Odgers Berndtson: Exclusive Interview with Nokia's Chairman Risto Siilasmaa

Exclusive Interview with Risto Siilasmaa

Former Chairman, Jorma Ollila acknowledged in his subsequent memoir that he had made mistakes by failing to predict changing customer needs and developing new software. Disruption in the tough environment of global mobile phone development – and an inability to keep in step – had precipitated his downfall.

So the 45-year-old Siilasmaa had much to do. He certainly had the right credentials: an entrepreneurial background from tech business, serving several years as chairman of a telecom operator, a master’s degree in engineering and four years’ experience serving on the Nokia board.

At the time Siilasmaa took over the helm at Nokia the health of the former Finnish handset giant was dire. During the first half of 2012, operating losses ran to €2 billion, cash flow was strongly negative and sales were down 26 per cent.

And yet today under Siilasmaa’s stewardship, Nokia is a thriving network infrastructure provider, number two in the global market. The share price has more than tripled over the past three years and its enterprise value has multiplied by more than 15 times.

So what happened? Most visibly Nokia has done three bold, strategic deals: the sale of its handset business to Microsoft, the acquisition of the remaining 50 per cent share in Nokia Siemens Networks from Siemens and the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. And behind these deals lies a vast amount of work, including more than 100 board and board committee meetings.

“It has been a huge transformation and the board has made difficult decisions,” says Siilasmaa, referring especially to the sale of Nokia’s handset business, in September 2013. “But difficult decisions can be made easy when you do a load of analysis and iterative thinking. By the time the deal was signed we were certain it was the right decision.”

To read the full interview, click here.


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