CFO gone in significant NBN restructure


The National Broadband Network Company has embarked on a substantial restructure of its rapidly growing operations, in a move that comes alongside the departure of its chief financial officer and another senior executive responsible for industry engagement.

In a statement sent to the company’s staff yesterday and published online, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley outlined a wide tranche of changes to the company’s operations. The headline change will be the departure of the company’s CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret, a former colleague of Quigley’s at his former company Alcatal-Lucent, who served as NBN Co’s first financial overseer.

“Jean-Pascal Beaufret, our Chief Financial Officer, has informed me that he wishes to retire,” said Quigley. “Jean-Pascal has agreed to remain with the company until January 2012 while a search is conducted for his successor. Jean-Pascal has been an invaluable asset for NBN Co in developing our corporate plan and establishing robust financial systems. On behalf of all of us at NBN Co, we wish him well and thank him for his invaluable contribution.”

Perhaps the second most significant change to take place as a result of the restructure is the departure of the company’s head of industry engagement, Christy Boyce, who had been one of the most visible figures in NBN Co’s early days in representing the company to its ISP customers. Quigley’s statement didn’t reveal why Boyce was leaving, noting only that her departure came “as a result of the reorganisation”.

A number of other far-reaching changes have also been made. For example, Quigley noted, NBN Co has appointed a new chief communications officer to manage government, media and stakeholder relations, as well as overseeing the “public information campaign” to educate the public about the NBN. That post will be filled by Kieren Cooney, who had previously been chief marketing officer at Telecom New Zealand, as well as holding a CEO role at Kiwi telco reseller and retailer Leading Edge.

The current head of government relations and external affairs, Mike Kaiser, will switch into a new role, head of quality, and will implement a “comprehensive quality framework” for NBN Co.

Interim head of construction Dan Flemming has been permanently confirmed in the role, and NBN Co’s head of product management and industry relations Jim Hassell, who has become one of NBN Co’s most visible executives, will now take responsibility for an expanded remit including NBN Co’s wholesale broadband agreement with ISPs, pricing, revenue and industry analysis – adding to his existing responsibility for product management, sales and product marketing.

In addition, NBN Co has commenced what Quigley described as “a worldwide search” for a chief operating officer to take overall responsibility for a large swathe of the company’s operations – ranging from network construction to planning and design, the company’s office of the chief information officer, new developments, health safety and the environment and local community relations.

Quigley himself will take on the responsibilities stemming from the COO role in the short term, until a permanent appointment is made.

Another high-profile NBN Co executive, head of corporate services Kevin Brown, has also received somewhat of a promotion, with Brown’s portfolio now including commercial affairs and the agreements which NBN Co has recently signed with Telstra and Optus. Supply chain management also sits under Brown’s remit, as well as procurement, legal affairs, facilities and security. A new human resources chief is in the process of being recruited, while NBN Co company secretary Debra Connor will report separately to NBN Co’s chairman and the head of its legal department.

The restructuring will see seven departments reporting into the office of the CEO, including the four newly-created or newly-consolidated departments.

“The reorganisation reflects our transition from a start-up focused on planning and network design to a company capable of delivering the full-scale rollout of the National Broadband Network across Australia,” said Quigley. “What the reorganisation does not change however is the task at hand: which is to deliver a world class communications infrastructure that will sustain Australia for decades to come.

“I’m confident we are putting in place the right structure to carry out that task on behalf of the Australian taxpayer.”

NBN Co is now almost two years old, and the company has grown remarkably fast. With hundreds of staff and already quite a few layers of management, it was about time the company had a decent reorganisation; it’s something I’ve been expecting for some time. Likely quite a few of the moves, adds and changes which Quigley detailed yesterday have already taken place and were rolled up into the one announcement.

However, there are a few interesting points which should be noted.

Firstly, it’s important to notice the ascension of both Kevin Brown and Jim Hassell up the NBN Co ranks. Along with Quigley, these two are the executives who have become the most visible public faces of NBN Co over the past year. They are both seasoned executives with oodles of experience in their respective roles and well aware of the political sensitivities of their positions. I expect them to play an ever-increasingly important role in the future of NBN Co.

However, I don’t see either as being a long-term potential successor to Mike Quigley. Neither has enough experience in the telecommunications sector for that; and thus their roles will necessarily be limited by the need to appoint a world-class executive who does. They are likely to remain key lieutenants for the next 3-4 years, at least, however.

The departure of Christy Boyce – who had largely become overshadowed by Hassell – is another interesting point. Boyce was quite active in dealing with the ISP community when NBN Co was first set up, but increasingly had become overshadowed by Hassell as time went on. Boyce’s influence has waned, and we’re sure that she’s seeking greener pastures. It could also be that she feels her specific expertise (being a former McKInsey consultant) was more suited to helping build NBN Co in its early days; now that the company is established, she may be looking to get her hands dirty in another interesting startup.

I’ve also been waiting for Jean-Pascal Beaufret to leave NBN Co for some time. It was appropriate that the executive was parachuted in to aid Quigley during NBN Co’s early days; Quigley needed a second-in-command he could trust to make sure the company’s early financial dealings were completely above board and crystal clear.

However, that time has passed; Beaufret is getting old in years, and there will clearly be many, many better candidates for his role. The CFO role at NBN Co, as we’ve seen with the power which is wielded by Telstra CFO John Stanhope, is an important and high-profile one, and Beaufret hasn’t done enough to show that he’s capable of stepping up a level and engaging strongly with the Australian corporate landscape – a landscape which he is, of course, not that overly familiar with.

It’s time to put a king-hitter in the CFO role, and both Quigley and Beaufret are aware of this fact.

It is interesting to see Dan Flemming confirmed as head of construction. I would guess that in this area – with all the controversy which has occurred over the past few months with respect to the breakdown of negotiations with the construction industry and the resignation of NBN Co’s former construction chief Patrick Flannigan, Quigley just wants stability in this portfolio.

At the press conference to announce NBN Co’s deal with Silcar, Flemming was present, but he didn’t have the gravitas I would have expected from a senior head like Flannigan. I would bet that Flemming’s role will be increasingly overshadowed by that of the new chief operating officer, whoever that ends up being.

As for the rest … well it’s basically par for the course ;)

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. it will certainly be a most interesting recruitment exercise for the head-hunter to fill the COO and CFO roles.

    normally, appointments to “Government roles” are viewed as stolid and staid jobs with relatively good security in tenure.

    unfortunately, because Labor’s NBN doesn’t have bipartisan support and the Opposition have already vehemently stated they will halt and disband the project, i suspect some quality candidates will give the opportunity a pass.

    of course, these “temporary positions” could offer a valuable opportunity for more junior executives to step up to their first COO/CFO roles. and i’m sure the compensation will be highly attractive too.

  2. With Quigley at the helm you can be assured they will find a competent, experienced and technologically adept numbercrucher/head kicker who will get the required job done.

    No sweat!

  3. Good analysis, Renai. These changes really have to be put in context, which few other commentators have done.

    Until now, NBN Co has operated like a start-up. Mike Quigley had to get core systems in place, and he needed to have some key people with him that he knew and trusted. Beaufret was one of those.

    Now that they are moving into full operational capacity, with many of the key contracts and deals in place, the needs of the company are changing drastically. Quigley needs someone on deck to manage that process and stay with it. Beaufret has clearly planned this retirement for some time, and it’s the most ordinary, normal thing to have a handover to the new CFO over the next six months.

    In short, the needs of the company are now different, and so the people in place are also different. This is a calm, orderly transition. Turnbull’s shrill comments about things being “chaotic” are extremely cynical. He, more than just about anyone in politics, knows better.

  4. What I find hilarious is that the NBN has about 17 customers and is fiercely undergoing….a management restructure. Some focus on actually building the damn network wouldn’t go astray. So far, the best we’ve had is organisational reshuffles and not much else.

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