German airline Lufthansa has named Simone Menne as CFO, effective July 1. She is the first woman named to the executive board of the German airline and is currently the only woman CFO in the German DAX-30 stock market index. For the past two years, Menne, 51, has been CFO of British Midland, the U.K. airline currently being acquired by British Airways owners IAG.
German companies generally have a two-tiered board structure consisting of a supervisor board — similar to a U.S. company’s board of directors — and a board consisting of senior company executives. There are no quotas for minimum representation by women on the management or supervisory boards of German companies on the DAX, although labor minister Ursula von Leyen has called for them. The appointment of Menne to a role that has been such a male preserve seems likely to fuel the debate.
Menne succeeds Stephan Gemkow, who is leaving the group to become chief executive officer of Haniel Group investment firm. She began her career in the auditing department of ITT Corp. in 1987 before becoming a Lufthansa auditor in April 1989. In 2004 she was named vice president of finance and accounting at Lufthansa Technik, and became finance chief of British Midland in 2010.
Menne joins Lufthansa at a challenging time for the airline. Earlier this month, the company revealed a first-quarter operating loss of 381 million euros ($496 million), even as revenues rose 5.6% to 6.6 billion euros ($8.6 billion).
That was significantly worse than expected by investment analysts. The airline blamed fuel costs, an air-traffic tax in Germany and Austria, and the costs of emissions trading for its poor performance. Lufthansa promised cost-cutting and process measures expected to improve operating performance by 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) by 2014 compared with 2011. The company plans to cut some 3,500 administrative jobs.
Lufthansa signed Menne to a three-year contract. Her salary is not known. Gemkow, her predecessor, earned a basic salary of 862,500 euros ($1.1 million) in 2011 with bonus, options, and other pay components taking the total to 1,565,880 euros ($2 million).
Andrew Sawers is editor of CFO European Briefing, a CFO online publication.