Bioregnum, People

GSK chief Emma Walmsley rounds out her top team with CFO pick — but performance lags

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley is reaching into the global banking world to finish rounding out the top team she expects to reverse the pharma giant’s steady erosion over the past decade. HSBC’s Iain Mackay will gradually take the CFO reins by next spring, when he’ll be slowly replacing the departing Simon Dingemans.

Simon Dingemans

Walmsley is bringing in a top finance figure after luring Hal Barron in as the new R&D chief, following the arrival of Luke Miels in a key commercial role. Everyone in this group has a sterling reputation, and they’ll need it to accomplish Walmsley’s key task in reversing a declining pharma group.

This is how Walmsley, CEO now since April, 2017, put it in a statement about Mackay:

As a proven CFO of a complex, regulated global organization, he brings tremendous finance experience and will be a great addition to the team. He is a strong leader with a track record of driving cost, cash and capital allocation discipline to deliver strategy. These capabilities will be vital as we continue to implement our innovation, performance and trust priorities for the benefit of patients and shareholders.

Emma Walmsley

By the time Mackay arrives, Walmsley will have been CEO for 2 years. While she’s been steadily rounding out the team, though, GSK’s pharma group — which has the weakest late-stage pipeline in Big Pharma and a poor record for developing blockbusters as generic competition for Advair looms — continues to languish.

None of that was helped by the recent decision to have Barron unveil a strategy that will follow some long-trendy focuses in drug development and a $300 million investment in 23andMe designed to help spur fresh discovery work — which would take years to prove itself. Unlike the majority-owned ViiV and the vaccines group, GSK’s pharma R&D has been one of the least productive organizations among the top 15 players in the industry.

Turning that around will take some late-stage dealmaking.

At this point, the growing question at GSK is how much time the company has given itself to actually do something about the pharma group’s decline — rather than talk about it.


Image: Iain Mackay. HSBC


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