POND ISLAND – TelEm Group’s Management Board, consisting of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Helma Etnel, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Brian Mingo and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Helma Etnel, officially hand over the reins of the government-owned company this week to new Chief Executive Officer (CFO) Kendall Dupersoy after filling the vacant CEO position for more than seven years.
All three were personally thanked recently by Prime Minister and Shareholder Representative William Marlin and also by Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman, a former Chairman of the TelEm Group Supervisory Board of Directors, for their diligent work of “filling the shoes” while the company was without a CEO.
Speaking Friday, as the company prepares to welcome in Dupersoy on February 1, CFO Etnel recalled that the appointment of the TelEm Group Management Board was only a temporary arrangement following the departure of Change Manager Pieter Drenth in 2009.
“It was a tremendous responsibility, but one that we were proud to accept as a challenge to keep the company going and we can be very proud of what we were able to achieve together with our wonderful and dedicated staff,” explained Etnel.
As Chairperson of the Management Board, she acted as close to being the company’s CEO as anyone could be at the time, directing not only the company’s finances, but also playing a key role in the overall strategic direction and decision-making process over the years, including major capital investments, the painful decision to carry out a restructuring program that may well have saved the company financially and maintained its status as a sustainable and viable telecommunication entity, also many years of annual profits, an excellent rating over 95% so far as compliance with the St. Maarten Corporate Governance Code is concerned and the annual presentation of timely audited financial statements that included positive auditors’ opinion.
The list of accomplishments also includes a number of investments and steps taken to provide Country St. Maarten with the best state of the art fixed, mobile voice and data telecomm infrastructure, taking into consideration the volume of its customer base and the continued drop in revenues because of free services such as Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter etc. that is wiping away traditional revenue bases for telecommunication providers everywhere.
“During the past two years especially, we have put in place an impressive telecommunication infrastructure that will begin to meet its true potential this year and next year,” continued the CFO.
In that regard she points to the company’s investment in a new Internet Core that will provide customers with the fastest internet connections, the installation of two new state-of-the-art multi-million dollar switches for the company’s fixed line and mobile network (both promising improved features and flexibility for voice and data packages that will also be offered this year).
The recent purchase of St. Maarten Cable TV is also a most significant undertaking along with a very important multi-million dollar investment only last week to provide redundant capacity to the island in the event future damage to the SMPR-1 fiber optic cable, a security camera surveillance project being developed in collaboration with the police and the Ministry of Justice wherein TelEm Group as, project manager, has purchased the hardware and will be installing the infrastructure to beef up security in key areas around the island in the coming months.
There are also improvements to the company’s Network Operations Center (NOC) to monitor the network and quality of services provided by the company.
She noted that in the case of the company’s LTE/4G project alone, major works have been ongoing behind the scenes for many months, first in the preparation stage, then with an installation phase, and now with a testing phase that will see customer use of a brand new island-wide LTE/4G infrastructure that will greatly enhance mobile voice and data communication on the island, as early as April this year.
Other milestones include, providing St. Maarten with a brand new state of the art Fiber to the Home (FTTH) network that will begin to go on stream in March this year, one month before the company plans to launch another major development – IP television for St. Maarten consumers.
The CFO highlighted the company’s continued focus on many training programs over the years company-wide to enhance the skill and efficiency of staff and managers as yet another major undertaking that the Management Board can be very proud of.
“I am extremely proud that together with our staff, that we have raised our presence in the St. Maarten community, especially during the past few years with excellent branding and good corporate citizen initiatives for the youth, the elderly and the infirm, not to mention the events we have held for staff and for customers to boost morale, increase job satisfaction and build trust with our customers and clients,” said the CFO.
“The three of us are only well aware that a solid telecommunication infrastructure is a crucial requirement for Country St. Maarten if we are to continue to stimulate economic growth and development of the nation, so again we are very proud that with our own dedication and most importantly with the dedication of our staff, over 90% of who are local and who have made all of what we have achieved possible, that we have been able to steer the ship on the right path,” continued Etnel, on behalf of her follow Management Board members.
The CFO readily admits that there are still remaining challenges along the way, thanking customers for their patience as the company continues to improve its services to clients. There have been some other challenges beyond TelEm Group’s control affecting services, like frequency interference and capacity issues, however, the company has always maintained its resolve to meet all of these head-on so that it can deliver what is expected from its business, residential and visiting customers.
The CFO says one important indicator of the manner in which the Management Board and Supervisory board has operated over the past eight years has been recognition as a government-owned company that has complied 95% to the Corporate Governance Code.
“While we were in charge we ran a tight ship and we kept order and discipline in the house and we are most happy as a Management Board that our compliance to the St. Maarten Corporate Governance Code has also been officially recognized,” added Etnel.
All three are expressing gratitude at being given the opportunity to serve the company and the country in sometimes difficult and challenging circumstances. All admit that they have grown stronger with the experience.
Etnel, Mingo and Louisa welcomed incoming CEO Dupersoy and say they are looking forward to utilizing their joint experiences while serving as Management Board members, to keep the company on a sustainable path for many years to come.