Since the start of the year, many C-level executives in Romania have decided the time is right to search for new career opportunities. Changes at the top have affected IT companies including Microsoft and Ymens, online ventures such as PayU, media agencies including iLeo and FMCG manufacturers like Nestle and P&G. HR pundits quizzed by BR explain the reasons for these market moves.
By Otilia Haraga, Simona Bazavan
C-level replacements during tough economic times happen often, but have we witnessed more than the usual share over the past few months? Romanian head-hunter George Butunoiu says no, arguing instead that these changes have merely been more publicized.
“Actually, from my discussions with others who watch what is happening on the market, we are expecting more changes because during difficult times, tensions between employees and employers, between entrepreneurs, owners and management and even between employees are higher,” he told BR.
Anda Bog, country manager at Iventa Consulting and member of the HR Club, also stresses that changes in top management are more frequent in more turbulent times. They are generated either by the employer or the employee. “Companies generally make changes for reasons such as differences of opinion on the short term, while executives decide to move because they can no longer identify with the values of the company,” she told BR.
Tensions also occur because demands are usually higher than what is achievable, and often unrealistic, which leads to discord between those who set the objectives and those who implement the strategy, explains Butunoiu. Moreover, difficult times offer a good opportunity to get rid of unwanted employees.
“It is easier to sack managers, and generally speaking employees, because it is easier to prove they haven’t reached their targets and many use this excuse to get rid of those they no longer like without being backed up by actual results,” said Butunoiu.
As for former C-level managers opting for entrepreneurship, he says this is happening much more often than before the crisis, “not necessarily because these people suddenly discover some well-hidden entrepreneurial skills”, but rather out of necessity. “Many of them can’t find a similar position and many refuse – through pride or other reasons – to move down a level – when obviously roles at their previous level don’t exist on the market. There aren’t as many director positions as there are sacked directors or directors out on the jobs market once their companies go bust,” he said. A slew of top-level management changes have been announced across industries since the beginning of the year.
“If we look at the local market, there are industries that have seen significant growth, such as IT and retail, and industries that have had difficulty in coping with the crisis, such as banking and manufacturing, but in each of the two categories there have been many changes at the top management level. These changes have less to do with the performance of the company and more to do with adjusting to the new needs that companies are faced with, either related to the growth or the decline in activity,” said Bog.
IT Industry drives the change
On the IT market, Microsoft announced in January that Ronald Binkofski would continue his career as general manager of the Polish branch.
Sorin Eftene was appointed interim general manager of Microsoft Romania, while the search for a permanent GM, who will lead 400 employees, continues.
Eftene was one of Microsoft’s first employees in Romania, having served in various management positions within the Microsoft Services division. More recently, he was director of the enterprise and partner group.
Microsoft said it would “take as long as it takes” to find the right candidate.
The new GM should have a strong background in sales, sound ethics and the ability to represent the company successfully.
The search in Romania proved to be fruitless.
After going through 800 applications, Microsoft decided the new general manager would be brought in from abroad, according to a report in Wall-Street.ro
“Wherever there are internal candidates, they will be preferred over those who come from the outside, both at top management level as well as at other levels of the organization. However, companies have stricter demands and the evaluation of the necessary abilities to occupy a position is much more rigorous than in the past. Very often the compromise of an internal promotion is replaced with searching outside for the ‘perfect candidate’,” said Bog.
This may have been the case at Philips.
Dutch Robin van Rozen was appointed country manager of Philips Romania and commercial leader South East Europe for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, effective March 1.
Van Rozen has ten years of experience in Philips, having led the marketing and sales departments in Amsterdam and London.
From April 2010, he served as senior marketing director for Central & Eastern Europe, coordinating the company’s marketing activities in the region.
Elsewhere in the sector, in February, Bogdan Balaci left IBM Romania to become CEO of Ymens, where he will consolidate the firm’s position on the cloud solutions for SMEs segment and lead the regional expansion set to start in 2014.
Formerly GM of IBM Romania from January 2011-November 2012 and country sales manager from July 2007-December 2010, Balaci joined Ymens with a wish to get involved in a project “with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.” He added, “I am also highly motivated to develop an important local project.”
According to Bog, the road to entrepreneurship is a well-pondered one. “Executives choose between consultancy and a new commitment based on two coordinates: personal aspirations and the abilities they wish to use. Both have to do with motivation and have a great individual component, only not all executives exercise this option.
Some prefer to give themselves some time in which to weigh up the opportunities on the market and choose the most appropriate. If during this time no interesting proposals appear, which coincide with their abilities or expectations, only then the option of consultancy/entrepreneurship takes shape,” she added.
For Ymens, 2013 will be a consolidation year in which the company will continue to invest over EUR 1 million in developing the platform. “Ymens’s goal for 2013 is to reach breakeven on operational expenses while in 2014 we aim to attain the profit target,” Balaci explained.
The online domain has also seen major changes. In February, Cristian Herghelegiu, formerly manager of PayU Romania, was appointed CEO of online bookstore Elefant.ro.
Herghelegiu has coordinated various businesses, both online and offline. In 2004, he launched and coordinated Microsoft Dynamics, the business solutions division of Microsoft Romania. Later, he launched Central Europe On-Demand, a company specialized in software-as-a-service.
In 2011, he joined the ePayment team as business strategist and in November 2011 he was appointed country manager of ePayment, which became PayU Romania.
The position he left will be temporarily filled by Daniel Nicolescu who is now interim country manager of PayU Romania.
The company is in familiar hands: Nicolescu is one of the founders of ePayment. The firm has built up operations in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey since its launch in 2004. Nicolescu also led the company between 2010 and 2011.
Changes across the industries
Elsewhere, the media domain has also had its share of notable top management changes.
Andreea Boaca, formerly brand communication director at Leo Burnett & Target, was appointed GM of digital agency iLeo, which currently has 20 clients. She has 13 years of experience in advertising and communications, of which 12 have been spent at the Leo Burnett group. Meanwhile, Mugur Patrascu will continue as managing partner at iLeo.
In January, The Practice announced that Gabriela Lungu, its managing partner and creative director, had left the agency she founded in 2006. Lungu relocated to London and joined Weber Shandwick as executive VP and EMEA consumer practice leader. Her stock in the agency was acquired by Stefan Iordache, co-founding partner of The Practice and COO of Leo Burnett Group Romania.
Currently, Oana Bulexa and Monica Jitariuc are co-managing directors of The Practice. Oana Bulexa has 11 years’ experience in communication. She has worked with Lungu for the past eight years, and was among the first employees of The Practice, where she is currently head of the PR department. Monica Jitariuc has worked in marketing, advertising and PR for more than 12 years. She joined The Practice in 2010 to coordinate the new social media department.
Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble (P&G) appointed Hans Dewaele vice-president and general director of the FMCG manufacturer’s local operations. He will coordinate P&G’s activity in the Balkans region (Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo).
In the FMCG industry, Herve de Froment was appointed general manager of Nestle’s local operations, replacing Jacques Reber, who went on to lead the company’s Portuguese subsidiary.
In the tobacco industry, Charlie Cunningham-Reid has replaced Neil Coupland as general director of cigarette manufacturer Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova.JTI
Meanwhile, Western Union announced Gabriel Sorbo will be the new regional director, in charge of Romania, Italy, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Malta. He replaced Daniela Budurea who has been promoted to a regional position.
Elsewhere in the finance sector, consumer credit provider Cetelem Romania has appointed Olivier Floris general director after Gilles Zeitoun completed his mandate and moved to a similar position at Cetelem Spain.
In the pharma industry, Christophe Gourlet became country manager of Sanofi Romania and president of the Zentiva administration council in January. Romanian-owned companies too have undergone changes.
Gheorghe Racaru has been reappointed general manager of local airline Blue Air. He replaced Sherif Ussama.
Since the beginning of the year there have been promotions of other local managers to various regional positions within multinationals. For example, Marius Melesteu, general manager of Strauss Balkans, has been promoted to general manager of the coffee producer’s operations in Central and Southern Europe. He will be responsible for the group’s operations in Romania, Serbia and the countries to which Strauss exports (Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Macedonia).
Meanwhile, Simona Simion-Popescu has been promoted to director of Coca-Cola Hellenic Business Services Organization Bulgaria as of March 1. She previously worked as the bottler’s country HR manager for Romania and Moldova.