Telstra hires former Nokia, Optus chiefs

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Telstra hires former Nokia, Optus chiefs
Stephen Elop

New heads of retail, technology.

Telstra has added "firepower" to its executive team with the appointments of former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop as its new head of technology, innovation and strategy and former Optus chief Kevin Russell as its head of retail.

Elop, who spent three years as head of Nokia before joining Microsoft as its devices boss when the phone company was acquired by the software giant in 2013, will report directly into Telstra CEO Andy Penn.

The Canadian executive will start his new role in early April and will alternate between the US and Australia.

"Stephen will immediately add major firepower to our team with his extensive and deep technology experience and an innate sense of customer expectations. He is a recognised international technology leader and strategist from across a range of global organisations," Penn said in a statement.

Elop has worked across numerous technology firms alongside Nokia and Microsoft, including stints at Juniper and Adobe.

In his new role, he will take over responsibility for business groups including the chief technology office, chief scientist, software group and corporate strategy.

Elop said he had long recognised Telstra as "one of the most innovative and insightful" companies in the telco sector.

"Telstra has a strong focus on its customers, and a willingness to invest in advanced products and services to best serve those customers," Elop said in a statement.

Once considered a potential replacement for former CEO Steve Ballmer, Elop left Microsoft in the middle of last year as the result of a company restructure intended to focus Microsoft more sharply on its software and cloud businesses. His devices business was rolled into Microsoft's Windows division.

It marked the second time Elop departed from Microsoft, having also left the company in 2010 to head up Nokia after spending two years running its Office unit.

The telco also today announced the appointment of former Optus CEO Kevin Russell as its new head of retail.

Russell will replace Karsten Wildberger, who resigned from the telco for "personal reasons" late last year after less than two months in the position.

Russell departed Optus in Februrary 2014 after two years in the role and was later replaced by Allan Lew.

As Telstra's head of retail, Russell will lead the telco's consumer, business, stores and product functions, reporting directly into Penn.

"[Russell] has an impressive track record working for several of the world's largest telcos in a range of demanding markets," Penn said in a statement.

Russell said Telstra was "committed" to improving its customer services and "simplifying and strengthening its core businesses" - areas he said his expertise would be directly relevant.

"More broadly, the market transition to the national broadband network and accelerating technology innovation presents growth opportunities and changing competitive dynamics requiring nimble execution," he said in a statement.

Russell will start his new role in late April.

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