Delivering the opening keynote at the TechXLR8 trade show in London, BT CEO answered questions about his imminent departure.
Iain Morris from Light Reading asked about his own plans, having hear Patterson declare “Now is the right time to pass on the baton,” and received the predictable forward defensive stroke. “It’s far too early to make any decisions about moving on,” said Patterson. “By the time I leave it will have been 15 years, with five as Chief Executive. This is a typical tenure for a BT CEO if you look at history.
“It’s an enjoyable job but it’s pretty relentless, but I think I’ve passed the business on in a good state. We’ve made some important moves, with the acquisition of EE probably the most important. It’s a good time to hand over and while I continue to be CEO, which will be until a successor is in place, I’ll make sure we continue to deliver.”
The only other question he answered concerned any advice he has for his eventual successor, especially when it comes to dealing with regulators. “Count to ten,” advised Patterson. “Regulation is part and parcel of the job is in the top three things you have to deal with at CEO of BT. You go through periods where it’s supportive and there are times when it’s more challenging. You have to learn to work with them and my advice would be to embrace it and be part of the solution.”
Patterson’s main keynote was the inevitable list of all the cool stuff BT has done recently, in which he emphasised how much BT is prioritising investment, especially in infrastructure and in talent, including a laudable ambition to employ more people on the autism spectrum. We were left with the impression that Patterson is already looking forward to having an easier time of it once he steps down and wouldn’t be surprised if he kept his head down for a while.