Amid continued struggles, TalkTalk have announced that they’ve captured their fourth chief financial offer in four years, poaching Kate Ferry from Dixons Carphone, who will take office in the autumn.
Ms Ferry comes to the company with a rich and storied history, with a career at Merrill Lynch as a specialist retail analyst behind her, as well as the top spot at Dixons Carphone. She’ll replace Iain Torrens in the latest move to revitalise TalkTalk, after Sir Charles Dunstone returned to the business he started within Carphone Warehouse.
The company are still struggling with the fallout from the devastating 2015 cyber-attack which revealed critical security faults at the company and led to an astonishing number of customers leaving the service. On top, TalkTalk were made to pay out to customers, booking large exceptional costs along the way.
Last year, the company recorded exceptional charges to the tune of £83m, as profits halved in the financial year. Torrens left the issuance of the company’s first bond, raising £400m in April, though his performance has been deemed unsatisfactory, joining the likes of Steve Makin who lasted only a year in the role and Amy Stirling, who enjoyed 7 years at the company when she left in 2013.
Sir Charles Dunstone is a long-time fan of Ms Ferry, having worked closely with her during their joint time at Dixons Carphone.
Sir Charles said: “As we continue our journey under the new leadership team and with a refocused direction, Kate brings a wealth of experience to the role. Her skills will work really well at TalkTalk and we’re looking forward to working with her as we focus on delivering our new and exciting plan for the business.”
Sam McHugh, an analyst with Exane BNP, said: “TalkTalk are not a company known for meeting financial guidance — having disappointed on multiple occasions in the past. If Ms Ferry can come in with a cleaner and achievable message and guidance for investors over the medium term, then this could end up being a positive for TalkTalk.”
The news comes after hundreds of customers chose to contact TalkTalk over TalkTalk broadband outages last week. According to reports, extensive damage was caused to fibre optic cables by a third party, operating digging equipment.
The downtime affected customers connected to the Seaford, Newhaven, Herstmonceux, Ninfield and Polegate exchanges and took TalkTalk broadband, phone and TV services down for over 24 hours, leading to a high number of complaints.
TalkTalk have recently relaunched their service, greatly simplifying their offering and redoubling their efforts around their original remit – being the go-to low cost supplier for essential services like broadband. That’s resulted in a near-complete relaunch of the brand, with simplified packages, pricing structures and advertising. Only time will tell whether that’s enough to reverse the fortunes of the one-time upstart, but it’s an important first step to take.