It is highly unusual for a major executive appointment to come from out of the blue. But as much happened this week when Simon Moutter was announced as Telecom's new chief executive.

Mr Moutter, Auckland International Airport's chief executive, had not been mentioned in most predictions, largely because of his range of high-level roles between 1999 and 2008 at a vastly different Telecom.

He had, in effect, been tarred by his association with the era of Theresa Gattung, who, most infamously, admitted that Telecom's approach to customer relations included confusion as a marketing tool.

The public's impression of Telecom has improved under her successor, Paul Reynolds, a Scot who brought openness and a willingness to acknowledge mistakes. He also orchestrated Telecom's split from its infrastructure arm, Chorus, which resulted in a much slimmer entity.


Much of the response to Mr Moutter's appointment was based on a fear that he, with new chairman and former Telecom company secretary Mark Verbiest, would oversee the return of bad habits. But that is simplistic.

Both men know that the modern telecommunications environment and Telecom's role as a standalone mobile, internet and IT retailer demand an emphasis on improved service to customers. Indeed, this, plus good returns for shareholders, was spelled out when the Telecom board began its search for Dr Reynolds' replacement. Those aims are not incompatible, the more so when a return to the past is simply not tenable.