Alan Joyce’s major task at Qantas — modernising the airline, restructuring its workforce and seeing it back to profit — is largely complete.
This morning’s announcement that the company is shaking up its executive ranks are a signal that the business is thinking about who may lead the airline next.
The market doesn’t like it, perhaps reflecting investor confidence in Joyce. Shares fell more than 6% at the start of trade, then rebounded a bit before tanking again to be down 7.5% at one point.
The most intriguing appointment was the move of Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka to CEO of Qantas Loyalty and Digital Ventures.
These have become two areas of vital strategic interest to Qantas. The Loyalty division did $1.5 billion in revenue last financial year with underlying profit of $369 million, and it has been rumoured as a potential spin-off business of its own with a valuation in the order of $2.5 billion.
Qantas has also rapidly been building digital capabilities, announcing the creation of its own startup accelerator, Avro, earlier this year through a partnership with Slingshot.
Hrdlicka has always been mentioned as a potential future successor given that Joyce was leading Jetstar before taking over the top job.
With Hrdlicka’s appointment, she combines the hard experience gained growing and running an airline with the leadership of a tech-driven division with high potential to unlock further value for shareholders.
There are other interesting moves: Gareth Evans goes from CEO of Qantas International to run Jetstar Group. He is being replaced at the International division by Alison Webster, who currently runs freight, catering & airports.
And the Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David takes on a greatly expanded role by assuming responsibility for the freight and ground operations previously controlled by Webster.
The rise of former Coalition political advisor Olivia Wirth continues with her elevation to Chief Customer Officer, seeing her take control of customer and digital strategy as well has her existing control of brand, marketing and corporate.