Andrew Penn has grabbed a former Optus executive to run Telstra's retail business

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

Telstra has made two key appointments to its senior leadership team to run its retail business and for a new role to build innovation.

Both report to CEO Andrew Penn, who took over from David Thodey in May last year , when he made changes to his heads of marketing and international business.

Kevin Russell, currently CEO for a Silicon Valley-based technology start-up, is a former SingTel Optus Country Chief Officer and CEO of consumer, and has been appointed Group Executive Retail to run the Telstra’s consumer, business, stores and product functions.

He starts in late April, replacing Karsten Wildberger, who was appointed less than a year ago. She resigned in December to return to Europe.

Russell, 49, was with SingTel Optus from January 2012 to March 2014, and also held senior positions at Hutchison Whampoa Group

“Telstra is committed to improving its service to its customers and to simplifying and strengthening its core business,” Russell says.

“These are key directions in which I believe my experience will 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.”

Stephen Elop, 52, a former Nokia CEO, has been appointed to the new role of Group Executive Technology, Innovation and Strategy.

That portfolio brings together aligned lines of the business, including the Chief Technology Office, Chief Scientist, Telstra Software Group and Corporate Strategy with strong links into product development functions.

“I have long recognised the Telstra team as one of the most innovative and insightful in the telecommunications industry,” says Elop.

“Telstra has a strong focus on its customers, and a willingness to invest in advanced products and services to best serve those customers.”

He is currently Distinguished Engineering Executive in Residence at McMaster University in Canada.

Telstra is winning more mobile phone customers and boosting revenue, but posted a flat 0.4% rise in net profit to $2.093 billion for the half year to December.

Total income was up 9.1% to $14.194 billion while Australia’s largest telco added another 235,000 domestic retail mobile services for a total of 16.9 million.

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