I don’t intend to step back into the spotlight. It’s Executive Management’s job to handle the Group’s operational management; the chairman represents it externally. What I found appealing about the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors at Swiss Post was both the Group’s diversity as well as the opportunity to contribute my experience dealing with the world of politics and serving as mediator between various interest groups.
There’s no question about it – as a federal company, managing Swiss Post involves more politics than a private group. Sensitivity is needed when dealing with various regions, social partners, customers and authorities. In essence, Swiss Post belongs to all Swiss citizens and many of them have a firm opinion when it comes to the company. At the same time Swiss Post also has to be managed in a cost effective way. With over 80 percent of its sales already coming from the free market, I expect all parts of Swiss Post to generate earnings that conform to the market.
Our success depends greatly on political will. We aren’t fighting market liberalization and still want to provide this public service on our own. To do so, however, an appropriate framework has to be in place: reasonable employment conditions on the postal market, no regulated access to our infrastructure for competitors and the opportunity for PostFinance to increase its domestic investments.
While we’ll be sticking to our guns on this point, we don’t necessarily need a comprehensive banking license. Our focus is on facilitating solutions that are beneficial to both Swiss Post as well as private and business customers, SMEs in particular. It just can’t be that a large portion of our customers’ funds have to be invested outside Switzerland. That money should be made available to the Swiss economy.
In the future our network will continue to evolve in line with customers’ needs. The number of letters and parcels sent at post office counters plummeted nearly 50 percent from 2000 to the end of 2009. Every village bakery has to adjust its structures if it only sells half as much bread and we, too, can’t just sit back and watch this happen at our branches without taking some sort of action. Yet we still want to continue offering a comprehensive network of access points that, if at all possible, offers the same or even better services than a post office with very restricted hours. Postal agencies in village shops, for example, and home delivery services in rural areas are very popular among many of our customers.
While German companies sending goods to private individuals abroad can already do so, we do not offer this service to private customers. We aren’t interested in getting involved in providing basic services in other countries and that’s not even permitted by the Federal Council, anyway. At the moment we’re looking into a gradual expansion of our activities abroad. We want to be able to follow internationally active Swiss companies abroad so that we don’t lose them; if we don’t, we’re practically inviting foreign companies to snatch away some of our market share in Switzerland.
Parcels will still have to be sent physically in the future. Online orders are leading to increasing parcel volumes and that opens up an opportunity for us. When it comes to letters, the trend is just the opposite. But we aren’t just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, we are very active at the interface between physical and electronic communication. We will work on developing these business models even further. Take the “Swiss Post Box” for example. That is an electronic mailbox system for frequent travelers which we want to sell to foreign companies. Swiss Post also helps companies strengthen dialog with their customers; dialog marketing and customer loyalty programs are growth markets for Swiss Post.
Yes, of course. While profits might be down for the letter business, we still earned CHF 198 million. And as in the previous year, we generated a profit of CHF 104 million for parcels and logistics despite the crisis.
We have opportunities for growth in all of our markets, albeit to different degrees. In the area of logistics, for example, we will be offering even more complete solutions. PostFinance’s excellent growth figures underline our potential on Switzerland’s retail financial market. An increase in demand is present in public transport, too, and PostAuto benefits from this both in Switzerland and abroad. We are also pursuing a wide range of innovations which will keep us competitive.
Access to the single European market is not in danger, even without a new Postal Act. The Federal Council and the Council of States intend to liberalize the market completely. Swiss Post advocates a three-year transition period.
Swiss Post should continue to fulfill its political mandate of providing basic postal services at top quality and reasonable prices. On the other hand, it should also be able to safeguard this mandate through competitive activities. In order to do so, Swiss Post needs the legal guise of a public limited company and the entrepreneurial freedom that entails.
Interview: Andreas Hammer, Brand & Communications