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BT has announced that Joe Garner, CEO of its local access network business Openreach, is to step down in 2016 to become CEO of building society Nationwide. BT said it would name a successor in due course.
Garner, who prior to taking up his current post at the beginning of 2014 was head of HSBC’s retail and commercial banking practice in the UK, leaves Openreach at a critical point for the organisation, as it faces the prospect of being forcibly split from its parent following an ongoing Ofcom review.
Despite his relentless focus on improving Openreach’s customer service and operating practices, Garner has faced relentless criticism from campaigners, customers and BT’s competitors over Openreach’s ongoing control of the majority of the UK’s broadband access networks and what many see as a lack of technological ambition.
Nevertheless, he has also overseen a major ramp-up of Openreach’s fibre network roll-out, with the number of homes and businesses capable of receiving a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connection delivering 24Mbps speeds growing from 18 million at the start of 2014 to 24 million today, and the UK frequently placed top in Europe in terms of average broadband speed.
Garner said his decision to leave Openreach had been an extremely hard one, but the opportunity to become CEO of Nationwide “proved too good to turn down”.
“I would like to thank the thousands of dedicated Openreach engineers who work so hard in the most challenging of conditions to keep millions of homes and businesses connected. They are the unsung heroes of the nation’s internet infrastructure,” he said.
“In my view, it is BT’s investment that has helped the UK to become one of the strongest digital economies in the world and I am proud to have contributed.
“Openreach is now poised to take the UK from a superfast to an ultrafast nation and I am confident it can achieve this as part of the BT family. I wish my successor at Openreach and everyone there and at BT all the best for the future.”