Gilbert Achermann

Chairman of the Board of Directors

In your ten years at Straumann, what has changed in the way the company is governed?

Not much in substance, a little in style. Today’s world requires a more formal approach to governance. I am very sceptical about ‘over-regulation’, because it makes organizations slow, bureaucratic and less entrepreneurial. My credo is: keep structure, processes and regulations to a minimum and encourage people to take on responsibility – with accountability in good times and bad. Proper commercial behavior can only be ensured through the right values and a sound culture.

 
What still needs to be done?

Our transformation from a product company to a service/ solution provider is still at an early stage. We need to be even more customer-centric, ‘selling’ peace of mind and added value – not just in terms of clinical improvement but also economic benefits.

 
The Board now costs roughly five times more than it did in 2008. Why?

We now have eight directors; previously there were six and fewer were independent. The time requirements today are greater as our environment has changed. Availability and quality, of course, have a price, but our Board’s compensation is in line with market practice.

At the AGM, our shareholders gave overwhelming consiliatory approval to our Compensation Report.

 
What has the Board’s role been in Vision 2020, the organizational redesign and resizing?

The Board has been intimately involved in all these projects. Such things are always a joint effort between the Executive Management and the Board. The Board’s duty is to shape and decide on strategy, on its organizational implications, and, above all, to ensure sound financial performance.

 
Are the dental sector and implant dentistry losing their appeal?

Demographics, low penetration, emerging markets and a growing middle-class still make implant dentistry an exciting, promising field. Digitalization should raise productivity by 30-40% and increase the addressable patient pool, creating value for stakeholders. Companies with the right strategy, resources and vision will harvest substantial rewards. Disruptive technologies are a threat but also an opportunity to those with passion and courage.

 
Did the Board react quickly enough to the market downturn? Could you have avoided cutting jobs?

We should have reacted faster. Letting people go is always painful – especially if they have done a good job. Entrepreneurism sometimes leads to redundancy or divestiture. Economic cycles are facts of life and you have to react. Company leaders are paid to make decisions irrespective of their popularity.

 
How does the Board view the exchange of shares between Thomas Straumann and GIC?

Positively. GIC, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, is a long-term investor, which suits us very well.

 
Straumann shares have been among Switzerland’s worst performers in 2012. How optimistic are you?

The share price has been very disappointing – particularly for those of us who invested substantially in Straumann. But it is not surprising as we have not grown our topline since 2008 and our profit margins have halved. Our entire sector was valued for high growth and attractive margins. Things have changed and valuation multiples have fallen. In the past, we attracted growth investors; now ‘value’ investors are buying the stock. I am confident that we shall see positive returns going forward.