Medical devices group gets new lease of life under deal making veteran
When Namal Nawana was wooed to take the top job at Smith & Nephew, he took a hard look at the venerable UK medical devices company and found both a puzzle and an opportunity.
“The technologies themselves were often of the highest calibre. So, my initial impression was, why is a company with such great assets not perhaps performing as well as it could?” he says.
Sri Lankan-born, but his accent testament to an Australian upbringing, his amiable, low-key demeanour belies the shockwaves he has sent through the 160 year-old corporate stalwart since taking the helm 13 months ago.
Hired at a salary “multiples” less than he earned in his former job as chief executive of US diagnostics company Alere — “I genuinely like this opportunity” — he has cut a swath through the group, replacing or moving two-thirds of its senior leadership team. “I’m a believer that once you know something needs to be changed, then you change it,” he says.
Not content with personnel changes, the 48 year-old has also overhauled S&N’s operating model which had previously focused on geography rather than speciality, with separate heads for the US and international markets, but not its product franchises.
He has installed presidents for each division — sports medicine; orthopaedics and wound management — in an attempt to sharpen execution in a sector marked by constant evolution.
“The innovation cycle times [for devices] are so short, sometimes only a year . . . you need to have people who are absolutely focused, laser-focused on each of the businesses. You can’t have generalists.”
“We weren’t getting commercial results. So, in the new organisation structure, we basically divide and conquer,” he says.
Results have come quickly — a relief to investors who have long chafed at the company’s inability to match its rivals’ growth and appetite for acquisitions.
Image Credit: Anna Gordon / Financial Times