Management handover

Interview with Walter Oberhäsli and Walter Hess

Management handover
Walter Oberhänsli
to Walter Hess

Chairman-designate Walter Oberhänsli and new CEO Walter Hess talk about the forthcoming management handover and the future planning and strategic positioning of the Zur Rose Group.

Walter Oberhänsli, you are passing the top job on to Walter Hess. What’s the condition of the company you are handing over?

W. O. — It’s doing absolutely fantastically. On the one hand, we have put together an incredibly good team in the past few years and we have an amazing market opportunity in front of us in the shape of the launch of electronic prescriptions. On the other hand, there is a lot to be done, from integration to developing our company even further as a technology firm.

Walter Hess, you’re stepping into the shoes of Walter Oberhänsli. Do you think he’s right in his assessment?

W. H. — Oh yes, absolutely. We’re starting from a great position as far as the company is concerned, and the markets too. And above all we have an excellent basis in our staff, in Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Walter Oberhänsli, you’ve fought a few legal battles in your time as CEO. What was your most important victory?

W. O. — I think that would be the ruling of the European Court of Justice in October 2016 that the German ban on discounts for prescription medicines is not compatible with EU law. That set clear boundaries to the protectionism surrounding bricks-and-mortar pharmacies.

Walter Hess, you’ve also been with the Zur Rose Group for some time; what positions have you held at the company?

W. H. — Initially I was supporting Walter Oberhänsli and the Board of Directors as an external consultant. Between 2015 and December 2020 I was Head Switzerland, and since December 2020 I have been Head Germany. I have enjoyed all my jobs, because at the Zur Rose Group you can just enjoy yourself and achieve things wherever you are.

Walter Oberhänsli, why was Walter Hess the first choice to succeed you as CEO?

W. O. — Walter Hess is the right type of person. He has a great deal of experience as a successful manager. And of course he knows the Zur Rose Group inside out.

Walter Hess, what are your plans for the traditional first hundred days?

W. H. — First, to make sure the transition from Walter Oberhänsli to me is seamless. Second, to be rigorous about implementing the projects and actions that will take us through to profitability and growth. Third, and this is particularly important, to bring even more great and highly talented people on board to join us in the Group.

What are you most looking forward to in the new job?

W. H. — Working together to get an even deeper understanding of our customers, so we can offer them what they want and what they need.

What strategic and operational focuses do you have planned for the short, medium and long term?

W. H. — In the short term, it has to be the launch of electronic prescriptions in Germany. Also exploiting the potential and the synergies within the Zur Rose Group. In the medium and long term, it’s about continuing to develop a shared corporate culture while still retaining the strengths of the individual units in the organisation. And crucially, of course, to lead Zur Rose to a position where the company is profitable over the longer term.

Will there be any strategic changes? Do you see potential for optimisation?

W. H. — The long-term direction has been clearly set out: we want to become THE European healthcare platform. As a company, we also want to move into a new phase and shift from a strong focus on growth towards profitability and growth. And we will keep up the transformation into a company based on technology and data.

Walter Oberhänsli, you are the Chairman-designate. What matters to you in this position?

W. O.  — It’s important for me to keep the Board as close as possible to the strategic and major operational issues, so the collaboration between the directors and management works well. We also have very strong experience and expertise in the Board, and that has to be made available to management.