Telstra's new CEO: Customers must be at the heart of everything we do

Andrew Penn, the telco's former CFO and the new CEO following the departure of David Thodey, reiterates his commitment to customer through technology and services innovation and announces more investment into network infrastructure

Andrew Penn
Andrew Penn

Telstra’s newly installed CEO, Andrew Penn, has reiterated the telco’s commitment to putting the customer at the heart of everything the company does during his first official speech since being appointed.

The CEO, who is speaking at today’s Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) lunch, used the opportunity to outline his priorities as Telstra’s new chief, as well as announce further investment into the telco’s core network infrastructure over 2016 and 2017.

Penn, Telstra’s former CFO and group executive for international, was appointed CEO following the departure of David Thodey earlier this year. Thodey was credited as the man driving the telco’s customer transformation and turnaround over recent years.

“When David Thodey was appointed CEO in 2009, he declared himself agent of the customer – I make the same commitment,” Penn told the audience. “While we have made significant progress, we clearly have more to do.

“We still experience too many instances of failure where we don’t deliver everything as we should, where we do not make it easy for our customers to be successful.”

In a world where technology innovation is accelerating, customers need organisations such as Telstra to respond by providing simpler solutions at great speed, Penn said.

“I am a technology optimist. I see great opportunity for those of us that embrace this change, great opportunity for those that embrace technology and a great opportunity for Australian companies and Australia,” he continued.

Penn said every aspect of what Telstra provides its customers today has been influenced by technology, changing the way the company needs to go to market as well as the products and services it offers. He noted the rise of mobility, cloud computing and machine learning as three big game changers that have influenced what Telstra provides to customers.

“My vision is that we now take this to the next level and become truly world class,” he said.

One area where Telstra has been improving its digital capabilities is intelligent video services, ramped up thanks to its Ooyala acquisition last year, worth US$270 million. The telco announced two new video-based digital media services in June, one which utilises Ooyala technology, and one that is based on Telstra’s partnership with Akamai.

The other area of digital transformation is e-health, and Penn pointed to 15 acquisitions and partnerships made by Telstra over the last 18 months, all aimed at health-based technologies.

Penn also pointed to the need for continual innovation. Telstra Ventures, the group’s investment arm based in San Francisco, is helping keep the telco on top of emerging technologies and made 23 investments to date into startups working in field such as mobile apps, cloud-based solutions and 5G technology, he said.

Telstra also runs the Muru-D startup incubator in Australia and expanded the group’s focus to Singapore earlier this year.

In addition, Telstra launched an Insights Centre in Sydney this year and plans to open a new Innovation Centre in Melbourne in August. A Customer Experience Centre is also opening in Indonesia in August to support Asian customers, Penn said.

“Innovation at Telstra comes from our constant examination of the relationships and interdependencies between data, technology, and connectivity as well as customer needs,” Penn said. “It’s about helping people get the best out of technology ultimately providing access to the best networks off which to innovate.”

Core network infrastructure isn’t being neglected in all this, and Penn used his speech to announce a 15 per cent increase in capex investment across its network capabilities in the next two years. This includes more than half a billion for mobiles and expansion of its 4G network.

In total, Telstra will spend more than $5 billion into its mobile network between June 2014 and June 2017. This is particularly vital given the rise in video and rich media traffic, Penn said.

“Technology is taking us into a world of rapid change, constant innovation and competition,” he said.

“While we may not know how this is going to play out, what we do know is the ability to create, to innovate and to stay focused on our customers is going to be critical. In the end, this is all about our customers - technology is simply a way to make their lives easier and your businesses better.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook:, or check us out on Google+:

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Un-complicating multi-channel marketing: 5 actionable steps

There’s so much choice available that customers can pick and choose who they buy from and where, when, and how it happens. They want to discover, research, evaluate, and purchase on their preferred channel. Give them that option, and they’re more likely to choose you. That’s the whole point behind the multi-channel approach.

Aaron Agius

Co-founder and managing director, Louder Online

People in vegan houses shouldn't throw bacon

Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?

Abbie Love

Strategist, Ikon Communications

The role of the CMO is evolving: Are you keeping up?

My (amazing) vacation in the Galapagos Islands earlier in the year got me thinking about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. What does this have to do with the role of today’s CMO, you ask? Plenty.

Sheryl Pattek

Vice-president, executive partner

It’s excellent aiming to resurrect the complete within the hearts and minds of connected customers, moreover because the terribly relevan...

CMO Interview: How Kodak’s global CMO is bringing the brand back from the brink

Read more

Great to see ActiveCampaign's growth funded with some serious money.As a platform, it's up there with the usual suspects in terms of feat...

Lawrence Ladomery

CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 13 October

Read more


Kerry Edwards

Open Colleges taps into social for better student interaction

Read more

Or just go to sites like www.shopsthatshiptoaustralia.c... and others and be sure that the stores will send to where you live :-)


Why online shopping is like dating – RedBalloon CEO

Read more

Personalisation is the key. Customers demand a very relatable and well defined CX where the sincerity and understanding of their disposit...

Hitesh Parekh

In pictures: Improving cutomer experiences through smart personalisation

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in