Spark New Zealand’s managing director Simon Moutter will leave the country’s biggest telecommunications company in July, handing over the reins to customer director Jolie Hodson. 

Chair Justine Smyth announced Hodson’s upcoming appointment, effective from July 1, saying the board’s succession planning gave internal candidates the chance to shine over an extended period of time.

“As board directors, we have had the opportunity to work closely with Jolie over recent years on a range of important company matters and we have been consistently impressed with her business acumen, her strategic vision and her quality decision making,” Smyth said.

“We are delighted to have confirmed a top-quality internal candidate, which speaks to Spark’s desire where appropriate to develop and promote talent from within.”

Moutter re-joined the company in 2012, leading what was then Telecom into unknown territory after the demerger of its former network business, Chorus.

Under his watch, the telco transformed from being a traditional carrier reliant on landline phone connections into a digital and mobile-focused firm. It rebranded as Spark and boosted its exposure to cloud-based services and set up a ventures unit where it’s dabbled with emerging technologies, such as streaming video, data analytics and cyber security.

Having bedded that initial change in, Moutter then changed tack, introducing a new strategy to transform the company into the lowest-cost operator by simplifying its services, introducing greater automation and digitisation, using its suite of brands more effectively, and shifting more customers on to higher-margin services. 

A key component of that was the introduction of flatter management structures with greater autonomy – a business model known as ‘Agile’ – to boost productivity and make it better able to respond to customer demands. 

Moutter, 58, said he hasn’t decided what he will do next professionally. Prior to his return to Spark, he’d been chief executive of Auckland International Airport between 2008 and 2012, and he also led lines company Powerco through the mid-1990s. 

“I’ve given my absolute best to putting Spark onto a positive track over the last seven years, so the company can fully deliver on its purpose to ‘help all of New Zealand win big in a digital world’,” he said. “I feel it’s the right time to pass the leadership baton on and I am delighted the board has chosen an outstanding leader in Jolie to succeed me.”

Through his tenure, Spark’s share price has climbed to $3.775 from $2.42 when he took over. The telco is also paying out annual dividends of 25 cents per share, compared to the 16 cents paid in his first year. 

Hodson joined Spark in 2013 as chief financial officer, coming from liquor group Lion, and has led a number of major programmes related to the company’s transformation under Moutter. She was a key driver of the growth strategies in cloud and IT services.

In 2016 she swapped the CFO role to take on responsibility for Spark’s consumer and retail operations, large corporate and government customers, and cloud services businesses. 

Hodson will take up the mantle as Spark positions itself for the next iteration of mobile technology, known as 5G. The technology combines very short response times with ultrafast speeds, which is seen as a key component for the ‘Internet of Things’, where devices interact with each other independent of a human.

Spark has been lobbying vigorously for the government to accelerate its auction of radio spectrum for 5G networks, saying it wants to have a network up and running by July next year at the latest. 

The carrier wants to shift more broadband customers off fixed connections and on to its hybrid wireless service, which reduces the fee it has to pay fibre network operators such as Chorus, even though fibre has greater potential speed and bandwidth. 

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