Fast-growing sustainable energy firm Ovo Energy has secured Mariano Albera as its CTO from ailing travel firm Thomas Cook. Albera was group CIO for Thomas Cook for a year and a half.
Bristol-based Ovo supplies gas and electricity to customers from sustainable means and has seen rapid growth in customer numbers since 2013 and is fast becoming one of the main challengers to the big six energy companies such as Scottish and Southern Energy as well as British Gas, which produce and retail energy. Ovo does not produce energy.
“I felt a lot more at home when I was talking with Ovo, they are around 300/400 people. They are a small company, fast paced and growing like crazy. This is my natural habitat,” he said.
Albera began his Thomas Career as CTO in January 2012 and inherited an organisation with an IT estate that was not focused on e-commerce. After two years as CTO he became Group CIO in October 2012 as one of the youngest Group CIOs in the UK market. At the time industry observers told this title he was a brave appointment by Thomas Cook, but exactly the sort of daring bet a struggling travel company should make.
“Being a senior manager at Thomas Cook is very different to being a senior manager at a start up. I was not happy with the politics.
“I was missing being more pragmatic and wanted to spend more time with my engineers and build things,” he said of his preference for the culture of organisations the size of Ovo. Thomas Cook has 27,000 employees across 17 countries and reported sales in 2013 of £9 billion.
“I grew up very quickly at Thomas Cook and am very happy with my time there,” he said.
“The overhead of the all the legacy business from the last 20 to 30 years makes it very difficult and they are not getting there at the right speed,” Albera said of the change challenge the organisation faces.
Albera was CIO for online travel challenger Opodo for five years before joining Thomas Cook.
“As CIO there is a lot of reporting and a lot of managing consultants so you are spending a lot of time managing these.”
Thomas Cook has appointed former Cathay Pacific CIO Tomasz Smaczny as CTO.
Thomas Cook was formed at the launch of the London Great Exhibition in 1851, making it the world’s oldest travel operator. Earlier this year Thomas Cook announced it has narrowed its loss in the first quarter and was selling its flight distribution business to the Emirates group for £45 million. Last year Thomas Cook raised £425 million and new debt facilities of £691 million, Thomas Cook is locked in a head to head battle with market rivals TUI travel.
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