Christine Holgate

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Christine Holgate
Portrait photo of Christine Holgate.jpg
Born1963/1964 (age 56–57)[1]
Cheshire, England
NationalityBritish
EducationUniversity of North London
OccupationBusinesswoman
TitleCEO of Australia Post
TermOctober 2017-
Spouse(s)Michael Harding

Christine Holgate (born 1963/1964) is a British business executive, and has been the chief executive (CEO) of Australia Post, since 30 October 2017.[2] Prior to that appointment she was CEO of the vitamin and nutritional supplement company Blackmores from 2008 to 2017.[2] She is also a board member of Collingwood Football Club.[3]

Christine Holgate is the first female CEO in the history of Australia Post.[4] She is also an inaugural chairwoman of the ASEAN – Australia council board.[5][6] In 2014, Christine Holgate was one of the only 20 business leaders invited to the G20 Summit held in Brisbane, Australia.[5][7] She is also the first women awarded the “CEO of the Year” by the CEO Magazine.[8][9] In 2015, Holgate ranked the top “100 Women of Influence” by the Australian Financial Review in 2015.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Christine Holgate grew up with her four siblings,[10] in Cheshire, England.[11][4] Holgate's father was an entrepreneur and ran a construction company.[10] Since Holgate was young, her father insisted her on running “little businesses” to earn her pocket money.[10][12] When Holgate was 15, she cleaned windows with her friend and had a truck selling ice–creams.[12]

In 1982, by the time Holgate turned 18, she left Cheshire for London.[1] In London, Holgate met Flo, who financially supported her to pursue a business degree at the University of North London.[1] Christine Holgate had three post-graduate diplomas in Marketing, Management and Purchasing and Supply.[6] She finished her diploma in Management in 1986 and completed her Master of Business Administration degree in 1991.[1]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Holgate first worked as postie for the Christmas season when she was 18.[13] After graduating from the university, Holgate worked for Allied Healthcare and BBC News.[14] In 1988, she joined the Caribbean Cable & Wireless telecommunication and started her international career.[15] During her 12 years at Cables & Wireless, Holgate directed the company’s Marketing department,[15] arranged customer division and conducted projects across Caribbean, Europe and Hong Kong.[14][16] In 2000, Holgate joined J.P. Morgan as the “Managing Director of Marketing” of its European subsidiary.[14][16][17] She was the only woman in J.P. Morgan's executive team in Europe during her incumbent period.[14] Holgate worked for J.P. Morgan for 18 months before joining Energis.[16] In May 2001, Holgate was recruited as the Group Director of Strategy and Marketing by the Internet provider Energis.[14][16] Her job was to lead the Energis’ strategy and planning teams in Europe and monitor its marketing activities.[16]

In November 2002, Holgate received a job invitation from David Thodey, the former Telstra chief executive.[1][14] In 2003, she came to Australia[18] and worked for Telstra, which its precursor was Telecom Australia,[19] as the Marketing direct.[14] Holgate's role was expanded into building Telstra's business sales and managing the operations of its channels while she continued to lead its marketing team.[14][20] Christine Holgate left Telstra and started working at Blackmores in 2008.[18][21]

Blackmores[edit]

In September 2008, Holgate was appointed as chief executive officer and managing director of Blackmores.[21] Holgate sister's death from cancer spurred her to join Blackmores,[11][14][22] the Australian health supplement corporation.[23]

Within the first two months, Christine Holgate identified that Blackmores operations in Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan were neglected.[24] In 2009, Christine Holgate allocated Peter Osborne to direct Blackmores business in Asia to minimize the entry barriers.[22][24][25] Before the allocation, Peter Osborne worked in Asia for more than 20 years.[22] Osborne understands the market, regulations and politics in China and speaks Mandarin fluently.[22][24] From 2008 to April 2012, Christine Holgate increased Blackmores' annual sales to $234 million.[14] She also strengthened the local management of Blackmores and improved its marketing offering in Asia.[14] Blackmores started gaining profits from the markets of Thailand and Malaysia and prepared to enter the Chinese market.[14] The profits from the Asian market accounted for nearly 25% of Blackmores' profits.[14]

In 2011, Christine Holgate faced the public relation crisis related to the deal between Blackmores and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.[14] Under this deal, pharmacists "would be prompted to promote" Blackmores health supplements to their patients during the prescription process.[14][26] The proposal of Blackmores caused "national outrage" and the "strong level of public concern".[26] Holgate was criticized for referring the deal as a "coke and fries" option.[14][26] She explained the phrase was quoted out of context as Holgate commented the proposal "would add the "Coke and fries" to those drugs and provide pharmacies with a "new and important revenue stream"".[14] Holgate conceded that linking the medicine with junk food "was highly unfortunate".[14]

In 2014, Christine Holgate was one of the only 20 business leaders invited to the G20 Summit held in Brisbane, Australia.[5][7][27] Holgate was urged to have a photograph with the president of China Xi Jinping to increase sales of Blackmores in the Chinese market.[27] At that time, Blackmores' generated sales were under $ 1million, while the required capital for labour and marketing was around $10 million.[27] Holgate was told to have no chance of having the photo as all electronic devices were forbidden during the event.[27] Before the event, she went to see fortune-telling and followed the advice of wearing "a piece of green".[27][28] Holgate managed to have her photo with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping.[27] Her picture with the two leaders was widely spread in China and attracted the local consumers.[29] At the end of 2014-15, Blackmores sales in the Chinese market increased to $50 million and reached $500 million in 2015-16.[27] In September 2015, Blackmores joined the ASX200 index, the top 200 most prominent companies in Australia,[30] and Christine Holgate was named the first female CEO of the Year in November.[8][9]

During Holgate’s nine years at Blackmores, its share price rose from $18 to $90 and peaked at $220 in 2016.[11] Holgate transformed Blackmores, the international member of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)[31] into the major health supplement exporter to Asia.[32] Holgate resigned from Blackmores in 2017 to head up Australia Post.[33][34][35]

Australia Post[edit]

On 30 October 2017, Holgate joined Australia Post as its CEO,[2] the first woman in this role.[4][32] She was appointed “group chief executive officer” and “managing director” of Australia Post during its transformation phase as the leading Australian e-commerce postal delivery service.[36] Her job is to manage the modernisation of Australia Post’s logistics system and its 33000 workforce.[37] Holgate had no previous experience in managing the logistics system.[37] Holgate's allocation was decided based on her strategic ability to exploit the potentials in the Asian markets and enhance the business profitability.[37][38] She also had direct experience as a Christmas postman during her study in North London.[13][32]

Taking a new role, Holgate visited branches across Australia to meet postal employees and noticed the skepticism of the workforce.[1] Before her arrival, Australia Post had divided its business into two product lines, including profitable StarTrack and the traditional postal service.[1] Holgate consulted the staff and received agreement to unify the two businesses.[39] She integrated the two business and decided to preserve the Australia Post’s traditional red colour and name.[1]

In 2018, Holgate launched the “Everyone Matters” campaign, an adverting campaign supporting postmen and post offices in regional areas.[1] The net promoter score increased over 30 percent in six months.[1] Holgate also addressed the trust issue of employees and launched “Equal pay for equal work” campaign.[1] She invested $300 million on upgrading parcel processing systems with automation and tracking devices.[1] Holgate also restructured the Australia Post's executive team to align with her customer-oriented and Asian-focused strategies.[40][41]

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Holgate presided over a number of scandals at Australia Post, including significant delays and cuts in service,[42][43] the surveillance of staff,[44] the planned payment of executive bonuses at a time when other public servants were expected to take pay cuts,[45] a bipartisan Senate committee accusing Holgate of attempting to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of Australia Post,[46] and Holgate's personal intervention in the attempted delivery of Pauline Hanson's One Nation-branded stubby holders to locked-down public housing towers in Melbourne after Hanson made inflammatory comments about tower residents.[47]

Further scandal was caused when Holgate revealed at an appearance before a Senate committee on 22 October 2020 that Australia Post had purchased four Cartier watches valued at $3,000 each as gifts for senior management executives after securing a lucrative deal with three Australian banks. Communications minister Paul Fletcher announced an investigation into Australia Post and asked Holgate to step aside as CEO.[48]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Holgate was the first woman to win CEO of the year by The CEO Magazine.

In 2011, Holgate won a Chief Executive Women scholarship, and attended the Women's Leadership Forum at the Harvard Business School.[49]

In 2015, Holgate won the "Women in Leadership" Award from the Australian Growth Company Awards.[50]

In October 2015, Holgate was named one of the "100 Women of Influence" in Australia by The Australian Financial Review.[5]

In November 2015, Holgate was awarded "Australian CEO of the Year" by CEO Magazine,[51][8][52] the first woman to win the award.[9] In 2016, Holgate was runner-up in the Australian CEO of the Year award.[53]

In 2019, Holgate received the Sir Charles McGrath award from the Australian Marketing Institute.[54]

Family[edit]

Holgate is married to Michael Harding, the chairman of Downer Limited.[10][1] They were married in January 2016 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.[1][22][55] Holgate has close relationship with her nephews Brian and Eddie, sons of Holgate's late sister, Elizabeth.[22] They are the reason for Holgate's wedding being held in England.[22]

View[edit]

Women in leadership[edit]

Answering The Weekend Australian Magazine's interview question on how to have more female executives, Holgate advised companies to research the women aged from 30 to 50.[12] She suggested the uncomfortableness of women after their maternity leave was the barrier for them to return to work.[12] She believed creating the connection with female employees during their pregnancy and after birth helped them overcome the barrier.[12] Holgate also advised companies to think differently and seek for female executive leaders from the different routes.[12]

In May 2016, Christine Holgate was one of a guest speaker at the Business Women's lunch, a fundraising event of the Odyssey House for children's development.[56] Speaking at the event of the Odyssey House, Christine Holgate disagreed with the gender quotas.[57] She explained that allocating unqualified female candidates for executive roles to fulfil the gender quotas made gender equality in business backfired.[57] She believed setting targets would equalize gender in the board positions.[57] Holgate also shared her point towards Michelle Gordon's description of "euphoric terror feeling" in Gordon's High Court judge role.[57] Holgate believed female leaders had more advantages when compared to males thanks to their ability to express personal emotion and their "lack of toughness" on operating approaches.[57]

On 16 November 2018, answering The Australian about the role of managing leaders in gender diversity, Christine Holgate affirmed that leaders "have to take the initiative".[58] Christine Holgate said "It is not women on boards that are going to give us economic equality. It is women around the executive team in real roles".[58]

Asian Market[edit]

Potentials[edit]

In 2017, Christine Holgate attended the business summit held in Sydney, Australia.[59] Speaking at the event, Holgate affirmed the potentials of the Chinese market to Australian businesses when responding the prediction of Chinese Premier Li Kequiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.[59] She said seizing opportunities to enter Chinese markets would develop the Australian economy.[59]

Challenges and strategies[edit]

Answering the Chanticleer’s interview in 2015, Christine Holgate addressed the trap when developed countries do businesses in the emerging markets.[60][61] Holgate said “every country is different”.[60] She also commented that “Don’t assume what you do in Australia and what’s right for Australia is right for the market places up in Asia.”[60] Holgate advised companies to “invest in learning the market place” and “hire a strong local team”.[60]

In 2016, Christine Holgate and Blackmores faced the Chinese restriction of the “cross border e-commerce trade”.[62][27] Speaking on the event, Holgate said doing business with China required the patience and this restriction offered opportunities as “it shows the Chinese government believes in the free trade zone”.[62] She told Australian companies to stay and keep investing in the Chinese market.[27] Holgate also mentioned the importance of the diversification strategy.[27] She advised that “don’t put all your eggs in the China basket”.[27]

In 2017, China “delayed infinitely” the restriction of the “cross border e-commerce trade”.[63] Commenting on the “China-Australia Free Trade Agreement”, Christine Holgate said the agreement was the “win” for Australian businesses as it removed the uncertainty of the regulation.[63] Holgate also advised companies to be prepared for the regulation risks in the future.[63]

Speaking on the opportunities of small businesses in the Chinese market, Christine Holgate said the number of companies expanding their businesses in the region was limited.[27] Holgate commented that the “China-Australia Free Trade Agreement” in 2017[63] would not support Australian small businesses with the restriction through the Chinese ports.[27] She also warned Australian companies to avoid discounting their products and keep a premium price.[27] Holgate suggested that small companies engage with Chinese students studying in the local universities in Australia and have “joint venture” with the government of China.[27]

In 2019, Christine Holgate attended the China International Import Expo trade fair in Shanghai.[64] Responding to the interview on the sidelines of the event, Holgate said more European competitors were entering the Chinese market.[64] She noted that Australia ranked “the top three most desired brands” but Chinese customers “have choices” and warned on the competition for the market in China.[64] Holgate also suggested that Australian businesses adopt AliPay and WeChat Pay, digital payment platforms in China, to engage with the local market.[64]

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