BT chooses top banker to lead Openreach

It’s not a grizzled old telecoms veteran; or even a young but experienced telecoms person (as Liv Burgess had become by the time she took the post), but a highly successful industry outsider.

Joe Garner is to join Openreach next month from HSBC, the UK and Hong Kong banking group.

BT says Garner appealed to them because of his experience of working in a heavily regulated industry and the BT announcement credits him with leading the UK arm of the bank through the financial crisis and then rebuilding its profitability and strengthening its balance sheet.

However, when it came time for Garner to change roles to go and work in Hong Kong at the end of 2012 (many banks tend to move their executives around) he decided against and quit. According to the Scotsman newspaper he told friends he wanted to stay in the UK with his family. It also appears he’d had enough of banking.

A year later Garner has decided to take the BT shilling and lead Openreach.

There is a symmetry to this shuffle. Liv Burgess has moved on to become CEO of another utility - UK water company, Severn Trent - while Garner has been moved in to apply his experience in handling regulators and pleasing customers. Both moves should cement the idea that Open Reach, as the BT’s ‘held at arm’s length’ infrastructure company, is a utility pure and simple and can and should be managed and viewed as such.

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