What does a day in the life of the CEO of Openreach look like? Clive Selley, took some time out ahead of Broadband World Forum to tell us about what he gets up to as he pushes ahead with keeping Britain at the forefront of the digital economy.
As chief executive of the company responsible for the fibre broadband, wires and cables that connect the UK, every day offers a new challenge. Some days I’m out with our engineers delivering service to customers and testing new technologies and new ways of working; the next I am in London working through our service improvement plans with my senior team and meeting customers.
With more than 500 communication providers (CP) to serve across the UK, I talk to customers regularly. I hold a conference call for all our CPs each month, to review our performance and discuss upcoming plans. We have productive discussions about Openreach’s progress and the actions we’re taking. These calls are open, constructive and more positive than you might imagine from reading some of the headlines in the newspapers.
Together with my technology team, I regularly meet with the researchers from our Labs, based in Ipswich. We review the latest results from the various network technology trials we’re running around the country, and look at the possibilities for larger scale deployments. The labs are a huge asset to Openreach – they’re the largest in Europe and the Group invests around £500m each year on research and development. So we’re constantly pioneering the technologies that will deliver better speeds and broader coverage for the country and maintain our lead as the leading digital economy in the G20.
Over the past decade, the internet has become central to people’s professional and personal lives, as well as the success of the UK. We’re working on a host of different technologies including FTTP and G.fast. We’re also trialling Long Reach VDSL in the Outer Hebrides and rural Sussex. These will help us to cater to a variety of customer needs to address the unique economic, technical and geographic challenges that confront us in this country.
I like to meet apprentices and graduates who have joined Openreach’s engineering team. As you’ll have gathered, there’s a lot to do, so we’re hiring over 1,000 engineers this year and adapting our training regimes so that they, and our existing staff, can gain a broader range of skills. This will make Openreach more flexible and better able to meet customer needs.
I started my career at BT as an apprentice engineer, so I am always pleased to support a scheme that gives many young people valuable skills – and I think it’s important to see how far you can go with the right motivation and opportunities.
Spending time with customers is of course a priority. As well as our CPs, housing developers are important customers too. We have a team focused on connecting new housing developments to fibre. We’ve been working hard on an initiative with developers to offer free FTTP connections to all new sites of more than 30 houses. Our engineers are now using techniques such as micro-trenching to lay fibre cables to speed up the process. It’s important for me to keep a check on how that’s going and take feedback from the big house builders about how it’s helping their customers. It’s a great scheme that will benefit hundreds of thousands of home-owners over the next few years.
I often meet with the industry regulator, MPs and other stakeholders. With Openreach at the centre of public debate about the digital economy, it’s important that we are transparent about what we’re trying to do, and the progress we’re making.
Every day I review our performance measures, respond to emails, follow up on queries and complaints, take updates and make decisions on a range of strategic operational issues. I rarely leave before 7pm and often attend industry and stakeholder events in the evenings. At the moment, my number one priority is service and we’re working long hours to make improvements.
During the weekend I often visit engineers at work and trial sites. I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids, when they are home from their studies; and catching a West Ham match whenever I can. To be honest, I might be better off staying away from the Olympic stadium for now, given the way our season’s started. We’ve struggled at our new home but long-term I think we’ll be ok.
Moving to a larger, modern stadium is the right move to take a big club with a proud history like West Ham forward, but it’s not without its challenges. I wonder whether there’s a lesson there.
Building something for the future that will leave a lasting legacy takes time and won’t be plain sailing. I truly believe that we are taking the right actions and can see them making a difference. Everybody at Openreach is on a mission to deliver better service, broader coverage and faster speeds and keep the UK in pole position as Europe’s leading digital economy.