Logistics

Annemarie Gardshol, Group CEO, PostNord

ANNEMARIE GARDSHOL, Group CEO, PostNord

Founded in 2009 as a result of the merger of the Danish and Swedish Post, the Nordic logistics and postal services operator PostNord has undergone an eye-catching evolution. We spoke to Group CEO Annemarie Gardshol to learn how a postal company thrives in the digital era. 

Co-owned by the states of Sweden and Denmark and originally trading under the name ‘Posten Norden’, PostNord has grown impressively during its fifteen years of operation. For the last twelve of those, Annemarie Gardshol has played a significant role, following a varied executive career with other companies.  

“When I moved to PostNord in 2012,” she recalls, “it was quite a jump for me. Previously I had been working with high-end medical devices, especially those related to dialysis. That had been my niche for the previous twelve years, so a move into logistic services could perhaps be seen as a surprising one.’ 

A new direction 

Ms Gardshol began working for PostNord as head of strategy. Despite the excitement that naturally comes with a new challenge, she also had questions.  

“I remember asking them,” she says with a smile, “‘Why do you want someone with no experience in your sector to be your head of strategy?’ And it was a little bit funny to me because they told me that was exactly why they wanted me. I had been hired precisely because I knew nothing about the industry and so would approach it with a fresh perspective.” 

This brave and free-spirited approach to executive recruitment signified, in Ms Gardshol’s mind, a company that was truly looking to the future. One that was willing to seek out innovative solutions and break free of conventional thinking. As it turned out, this was exactly what was required.  

Three years in strategy were followed by an upwards move, becoming CEO of one of the company’s subsidiaries, PostNord Strålfors. By 2018, Ms Gardshol’s growing influence resulted in her taking responsibility for the entirety of PostNord Sweden, the company’s largest subsidiary. Within a year, she then became acting CEO for the whole group, a position that solidified into her sole responsibility in 2021. 

“It’s something I often reflect on,” Ms Gardshol says, humour in her voice again. “That I came into this industry really knowing nothing about it, and within nine years, I was group CEO. For me, that is such a clear indication of the opportunities PostNord can provide to anybody.” 

Shifting focus 

While her rise into the position of CEO, mirrored by the company’s own journey, has been an exciting one, there have of course been challenges, too. Indeed, when first taking on the role, Ms Gardshol found herself having to undergo a rapid process of adaptation. 

“I came out of private equity,” she recalls, “and then found myself working for a state-owned enterprise, so that was a big shift. I also had to adjust myself from being product-focused to service-focused. This was actually something that took me a really long time. I was so used to working with something tangible that was sold to people, and suddenly that was no longer the case. I guess that was a conceptual issue for me, that I had to effect a change in my thinking.” 

The other thing which Ms Gardshol immediately recognised was that while her previous executive roles had been internationally or even globally focused, at PostNord, she was focused entirely on the Nordic countries. This also required adjustment on her part and provided food for thought. 

“I had been working with Americans and Asians,” she recalls, “along with Germans, French, and Italians, and I found myself missing that, on one level. But at the same time, I was hugely excited by the opportunity.” 

Setting the course 

Upon reaching the summit of executive success and being appointed CEO, Ms Gardshol was therefore able to begin to influence PostNord’s direction. Over the last four years, she has done so with a raft of initiatives which have stamped her mark on the company’s identity. 

“In my early years at PostNord, I put a number of key topics in front of the board. Perhaps one of the most important of those was e-commerce, which I wanted to put at the centre of our future strategy. Essentially post volumes were declining, but by focusing on parcels and e-commerce, it was clear to me that the company could continue to grow.” 

This clarification of direction was vitally important for a company which was still forging a path into the digital era. It meant that PostNord was able to retain a dominant position, in defiance of international trends. While elsewhere, across Europe and around the world, traditional state-backed postal service companies floundered in the face of competition from new parcel carriers, PostNord has not. As ever, keeping ahead of the curve with regard to commercial trends has proved vital. 

"At the end of the day, the delivery is the most important part of the consumer experience."

“It’s true that the industry has become ever more crowded with competitors,” Ms Gardshol confirms. “And margins are quite thin. So we have had to adjust from being in a monopoly position to suddenly having to compete. One thing we have done is to talk a lot about consumer-driven logistics. At the end of the day, the delivery is the most important part of the consumer experience.” 

Analysis suggested to Ms Gardshol that when consumers order items online, the delivery portion of the purchase was the one on which most emphasis should be placed. In fact, delivery options were frequently the most significant factor in determining customer choices. Above all, it was recognised that consumers want to have a say in how their goods are delivered. They want flexibility, and they also want to be in control. They want their everyday life to be easy. 

“This was a very important piece of thinking for us. We saw that if we wanted our customers to be successful, we had to make their customers pleased with PostNord. You know, just because a consumer is happy to go to a certain pick-up point today, it doesn’t mean they want to do that next time. Perhaps then, they want to go to the parcel locker or arrange a home delivery. Maybe the next day, I want my husband to go and pick up my parcel. It is very important to understand all of this and embed it into the service. So that is what we have done and what we excel at.” 

It’s all about the options 

This sense of convenience and freedom married to modern parcel tracking systems has enabled PostNord to continue to thrive. A modernised infrastructure has been created with customer-focused logistics, including a popular smartphone app and particularly centred around parcel lockers, with out-of-home delivery at its core. This has been achieved through the creation of an enormous Nordic parcel locker network, encompassing about 5,500 parcel locations and counting. Using twenty-seven parcel sorting terminals, this means the company has managed to keep step with both rising demand and the changing dynamics of the sector in which it operates. 

"For us, it is all about ‘performing and transforming’."

“For us, it is all about ‘performing and transforming’ and having our eyes set on becoming the favourite carrier of the Nordics,” the CEO concludes. “This is a company that is in constant change, so that is the motto which has guided us and which we will continue to work by.”

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