BT appoints first female boss in 170-year history

Allison Kirkby will take over from outgoing BT boss Philip Jansen when he retires by the end of January next year (BT/PA)
Allison Kirkby will take over from outgoing BT boss Philip Jansen when he retires by the end of January next year (BT/PA)

Telecoms giant BT has appointed the first female chief executive in the group’s history dating back more than 170 years.

The firm named Allison Kirkby as its new boss to take over from Philip Jansen when he retires by the end of January next year.

Ms Kirkby has been a non-executive director of BT since 2019 and is also president and chief executive of Swedish telecoms firm Telia Company, which has 25 million customers across the Nordic and Baltic region.

BT shares
BT has named Allison Kirkby as its first female chief executive (PA)

BT said Mr Jansen will remain chief executive until the end of January “at the latest” but will be available to support the handover until the end of next March, after which he will retire.

The group will make a further announcement to confirm Ms Kirkby’s exact start date.

Her appointment will boost the ranks of female chief executives in the FTSE 100 Index, coming soon after the FTSE lost a well-respected female boss with the abrupt resignation of Alison Rose at NatWest amid the Nigel Farage account closure row.

Ms Kirkby will join the likes of Aviva’s Amanda Blanc, Jennie Daly at Taylor Wimpey and Dame Emma Walmsley of drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline.

BT chairman Adam Crozier said Ms Kirkby is a “proven leader, with deep sector experience and a history of having transformed businesses”.

She has been in the telecoms sector since 2010, also previously working at Virgin Media and most recently as president and chief executive of TDC, which is the largest telecommunications company in Denmark.

Ms Kirkby also held a number of financial and operational roles at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble earlier in her career.

She said: “I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the next chief executive of BT Group.

“BT is such an important company for the UK, and our many customers both in the UK and internationally and is uniquely placed to help everyone benefit from the rapid advances in digitalisation.

“Having been a member of the BT Group board for the past four years, I’m fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading it into its next phase of development.”

Ms Kirkby will take on the role on a £1.1 million salary each year, plus benefits, with a potential annual bonus worth up to £2.2 million and a possible further maximum of £2.2 million in long-term bonus share awards each year, depending on performance.

Mr Jansen announced plans to retire earlier in July, less than two months after the group revealed plans to cut up to 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade, amounting to about 40% of its total workforce.

Mr Jansen said at the time that the telecoms firm wanted to advance its use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, with a shift to customers using its app for things such as account servicing and upgrades rather than relying on call centres.

Around 10,000 jobs will go in its quest for greater digitisation.

BT is also nearing the completion of the rollout of ultrafast full fibre broadband across the UK, through its subsidiary Openreach, and 5G network.

Some 35,000 jobs will disappear once the engineering work is complete and the firm begins to retreat from running older double networks.