<i>Capacity</i> interviews José Gutiérrez, EVP wholesale, AT&T

11 June 2012 | Kavit Majithia


AT&T surprised veteran industry observers in May when it announced a management reshuffle that saw José Gutiérrez replace Kathryn Morrissey as head of wholesale. In this, his first interview since taking on the role, the new chief outlines his priorities.

   

AT&T’s new head of wholesale is to target growth in the wireless and M2M sectors as part of a strategic revamp aimed at harnessing the explosion of next-generation handheld devices, Capacity can reveal this month.

The incoming chief has already set challenging growth targets for both segments as he bids to accommodate the industry’s changing dynamics and position wholesale at the forefront of the wireless revolution.

Network upgrades remain top of the agenda

In comments that will affirm AT&T’s multi-billion dollar commitment to maintain investment on infrastructure, José Gutiérrez, insisted that he would drive through network upgrades to cope with huge end user demand from data hungry consumers.

And in a sign that Gutiérrez’s role is set to assume added weight following the shake-up, the new chief confirmed that he has also been given responsibility for access management, which has never come under the mantle of the wholesale division before.

“Wholesale is a lot more sophisticated now and there will always be parts of this segment that will continue to grow,” he says.

“Wireless usage is a prime example because we, as a nation, are doing a good job of consuming data and the explosion of data will continue with the proliferation of devices. Through M2M, I will make it a priority to judge how many devices are connected in one home in one year, in three years, in five years and judge how much AT&T needs to focus on this market segment.

Evolving wholesale models 

Gutiérrez confesses he wants his wholesale segment to focus on finding solutions that cater to the trend of controlling devices remotely.

“The evolution of this business is centred on big pockets of growth, changing technological trends and eventually, like with all things, a stage of maturity, stability and inevitable decline.”

The comments will distance Gutiérrez from his predecessor Kathryn Morrissey, who built the core of AT&T’s wholesale infrastructure and established interconnects all over the world. Analysts will certainly be looking to Gutiérrez to flesh out his own plans for network expansion as he settles into the top job.

Gutiérrez, a native Spaniard who now calls the US home, has a distinguished background in the wholesale arena. He jokes that “he already has it all figured out”, before clarifying that he has worked in the sector before: “I served as president of industry markets and diversified buisnesses at SBC, where I led wholesale when it acquired AT&T at the end of 2005 so it’s very gratifying for me to come back to this business,” he says.

“It has all changed anyway because SBC did not have a global footprint and we do. Previously, when I operated in the wholesale space, it was different because wireless had just exploded on to the market and we had to deal with CLECs and accommodate a growing trend for bandwidth.”

Crucially, Gutiérrez has experience in the enterprise sector – an area that continues to become increasingly important as carriers look for value-added opportunities to counter the commoditisation of bandwidth.

The new chief says that the roles of enterprise and head of wholesale have “great synergies” but concedes that he hardly gave wholesale a second thought when he dealt with the retail side of the business. “Retail, in effect, can only occur because of wholesale. When I was in the enterprise side I didn’t really think about the wholesale part of the business because the segment focussed primarily on the end user experience,” he says.

An eye on the end goal

A keen follower of football, Gutiérrez sees his new role as a stalwart of the defence: “If we were all on the pitch, wholesale would be the goalie. It’s really about adding value to a corporation from the back.”

He has over 21 years experience in the industry in a variety of positions, including serving as head of global enterprise solutions three years ago, and most recently as president and CEO, AT&T advertising solutions.“I couldn’t have asked for any better opportunities than the ones I have been given. I came here to study before landing a job at KPMG in auditing and strategy after business school. I joined South Western Bell (now AT&T Southwest) in 1991 as an entry level manager before being asked to head up the operation 14 years later. It was progression in my career beyond my wildest dreams.”

Gutiérrez takes the reins at one of the largest wholesale segments in the market from industry veteran Kathryn Morrissey. “There is a lot of respect between the both of us,” says Gutiérrez.

“There has always been great synergy in tailoring corporate strategy to serving our respective customers. Of course, our styles are different and I will add a different personal touch to the segment. When we were going through the transition, Kathie also passed over the baton to me on some leadership roles she had taken on in wholesale globally.”

A return to the fold

Morrissey’s transition last month sent shockwaves across the industry. However, Gutiérrez told Capacity that internal restructuring of executives was commonplace at AT&T and occurred often.

“There was always that strong possibility that I would come back to this segment,” he says. “As we evolved as a company I always thought there was a chance. It is now a core part of the business and I am thrilled to be heading it.”

Morrissey had served as AT&T’s head of wholesale for over a decade. She will remain at the company as EVP of GEM and System Integrator Solutions.



Gutiérrez on Gutiérrez: 
 

"I really feel like I am the poster child of what America is all about.”

 

Gutiérrez on wholesale: 
 

"I’ve got it all figured out. It’s very gratifying for me to come back to this business.”

 

Gutiérrez on enterprise:

 

"The two job roles, head of enterprise and head of wholesale have great synergy. Retail, in effect, can only occur because of wholesale.”

 

Gutiérrez on Morrissey:

 

"Kathie and I have been really good friends. I hope I can make her proud.”