Penn takes senior Telstra post

FORMER AXA Asia Pacific chief executive Andrew Penn has resurfaced as Telstra's new chief financial officer, although he is virtually unknown in the telecommunications sector.

FORMER AXA Asia Pacific chief executive Andrew Penn has resurfaced as Telstra's new chief financial officer, although he is virtually unknown in the telecommunications sector.

Mr Penn is well regarded by observers of the financial services market where he headed one of the biggest companies in the Asia Pacific region until it was bought for $14.6 billion earlier this year.

Telstra announced yesterday that Mr Penn would become its new chief financial officer in March, replacing company veteran John Stanhope.

In more than 20 years at AXA, Mr Penn was chief financial officer, the chief operations officer, head of transformation, and head of operations in Asia.

Mr Stanhope's replacement had been expected to come from inside Telstra, with deputy financial officer Mark Hall tipped to take the job.

Instead, Telstra's chief executive, David Thodey, and the board have selected another outsider as a senior manager as Telstra transforms from an engineering-led company to a sales and marketing-led operation.

"I am delighted to welcome Andy to this critical position," Mr Thodey said yesterday.

"Andy has extensive experience in Australia and overseas, a proven record of success as a chief financial officer, and a demonstrated ability to create shareholder value in complex businesses."

Analysts who knew Mr Penn from AXA said he was a likeable and thoughtful character who helped improve sales and efficiency at AXA and build its business in Hong Kong.

"He was really the driver of the business rather than a cost-out guy. He was more about strategy and ultimately helped get a pretty good deal for AXA shareholders," BBY analyst Brett Le Mesurier told BusinessDay.

Mr Penn will join Mr Thodey in the executive leadership group but a company spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that he would not sit on the board as Mr Stanhope did.

Mr Stanhope's departure was announced in June this year and he has been conducting a farewell tour of the industry in recent weeks, according to an insider. Mr Hall will be acting chief financial officer between Mr Stanhope's departure on December 30 and Mr Penn's arrival.

Telstra shares closed steady at $3.27 yesterday.

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