the newly formed BT Technology Advisory Board (TAB), reporting directly to CEO Philip Jansen.

The standalone Digital unit will lift an as-yet-unspecified number of staff from BT's Technology division, a spokesman for the company told The Reg. Mehta's accountability includes "IT, digital innovation, BT-wide business transformation and data and product strategy," said BT.

The idea is that in addition to the internal reworking of BT, the new unit will also focus on services including the cloud, data services and AI in verticals such as healthcare.

In addition to Mehta, the TAB will also include Steve King, CEO at Black Swan Data; Dame Wendy Hall, exec director of the Web Science Institute at the Uni of Southampton; Mike Young, group CIO at Centrica; and John Stecher, CTO at investment biz Blackstone. The group will meet just three times a year.

As a result of the Digital unit, which launches on 1 April, BT confirmed that Mike Sherman, chief strategy and transformation officer, has "decided it's the right time for him to leave BT". Mehta starts at BT in March.

The Technology division, minus some employees moving to Digital, will be run by CTO Howard Watson. He will control network strategy, networks transformation and service platforms, and retains responsibility for security.

Jansen, who joined BT in 2018, is in the middle of a company transformation effort that includes consolidation of real estate and workforce reduction of some 13,000 heads among many other things.

BT revenues have fallen from £24.08bn in its fiscal year ended 31 March 2017 to £23.42bn in the most recent full financial year ended in 2020. Openreach seems to be the one and only part of BT that is consistently growing in recent years. ®

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