Russell McVeagh picks change management specialist to lead amid transformation

by Sol Dolor12 Sep 2018

Russell McVeagh has picked a seasoned senior executive who specialises in strategy execution and change management to lead the firm amid its transformation.

Jo Avenell, currently group general manager for customer experience and brand and people at the New Zealand Post Group, will commence as the top-tier firm’s chief executive on 23 October. She has been with the Post Group for nearly six years.

“This is a critically important appointment for our firm as we continue on our journey to building a safe, inclusive and people-focused culture that will underpin our future success,” said Malcolm Crotty, Russell McVeagh chairman. “We have acknowledged that we must lead behavioural and cultural change across our firm and we’re confident in Jo's abilities to lead and support us in achieving this.”

Russell McVeagh has vowed to end harassment and bullying in the firm after it was rocked by scandal earlier this year, prompting an examination of the problems in the wider legal sector.

“The board and partners are well into implementing all of the recommendations following Dame Margaret Bazley's review of the firm released in July. We have charged ourselves with building a culture and a firm that reflects the values and aspirations of our people and clients,” the chairman said.

“Jo is a strong and accomplished executive who is hugely respected, and who will inspire confidence, help overcome obstacles, and lead by example. Russell McVeagh will benefit from Jo's proven track-record delivering significant cultural change across large organisations,” he said.

After the independent review’s results were published, Russell McVeagh said that it would be looking for a new chief executive with the expertise to lead transformational change. Avenell was picked during that extensive local and international search, the firm said.

Avenell has been a senior executive in the financial services, professional services, and postal and logistic services industries for more than 20 years. She was previously vice president of global strategic change management at Credit Suisse First Boston in London. At EY she was head of talent and management in the corporate finance arm in London before becoming the professional services giant’s senior manager of leadership development in the UK.

She then became the head of human resources at EY New Zealand, before being named head of human capital at PwC New Zealand. Before the Post Group, she served as general manager of human resources at Westpac New Zealand.

Avenell succeeds Gary McDiarmid, who announced his planned retirement from Russell McVeagh in June 2017.

“Gary has helped lead the firm through a period of huge change in the legal profession. We thank Gary for his significant contribution of over 20 years as CEO,” Crotty said.

Jo Avenell

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