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BT Openreach Complete “Independent Board” with Final Appointments

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 (10:22 am) - Score 2,027

BT’s network access division, Openreach, has today announced the completion of an “independent majority” on their newly formed board with the final appointment of Liz Benison as a non-executive member. Liz is currently the CEO of public services provider Serco in the UK and Europe.

The first members were announced at the start of this month (here), with the decision to actually setup an independent board stemming in no small part from Ofcom’s Strategic Review demand for Openreach to become a “ring-fenced, ‘wholly-owned subsidiary’ of BT Group, with its own purpose and board members” (more details here, here and here).

Admittedly BT and the telecoms regulator are yet to reach a final voluntary agreement on the Strategic Review proposals (issues over pensions and control are still causing a few headaches), but that hasn’t stopped the operator from pressing forward on the areas where the two sides have aligned.

Openreach’s Board
Clive Selley, Chief Executive
Mike McTighe, Chairman
Clare Sadlier, Chief Finance Officer
Brendan Barber, Non-executive Board member
Edward Astle, Non-executive Board member
Liz Benison, Non-executive Board member
Simon Lowth, BT Group nominee
Nigel Cheek, Board Secretary

Last year’s Strategic Review found that Openreach still had an “incentive to make decisions in the interests of BT, rather than BT’s competitors, which can lead to competition problems.” Openreach hopes that the new board will show that it’s now being more transparent and autonomous (i.e. less directly controlled by big daddy BT), with new senior managerial roles responsible for strategy, regulatory affairs and corporate affairs all reporting directly to the CEO, Clive Selley.

Mike McTighe, Chairman of Openreach, said:

“We are determined to meet our customers’ expectations and to strengthen the autonomy, governance and transparency of Openreach, so we are putting a strong team in place to deliver that.

Liz brings a wealth of experience in building businesses through forging strong relationships with clients and delivering long and complex contracts in the service industry. She is also passionate about good service and British innovation so Openreach is the perfect fit for her knowledge and expertise. Liz will play a key role in helping us to work more closely with all of our communication provider customers.”

Today’s announcement also confirms an update that we posted last week by officially unveiling Richard Allwood as Openreach’s new Chief Strategy Officer, Mark Shurmer as Managing Director of Regulatory Affairs, Catherine Colloms as Director of Corporate Affairs and Katie Milligan as Managing Director for Customer, Commercial and Propositions (CCP).

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“These senior leadership changes are all about strengthening our relationship with the outside world and building even more productive partnerships with everyone that has a stake in our business.

Openreach is crucial to the UK’s thriving digital economy and our people already play an important and active role in communities throughout the country. I am confident that becoming even more transparent and collaborative will help Openreach deliver better service, broader coverage and faster speeds for consumers and businesses across the country.”

Some of BT’s rivals will no doubt continue to question just how much of a difference all of this can actually make to Openreach’s behaviour and interaction with the wider market. Indeed it’s unlikely that today’s changes will be enough to silence those who still call for total separation from BT, although Ofcom seems to have all but taken that option off the table (at least until the next review in around 9 years’ time).

As always, actions speak louder than words and no doubt ISPs will soon be testing Openreach’s new found level of independence. In the meantime Ofcom have pledged to push forward with their proposed changes, regardless of whether or not BT agrees to their proposals. On this front the regulator, with Government backing, appears to hold a strong set of cards.

However both sides still want a voluntary agreement and that mentality usually results in a deal, even if it sometimes takes a little bit longer to surface.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. GNewton says:

    This simply won’t be enough. Openreach needs to become an independent legal entity, as outlined by Ofcom.

    1. Sam says:

      Why is a majority independent board not enough? What would the difference be between this and an independent legal entity?

    2. FibreFred says:

      I was expecting “step in the right direction, but simply not enough”

      I’m not surprised or disappointed

    3. Fastman says:

      and you thank that going to help you where you live G newton

    4. MikeW says:

      I guess we have 5 or 6 years to find out.

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