Christine Holgate to succeed Ahmed Fahour as head of Australia Post

By Julian Bajkowski

Wednesday June 28, 2017

The board of Australia Post has put a woman in charge of government-owned logistics giant for the first time in its 200 year history, naming Christine Holgate as the ultimate successor to outgoing chief executive and managing director Ahmed Fahour.

Holgate will take up the job of postie-in-chief in the latter half of October 2017, moving across from e-commerce driven natural health and vitamin company Blackmores, where she has been chief executive for almost a decade.

Australia Post’s board composition will also tip the gender equality balance in favour of women.

Holly Kramer, who also sits on the Woolworths board, has been confirmed as deputy chair, while Deidre Willmott, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia and Paul Scurrah, the head of stevedore and conainer terminal operator DP World Australia, will also join the board.

Holgate’s appointment signals the start of the next phase of Australia Post’s massive transformation push as it transitions away from the structurally shrinking mail and letters business to carve out a chunk in the fast-growing and interconnected trusted digital services, e-commerce and integrated logistics sectors.

“I leave Australia Post proud that five of the most senior roles in the business are now filled by women” — Ahmed Fahour

Australia Post chairman John Stanhope said a global executive search was conducted before choosing Holgate, whose annual remuneration has been set at $1.375 million in fixed salary, with additional “incentive payments” of up to $1.375 million.

Stanhope, a former chief financial officer at Telstra, was unambiguous about where Australia Post’s board sees the enterprise’s future profits and sustenance coming from, especially as global e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba the local market.

“The Board was impressed by [Holgate’s] experience of working very successfully in a range of different industries that are highly regulated. And, on top of that, she has a proven ability to implement strategy — and successfully grow a business in Asia.

“Her knowledge of global e-commerce will be invaluable as we pursue our Asian Strategy, which is all about offering logistics support to Australian businesses that are either selling in Asia, or sourcing their products there.”

Australia Post has a vested interest in securing a major stake of the export side of Australia’s e-commerce and logistics market, not least because it can harness its status as trusted channel partner across the international transactional chain at a time when product provenance, authenticity and payments security are all increasing in importance.

It also holds an ace in the market by virtue of its massive retail footprint and secure digital identity and payments services that easily dovetail into its existing business and open doors into new channels like service digitisation.

“Australia Post has proven itself to be one of the most resilient and successful postal businesses anywhere in the world,” Holgate said. “I feel fortunate to be joining at a time when we can really strengthen Post’s leading position in the eCommerce market — both here, in Australia, and in Asia,”

Outgoing chief executive Ahmed Fahour, who finishes at the end of July, pointed to the importance of healthy organisational culture and employee diversity as enablers of Australia Post’s turnaround — and his legacy.

“As an advocate for diversity I leave Australia Post proud that five of the most senior roles in the business are now filled by women,” Fahour said, adding that both he and Holgate held “similar views about the importance of supporting your workforce and equipping your people to succeed.”

“As we have transformed Australia Post into a pre-eminent e-commerce company, we have invested heavily in our people and the culture of our organisation,” Fahour said. “I know Christine will maintain that approach.”

In the period between Fahour leaving and Holgate arriving, Australia Post’s group chief customer officer Christine Corbett will take the reins as interim chief executive.

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