One globetrotting marketer on the value of career diversity and the rewards of risk-taking

The story of my CV: Ladbrokes Coral’s recently departed chief customer officer Kristof Fahy on globetrotting with Orange, riding the crest of a wave with BlackBerry and his return to the ultra-competitive betting sector to co-ordinate a high profile merger.

Kristof Fahy

Travelling the world was all part of the day job for Kristof Fahy, who during his six years at Orange co-ordinated the roll-out of the mobile business to countries as diverse as Australia, India, Hungary and the Dominican Republic.

“I was flying back from Sydney and when I landed in LA I looked at my phone,” Fahy recalls, thinking back to his first marketing job in international brand development at Orange.

“I had a text from my boss saying ‘can you call me?’. He said: ‘Are you OK to not come home? Can you go to Boston as we’ve just bought a business there?’ So I ended up in Boston for six weeks.”

From globetrotting at Orange to taking on the likes of Apple while at BlackBerry, Fahy’s background in the mobile sector set him up well to take on European responsibility at Yahoo, a move he felt he needed in order to bolster his digital knowledge.

It was a huge learning curve, not least because the vice-president of marketing role was new to the business so Fahy was central to shaping its direction.

While Fahy didn’t have a burning desire to enter the gaming sector, his move to William Hill not only gave him a seat at the top table but opened his eyes to a new pace of delivery in an environment where he was given the room to take risks and make some “glorious mistakes”.

Following a stint at Telegraph Media Group, it was this speed that enticed Fahy back to the gaming sector, where he helped bolster the Ladbrokes brand ahead of its merger with Coral. He is now on to pastures new having just announced his departure from the firm, but he remains driven by a strong sense of commerciality, an inherently competitive nature and desire to be the best.

Gaining global experience from the get-go

Orange, various positions (1999-2005)

“I was working as an account director at agency Dutton Merrifield in Bristol when I heard Orange was setting up in Belgium. There was an opportunity to work in Belgium for a couple of days a week and I thought, if there’s a chance to do it for two days a week they might be looking for someone full-time?

“Four weeks later I was working at Orange. Someone else had been allocated to Belgium, but there was an opportunity to help launch Orange in Australia. I went out to Sydney for eight months and it was brilliant.

“My first role as international brand development manager was really an amazing experience. When you’re doing a launch it is everything from network quality to customer services to the commercial aspect of brand and marketing. It was a good broad education.

“In 1999 I became director of global brand communications, running all the advertising across Orange’s marketing department. I then spent a year and a half as head of brand, planning and advertising in the Orange UK business, which was great because it was back to doing things rather than asking other people to do them for you.”

READ MORE: Procurement needs to stop being a ‘lone ranger’, says Ladbrokes Coral

Implementing a consumer strategy

BlackBerry, brand marketing director, EMEA (2006-2007)

“I’d been given a BlackBerry three weeks before and I then got a call from a headhunter saying they were looking for a European brand director at BlackBerry. Luckily I got the role and loved it, but it was a real wrench leaving Orange.

“BlackBerry had been marketed as a business product and they wanted to keep the business market, but also drive into the consumer market as well. The popularity of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was crazy. While it was driving handset sales, it was also driving a very different group of people to use the phones.

“I was at BlackBerry when the iPhone launched. At the time BlackBerry had an almost 100% stranglehold on the business market. Apple bust the smartphone market open to a much bigger audience, although it took them a long time to get into the business end of the market.”

Upskilling in digital

Yahoo Europe, vice-president of marketing (2007-2008),
Yahoo, vice-president of international marketing (2008-2009)

“Part of my motivation to move to Yahoo was a personal realisation that I didn’t think I was as digitally savvy as I should be in 2007. There wasn’t a vice-president of marketing at Yahoo when I joined, so it was a role I had to create. That’s been a consistent feature across nearly all the roles I’ve done.

“When I joined Yahoo the rationale was to take the brand into Europe and localise it. What attracted me was that you were working across the business from product development to engineering to sales and marketing.

“When Microsoft put the bid in for Yahoo in 2008, everything stalled because everyone just wanted to know what was going to happen. If Microsoft had bought Yahoo that would have been massive and would have meant lots of changes.

“When the bid was rejected Yahoo decided to centralise everything. I ended up running all the marketing outside the US. It was a fascinating role, but quite difficult to deliver given that we were operating across 30 plus markets, swapping from a local to fully central model.”

READ MORE: Helen Tupper – Make a big impact with career diversity

Moving up to CMO

William Hill, chief marketing officer (2010-2015)

“I wanted to test myself as a CMO. The difference was, when I was vice-president of marketing I reported into a CMO, who then reported into the CEO, so you weren’t around that exec table. I wanted to be around the exec table of a senior leadership team and that was what came with the William Hill opportunity.

“I hadn’t necessarily considered the sector before, but William Hill was a huge brand wanting to drive massive change through a mixture of retail and digital. I thought telcos were quick, but that’s nothing like the pace William Hill was running at internally.

“It was a steep learning curve, because I was working with people who had been in the sector for years and they let me make some glorious mistakes, but they also backed me. Gaming is a sector that wants to see a strong commercial return and if you can add to the bottom line then you tend to get more backing.”

An opportunity for disruption

Telegraph Media Group, chief marketing officer (2015)

“I’d done five years at William Hill and we’d doubled the market capital, so it felt like it was a good time to call it a day. The Telegraph Media Group wanted someone with a strong customer focus, who understood the digital space and had made an established brand relevant for a new audience.

“The opportunity was to take The Telegraph brand and push it into new products and services. I joined because of the opportunity to take that brand and develop new income streams to replace the falling circulation income from print advertising.

“When I left that role I said: ‘You need to get a chief customer officer’ and I wrote the job description for whoever my successor was going to be.

Leading a merger

Ladbrokes, chief marketing officer (2016)

KammyAfro Ladbrokes Coral

“I had missed the gaming sector, there’s just something about the speed. I thought there was a real opportunity at Ladbrokes, because all the research showed it was the strongest betting and gaming brand in the UK. Ladbrokes wanted to win, so there were clear numerical targets that you were trying to hit, which was great.

“The opportunity was to get the brand back up on its feet and facing in the right direction again so that we would be strong going into the Coral merger. The teams were kept separate as we were competitors until the day the merger was announced. If you look at it from a career perspective, you don’t have many opportunities to bring two arch competitors together and make it work.”

Building a customer-centric culture

Ladbrokes Coral, chief customer officer (November 2016-September 2017)

“It is very easy in mergers and acquisitions to get lost in the internal maze, but actually you need to focus on your customers. If we don’t deliver a really strong, customer-focused organisation, then effectively we’re going to lose.

“I think that’s very different from just marketing, which is about driving future cash flow and communicating to customers. The customer experience is everything.

“As CCO I’m trying to ensure that everyone in this business understands that it is customers that pay our wages. We have oodles of data on our customers, but are we using it in the right way and making our commercial decisions based on it? I want people to understand customers and make them part of their business decision making every day.

“Lots of businesses put in chief customer officers, rightly so because they’re trying to ensure that the customer is at the heart of the business, but once that is done there is probably a different role to be attacked.”

Kristof Fahy’s CV

Ladbrokes Coral, chief customer officer (November 2016-September 2017)
Ladbrokes, chief marketing officer (2016)
Telegraph Media Group, chief marketing officer (2015)
William Hill, chief marketing officer (2010-2015)
Yahoo Europe, vice-president of marketing (2007-2008),
Yahoo, vice-president of international marketing (2008-2009)
BlackBerry, brand marketing director, EMEA (2006-2007)
Orange, various positions (1999-2005)

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here