Namal Nawana: Sending shockwaves through Smith & Nephew

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.

By Sarah Neville | Financial Times

Image Credit: Anna Gordon / Financial Times

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About Peter Coffaro 704 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by MedReps.com as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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