BT hires chartered management accountant and telco veteran as next CEO

Got to keep up with those FTTP builds and the tens of thousands of staff that will leave

BT, the former state owned telecommunications monopoly that is building Britain's fiber backbone, has confirmed current Telia Company president and CEO Allison Kirkby as its new boss from the end of January 2024.

The hunt for a new head honcho was kickstarted earlier this month when current head Philip Jansen said he intended to retire from corporate life within 12 months.

Kirkby has held numerous financial and operational roles at Proctor & Gamble and qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant in 1990 when at Guinness. She is already known to BT after serving as a non-exec director at the group since 2019.

Adam Crozier, BT Group chairman, described the incoming chief exec as a "proven leader, with deep sector experience and a history of having transformed businesses."

Giving a hint of the role ahead, Kirkby talked of being fully supportive of the existing strategy: to get FTTP builds completed across the UK, become a leaner organization and delve deeper into the world of biz tech.

Paolo Pescatore, PP Foresight founder and a tech media analyst, told us he expects little to change in terms of BT's strategy, and reckons Jansen is leaving BT in relatively good shape.

"There's not much more left for him to do. He has helped navigate the group through a difficult period. Probably time to think about the next chapter for both him and BT. Openreach is now in a better place, consolidated the enterprise function and moving away from costly sports rights."

Pescatore was surprised BT didn't recruit a new boss from the current executive rank and file. "An external person always needs time to get up to speed and establish new connections with everyone (not only internally, externally with Ofcom, government and other key stakeholders)," he said.

Earlier in July when BT said it was seeking a CEO successor, Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insights, pointed out BT's share price nearly halved during Jansen's tenure.

"The CEO has endured a rollercoaster ride at BT. He presided over the operator's impressive response to the pandemic; embarked on a massive cost-saving drive; oversaw a major acceleration in the deployment of full-fiber; witnessed Patrick Drahi take a near-25 percent stake, and watched thousands strike over pay."

Analysts at Megabuyte today said Kirkby appeared "well suited" to the role, having run Tele2 and TDC as well as holding a senior role at Virgin Media. They think her most pressing concern will be "achieving the related analogue network switch-off by the target end of 2025."

Jon C Davies, analyst at TechMarketView, said today he thinks Kirkby's priority will be BT's continued "metamorphosis into an efficient, modern technology company. Whilst this evolution has so far been a complex and costly undertaking, there are signs of progress (especially in respect of 5G and cloud-based initiatives)," he said.

He added: "It is also fair to say that BT has been hampered by the effects of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis."

The plan is for Jansen to serve at CEO until "the end of January 2024 at the latest," BT said today. For her troubles, Kirkby will be paid £1.1 million ($1.42 million) a year in salary and be "required to build a shareholding of 500 percent of salary within five years."

Just like Jansen, Kirkby inherits a massive cost-cutting programme that will see up to 55,000 BT jobs wiped by out by 2030. Keeping everyone motivated while that is running will be another challenge. ®

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