Lifetime of Achievement: Allison Kirkby

Mobile Magazine honours telecommunications trailblazer Allison Kirkby as she seeks to implement BT Group’s enterprise growth strategy, growing 5G networks

With a steadfast commitment to keeping people connected, Allison Kirkby FCMA is a leading figure in the current telecommunications space.

Having been appointed Chief Executive of BT Group in February 2024, succeeding Philip Jansen, Allison is renowned for her ability to lead large, successful companies and further transform them in the telecommunications industry.

Allison has worked for BT Group since being appointed to the board as a non-executive director in 2019. In her new role at the helm, she is expected to be busy with a responsibility to oversee BT’s pledge to roll out £15bn (US$18.89bn) of fibre broadband to 25 million homes by 2026.

“Our products and services have never been more important to how our customers live and work,” Allison said, speaking on her appointment.

Redefining the telecom culture

Born in Scotland in 1967, Allison earned a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Accounting from Glasgow Caledonian University. Having qualified as a chartered management accountant whilst working at Guinness in 1990, she is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (FCMA), the global professional management accounting body.

Following this, she worked at Procter & Gamble for more than 20 years, rising the ranks to Managing Director, before entering the telecoms industry via Virgin Media. Her position as Executive Director Finance Operations and Transformation led her to later figurehead companies TDC Group and Tele2 AB, the largest challenger telecommunications company in Sweden and the Baltics.

In May 2020, Allison joined Telia as Chief Executive. The company is one of Sweden’s largest telecom providers, of which 40% is owned by the state. She was instrumental in implementing a sustainability strategy at the organisation. 

However, most significantly, she led the company to streamline its offerings, prioritising its connectivity services, which has contributed towards lowering its debt. 

It is the hope that Allison completes something similar at BT Group, as the organisation seeks to streamline operations. The company is currently undergoing a large programme to cut costs, which includes cutting more than 40% of its total global workforce.

Positioning BT ahead in a transformative digital era

Speaking at Digital Transformation World in Copenhagen 2023, Allison explained how network leadership should remain a crucial brand strength in order to facilitate growth. She also cited the need for collaboration, in addition to reinventing corporate culture to prompt sustainable growth, rather than short-term gains.

“Culture can at times be softer and intangible, but it’s not,” she says. “It’s especially key to transformation success in these large, once incumbent telcos, because you’re not just having to transform what you do. You’re having to transform how you do it.”

The task ahead of Allison is no easy one, but she is well-equipped to handle greater business focus on BT’s areas of interest, expanding its enterprise standing, in addition to prioritising full fibre broadband and 5G growth. 

Numerous reports have shown that Kirkby will be keen to extend EE’s leadership in 5G in particular. BT announced in January 2024 that it was ahead of its competitors in building the UKs largest shared rural network, having hit targets six months ahead of schedule. 

The EE 5G network has already reached 72% population coverage across the UK.

“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,” she said at the time of her appointment. 

“Our products and services have never been more important to how our customers live and work, and thanks to the significant investment BT is putting into digital infrastructure and in the modernisation of its services, I see us playing an even more important role going forward.”

She added: “I’m fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading it into its next phase of development, as we grow to support customers, shareholders and the UK economy.”

 

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