Spark New Zealand managing director Simon Moutter is retiring. From 30 June Jolie Hodson will lead the business. She is currently the company’s customer director.

Moutter remade, rebranded and renamed Telecom New Zealand in the years after government telecommunications saw the company spin-out its network operation, Chorus, as a separate business. 

Between 2003 and 2008 Moutter was Telecom NZ’s chief operating officer. He then spent four years running Auckland International Airport. In 2013 Moutter returned to Telecom as managing director. 

The Telecom Moutter left in 2008 was a vertically integrated incumbent. It dominated the industry in an era when it was still mainly about fixed-line voice calling. The Telecom Moutter rejoined was a retail telco forced onto a level playing field with 90-odd rivals. It also faced fast-declining fixed-line customer numbers as the market switched from copper to fibre and wireless. In 2013, Telecom was well behind Vodafone in wireless.

 

Jolie Hodson

Moutter’s first challenge was to ensure the business survived the industry restructure. His second challenge was to put it back on the path to thriving. Moutter achieved both these goals with distinction. Today’s Spark is a vibrant, competitive telco. 

It remains New Zealand’s leading telco by size. Spark also leads its rivals on innovation. When Moutter rejoined Spark was number one in broadband connections. It still is, although its market share has dropped. 

Back then it was number two in mobile behind Vodafone. It has since caught up. You could even argue it is now the market leader. It definitely has a technical edge. Spark is leading the way to 5G mobile networks. 

Moutter was in charge when the business changed its name to Spark. The move told the world it was no longer a telecommunications company. Since then it has moved into the media sector. It has a sizeable streaming TV service and has made significant investments in streaming sports media. 

Moutter has done much to make Spark a more equitable workplace. Spark won the Rainbow tick. Moutter has also spoken out against race or gender discrimination. He has pushed Spark into the 21st century. 

Spark-watchers have questioned the timing of this annoucement. The business is only part way through building its streaming sport operation and is about to embark on upgrading its mobile network to 5G. The company is also still adjusting to a new Agile way of working. 

This unfinished business may explain why investors pushed the company’s share price down 3.5 percent immediately on hearing the news.

Spark’s new leader, Jolie Hodson, has been groomed for the role for some time now. She has worked for the company since 2013, in an early role she was in charge of finance. It is significant that the company turned to an internal appointment. In the past Telecom NZ has often recruited from outside, although Moutter was not himself a true outsider. 

Spark’s chairwoman Justine Smyth says: “Jolie is an accomplished leader with a strong record of delivering results and managing complex business units and to be able to appoint an executive of Jolie’s calibre and experience is a testament to the quality of the talent within the company.”