• Interview with Olaf Koch (Chairman of the Management Board METRO AG)

  • Name: Olaf Koch

    Title: Chairman of the Management Board of METRO AG

    Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role?

    My name is Olaf Koch and I am the CEO of METRO AG. I joined METRO AG as CFO in 2009. Previously, I worked for the private equity firm Permira and prior to that I worked at Mercedes-Benz. Regarding my academic background, I hold a degree in business administration. As a leader my aim must be to reach superior results. Especially in the context of a transformation that requires new ways of thinking. I’m strongly convinced that only an open discussion culture in which we appreciate and nurture the diversity of thinking will lead to innovative approaches. Therefore I regard it as my duty to foster an environment which does not only protect diversity but essentially regards it as a fundamental part of our strategy. It requires the willingness to enter into an open discussion and interaction with all relevant peers, that’s sometimes demanding but in fact at the end of the day it always leads to better results and actually it’s fun as well.

    Why is diversity important for you?

    Diversity avoids monolithical thinking and “fast track” simplicism. It ensures access to different perspectives and ideas. Especially in such a fast changing environment like we are living in it is always wise to involve relevant experts and listen to their arguments. This by the way is not a new insight. It just becomes more and more relevant in a time in which interdependency is growing and growing. I am absolutely convinced that organizations can be more agile and more innovative if decisions are made by diverse teams whose members complement each other and where outside-the-box ideas are heard.

    What is your perspective on LEAD and what advice would you have for us?

    I have strong sympathy with LEAD’s vision of supporting a diverse workforce. In many situations we’re still facing “dominant thinking”. I think that this needs to change. Being part of LEAD means being part of a movement to advance women leaders in the retail and consumer goods sector and make a change in the industry. Diversity of course it is not only linked to gender. It is much broader. If there is one thing we should always bear in mind it is, that opening up for different and even controversial points of view is always valuable – it just ensures that you do not come to conclusion to fast to simple.

    Tell us about something innovative you've done recently related to diversity?

    Our New Operating Model at METRO Cash & Carry is reflecting the diversity of business requirements in the various countries. We acknowledge that serving our customers best requires tailored approaches regarding assortment, services and even digital solutions. The CEO of our country units together with their respective Operating Partner are completely empowered to make all necessary changes to create more value for our customers. In other words we are completely stepping away from a “one fits all” mentality to complete focus on local needs.

    How important is diversity within your organization?

    Diversity within our workforce is essential for our company’s success. It is a great advantage to our daily business that our employees are as diverse as our customers are. Therefore, diversity needs to be actively pursued in all areas of our company, even and foremost in top positions. At METRO GROUP we voluntarily pledged to increase the share of women in management levels one to three to reach 25 percent by 2017. In addition, we established different initiatives, events and employee networks. Our Women in Trade (WiT) employee network, for instance, intends to help to raise the share of women in management positions, to promote internal and external dialogue and to create better working conditions for women in the company. 

    June, 2016