A Cartier handbag on display at a Cartier store, operated by Richemont, in Lugano, Switzerland. Richemont is looking at a new era of agility and performance. Photo: Bloomberg

JOHANNESBURG - Swiss luxury goods group Richemont has made key appointments in its executive team by adding a role of chief technology officer and human resources director.

The role of chief technology officer will be filled by Jean-Jacques van Oosten, a veteran in the retail and digital sectors, while Sophie Guieysse joins as the group’s human resources director. Richemont chairperson Johann Rupert said yesterday that these new appointments were important to the group, because they would significantly strengthen its ability to address current challenges and bring Richemont into a new era of agility and performance.

He said Van Oosten brought more than 15 years of experience in scaling, transforming and internationalising online and multichannel businesses. “Sophie Guieysse brings a 20-year human resources experience across diverse cultural environments in the luxury and digital sectors,” he said.

Peter Takaendesa, a portfolio manager at Mergence Investment Managers, said technology was continuing to penetrate and disrupt many traditional industries. “A number of traditional brick-and-mortar industries are slowly shifting to online digital channels and the growing global internet penetration is accelerating this trend. Consumer products or services distribution is one area that is currently facing faster digitalisation and several e-commerce companies are emerging to capitalise on this secular trend,” Takaendesa said.

He added that existing big global brands such as Richemont had to adapt quickly to this trend or their competitive advantage would be eroded over time.

“The technology disruption case study of Kodak continues to worry even the chief executives of the strongest brands in the world. Companies are, therefore, looking for experienced executives to champion the adoption of digital distribution channels or production techniques as a defensive move as well as a way to efficiently access new markets. The potential cost savings as well as high return on investment if the digitalisation is successful make the appointment of a digital/technology specialist justifiable,” he said.

The new appointments should add punch to the executive team after Richemont announced last November that it was doing away with the role of chief executive, following the resignation of Richard Lepeu, who stepped down in March.

The announcement comes right after the group last week reported a better-than-expected trading update for the five months to end August. It reported a 12percent increase in sales during the period.

Van Oosten will join the senior executive team in January, while Guieysse will do so in October. She replaces Riche­mont stalwart Thomas Lindermann, who served the group for 20 years and stepped down for personal reasons.

Rupert said in paying tribute to Lindermann: “I want to take this opportunity to thank Thomas Lindermann for his contribution to the group over the last twenty years and the progress made during his tenure as group human resources director. He has established a highly professional team in Geneva and a strong human resource function across all our platforms,” he said.

- BUSINESS REPORT