“New growth areas are needed to ensure the provision of a self-funded universal service”
As Chairman of the Board of Directors, Urs Schwaller played a key role in defining the new “Swiss Post of tomorrow” strategy. In an interview he outlines where the priorities over the next few years lie: Swiss Post aims to achieve growth and remain relevant for Swiss people and companies.
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Mr Schwaller, at the start of the year Swiss Post embarked upon a new era with its “Swiss Post of tomorrow” strategy …
… I’d just like to cut in there – Swiss Post has been providing outstanding services for 170 years. But the fact is that the times and customer expectations are changing. The volume of letters and newspapers is constantly falling. Fewer and fewer inpayments are being made over the counter, and invoicing and payments are increasingly being carried out digitally. The “Swiss Post of tomorrow” strategy consistently builds upon the previous strategy, but also sets new priorities.
Which aspects were particularly important to you and the Board of Directors when developing the strategy?
That we consider Swiss Post Group as a whole. We carefully analysed the environment in which Swiss Post is operating today, and then where these trends are leading. We also compared our experiences with those of postal organizations abroad. The outcomes were consistent. The expectations of our owner were also a key consideration. At various meetings, we openly discussed key issues and the impact on our customers and workforce. We received support from the parliamentary committees of the National Council and Council of States.
You mention that Swiss Post has set a new course – where’s the journey taking us?
Swiss Post is a public service company and will remain so in future. Providing a universal service for the country is still how we perceive our role. In addition, we want to provide the public and companies with first-class services in various spheres of life beyond the traditional universal service in our core postal business – such as electronic patient records, e-voting or SME solutions. Swiss Post also intends to remain an attractive and reliable employer. Ultimately, I think it’s important that Swiss Post continues to provide the financial basis for the universal service itself and continues to develop without state funding.
Continuing to be self-funded while remaining the world’s best postal service – how are we going to do that?
By making targeted investments where we actually see opportunity for fresh growth and new sources of revenue. It’s vital we continue developing our services. This also means beyond the traditional universal service, but definitely without state subsidies. There needs to be an equal playing field on the free market for Swiss Post and private providers. But we need to assume responsibility and set clear financial targets and effectiveness monitoring for projects. Failing projects will have be abandoned.
The future-oriented areas of logistics and digital communication will enable growth and help fund an outstanding universal service for Switzerland.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on everyday life over recent months. What effect will the pandemic have on Swiss Post’s future development?
When we started defining specific priorities for the new strategy, nobody could have ever imagined that we’d face such a crisis. But we can now see that focusing more intensively on logistics and digital services is the right path. Who’d have thought that online retail would grow so rapidly? Swiss Post has proved it can rise to such challenges. All letters and parcels were delivered over Christmas despite the huge spike in volumes. That took an extraordinary effort for which I’d really like to thank all our employees!
We’re talking a lot about logistics and communication. But isn’t Swiss Post much more than that?
Yes, obviously. I’m thinking in particular about the universal service obligation for Swiss payment transactions. All of Swiss Post’s units contribute to the company’s success – whether in the field of mobility, our access points, all support functions or PostFinance. Swiss Post and PostFinance support the Federal Council’s proposal to lift the prohibition on lending and mortgages. Irrespective of this, PostFinance has mapped out its strategy for a business model that’s fit for the future. It’s nevertheless crucial for us that Parliament now decides whether PostFinance can provide loans and mortgages in the same way as other banks. As the owner of PostFinance, Swiss Post is ultimately responsible for managing the financial risk. Around two-thirds of our total equity is tied up in PostFinance. We’ve also issued a letter of comfort worth 1.5 billion francs for PostFinance. It’s vitally important that a discussion takes place in Parliament about the limits of the universal service and whether every detail needs to be enshrined in law.
After a difficult 2020, what are your goals for the years ahead?
I hope Swiss Post remains a strong company as part of a broadly perceived universal service for Switzerland, the public and business. I’ve got every confidence that both Swiss Post and PostFinance are now on the right track, and are focusing on the right growth areas with our strategies. We’re in a great position thanks to our highly motivated workforce. It’s our joint duty to validate the trust the public and our customers place in Swiss Post every single day.