Interview with Walter Oblin, Österreichische Post
Ahead of the World Mail & Express Europe (WMX Europe) Conference in Dublin, we caught up with Walter Oblin, Deputy CEO of Österreichische Post. Walter will be speaking at WMX Europe 2019 and offers his thoughts on the conference and the future of the industry.
P&P – Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
WO – My name is Walter Oblin and I am the Deputy-CEO and CFO of Austrian Post.
I graduated in Mechanical Engineering and Business Economics at Graz University of Technology and also hold a Master of Science in Industrial Administration from Purdue University in Indiana (USA).
I began my professional career as consultant with McKinsey & Company in 1994. In 2000 I was elected Partner and assumed management responsibilities in McKinsey’s Austrian Office as well as in the Firm’s global Transport, Infrastructure and Logistics Sector.
In late 2009, I assumed the position of Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development at Austrian Post. In July 2012 I assumed the position of CFO and as member of the Executive Board of Austrian Post where – in addition to the traditional finance agendas – I was also responsible for legal, real estate, purchasing and IT.
On the 1st of January 2019 I was appointed Deputy-CEO of Austrian Post and, assumed responsibility for the Letter & Direct Mail business segment in addition to my existing agendas.
Furthermore, he is currently president of the CFO Club Austria, an association of finance directors of Austria’s largest companies.
I am married and the father of three children.
Austrian Post is the leading logistics and postal services provider in Austria. In 2018 the company generated 2.0 bn EUR in revenues with an EBIT-margin of 11%. Its main business activities include the transport and delivery of letters, direct mail items, print media and parcels. The branch network of Austrian Post ranks among the largest private customer networks in the country, offering high-quality postal, banking and telecommunications products and services to its customers throughout Austria. The company makes an important contribution to safeguarding the nation’s communications and logistics infrastructure based on its nationwide and reliable supply of high quality postal services on behalf of the Austrian population and economy. Moreover, Austrian Post is also represented by subsidiaries in eleven European markets, particularly in the parcel and logistics segment.
P&P – What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing your business today?
WO – The consequences of digitalisation can be directly felt in our core business, i.e. declining letter mail volumes and an increase in parcel volumes. Regarding the mail business the changed behaviour of people in disseminating news clearly plays a role, partially reducing the importance of conventional letters. Our response is broadening our service offering. Our solutions help to optimise processes in companies, starting with scanning services and the digital recording of documents in the case of incoming mail to modular services and document management solutions in processing mail and finally the management of outgoing mail.
Digitalisation via e-commerce has a major influence on the parcel business. Last year Austrian Post transported a record number of 108 million parcels and is the clear market leader in the Austrian parcel market. To continue our profitable path, we have to adjust in two ways. On the one hand, we need the right infrastructure, which is why we plan to double hourly sorting capacity in our sorting centres over the next 2-3 years as a means of further expanding upon our number one position in Austria. On the other hand, adjusting also means further enhancing the level of service for the consumer, which we do by expanding our network of postal service points and self-service offering as well as flexible solutions on the last mile.
Furthermore, we have significantly increased our skills in the fields of advertising and e-commerce thanks to two acquisitions: Adverserve Holding GmbH is a service and consulting company specialising particularly in programmatic and data-driven advertising. ACL advanced commerce labs GmbH provides complete e-commerce solutions including online shops, data management, design of shipping and storage logistics solutions. Thus, we are positioning Austrian Post effectively for an expansion of these high-potential business areas.
P&P – How can we advance the post and parcel industry?
WO – Use the advantages of digitalisation, differentiate from competition with a service offering tailored to the customers’ needs, invest in infrastructure & sustainability as well as additional lines of business that complement the core business and lead to revenue streams in line with the industry’s current megatrends.
P&P – How has the post and parcel industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
WO – From the perspective of Austrian Post, two trends shaped the post & parcel industry in the past 5 years. On the one hand, the focus on customer convenience and the subsequent need for flexibility and multiple delivery options on the last mile. On the other hand, visibility that was enhanced by the different opportunities digitalisation brought to interact with the customer directly. Thus, the customer for example wants real-time information on the current location of his ordered items.
The future, we believe, will be further shaped by the advance of wireless technology – think about autonomous driving or the above-mentioned increase of flexibility via better real-time feedback for and interaction possibilities with the customer.
P&P – What are the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively?
WO – Reduce operating costs while at the same time invest to deal with increasing volumes within the parcel business and adjust to the different delivery preferences customers have on the last mile.
P&P – What effect have digital technologies made on the post and parcel industry?
WO – Internet of things is a technology that enables the logistics provider to deepen its share in the logistics value chain. In line with other advancements in digital infrastructure, software solutions and cloud-based systems end-to-end visibility could be increased for customers and logistics providers alike. Thus, Fourth Party Logistics has become a much more viable line of business in the past years. 4PL providers have become much more enabled to connect and manage the different stakeholders within the supply chain and offer greater individualisation possibilities to customers. Sharing shipment-associated information, for example, can be done completely digital – including the management of complex processes like customs clearance or handling hazardous goods. Within these developments logistics providers now not only coordinate the handling of goods but have extended their businesses also towards the handling and transfer of data.
P&P – With the EU pushing ahead with its clean air policies, what impacts do you see this having on the post and parcel industry, particularly in the larger European cities?
WO – Logistics providers like Austrian Post and other market participants are working intensely on developing cleaner and more flexible logistics solutions to meet the needs of governments and customers alike. With the increase of time-sensitive customers and the lack of space in more densely populated areas, dedicated city logistics solutions such as micro & mobile hubs, electromobility and autonomous driving have become increasingly important. Currently, Austrian Post is the nation-wide leader in e-mobility operating over 1,500 e-vehicles every day and thus managing the largest e-fleet in Austria. Even more, the company expects to cover the entire last mile with electric-powered vehicles by the year 2030.