SingTel chief commercial officer Michael Smith to return to Australia

Michael SmithMichael Smith, the chief commercial officer of Asian telco giant SingTel, is returning to Australia, Mumbrella can reveal.

Smith moves home for personal reasons, according to the executive, and will continue to perform the same role from Sydney, the headquarters for SingTel-owned telco Optus.

SingTel said that there would be no staff changes as a result of Smith’s relocation, only that the executive will be “spending more time on planes”.

News of Smith’s move comes in the same month that Optus’ head of marketing and brand Nathan Rosenberg quit the firm. He is to stay on until September before moving on to a role outside of Australia, according to reports.

Smith shifted to Singapore from Sydney just over a year and a half ago, when he moved from managing director of Optus’ consumer operation to his current role.

He has worked for SingTel in various guises for just under a decade. He was consumer marketing director and then CMO in the years since joining Optus from CommBank in 2005.

Smith returns to Australia just over two years after Optus was sued by a former employee over an alleged culture of bullying at the company that she said made her job untenable.

The former head of sales, service and marketing at Optus’ digital media division, Kerry Morrison, quit after just seven months in the job, and took legal action against Optus, alleging a culture of “bullying, suppression and victimisation” existed at the company, citing conflict between Smith, who then ran the consumer division, and Austin Bryan, the then digital media chief. The matter was settled out of court.

Smith was recently a keynote speaker at an event in Singapore, where he described past advertising for Optus as “effective and efficient dribble”  that achieved little for the brand.

He told his audience at the APPIES Awards: “Around the year 2010, we got into effective and efficient dribble. Of all of our advertising, it was the most effective. But it did nothing for the brand. Our messaging went through the floor.”

In Smith’s presentation, he showed the decline of Optus’ marketing budget from 2000 to 2013, and the decreasing use of traditional media. Ad spend on Optus has fallen from $120 million in 2000 to $80 million last year.

Robin Hicks


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