Xero appoints former Microsoft Australia head to CEO role

Steve Vamos to replace Xero founder Rod Drury

Former Microsoft Australia chief executive Steve Vamos will take on the CEO role at Xero, effective 1 April.

Xero announced today that Vamos will replace founder Rod Drury in the CEO role at the ASX-listed cloud accounting software provider.

Vamos was CEO at Microsoft Australia from 2003 to 2006. Following that Vamos became vice-president, worldwide sales and international operations, for Microsoft’s Online Services Group.

His resume also includes a stint in the mid-’90s as managing director for Apple in Australia and New Zealand and later the company’s MD for Asia Pacific, as well as a variety of roles at IBM.

“It’s a huge challenge for a company to transition from a founder CEO,” Xero chair Graham Smith told a press briefing on the announcement.

“Rod and I have been discussing this since I took on the role as chair just over a year ago,” Smith said.

“After achieving key milestones for the business — more than 1.2 million small business customers, EBITDA positive for the first time, consolidating our listing on the ASX, and with a talented management team in place — the conversation that Rod and the board have been having is about setting up the business for the next five years.”

The Xero board and executive team’s highest priority is to continue scaling operations around the world, Smith said, “which we believe requires [a] slightly different set of skills in the CEO role.”

Steve Vamos has been working with the Xero leadership team for more than 18 months, the chair said.

“Scaling Xero, a global platform, across multiple geographies, all at varying sizes and growth rates, and optimising how global teams work together in a matrixed organisation are some of the key challenges for our business,” Smith said.

“Steve is exceptionally well qualified to become Xero’s leader,” Smith said. “Steve is very much aligned with Xero’s strategy and culture and offers a smooth transition from a founder-led company to a multinational software company operating at scale all over the world.”

Drury will continue as a non-executive director for Xero, Smith said.

Drury described the announcement as a “really exciting day” for the company he founded.

“It’s really been a product company up until now — we’ve been really focused on building our platform, and for me personally getting to EBITDA positive was a huge milestone.”

Another milestone was consolidating the company’s listing on the ASX (previously it was also listed on the NZX), the Xero founder said.

“Now that we’ve got this amazing platform in place, we’ve got our innovation roadmap very, very clear, we know what we’re doing with machine learning and AI over the next few years — it became clear it’s about, how do we set the business up for success for the next five to 10 years.”

“What’s super important now is that we’re moving from an Australasian company with good success in the UK to a business now with pretty complex operations across a number of territories... quite a neat product mix all in different stages across those territories,” Drury said.

“It was really clear we need those next set of skills — someone who knows how to take a business from this great foundation and really get that international connectivity working.”

Vamos said he had extensive with founder-led businesses.

“Rod and Rod’s DNA will always be part of Xero and will continue to be as I lead the business through the next phase,” he said.

“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to continue to work with the Xero team, with Rod, with the Xero board, our partners on the next chapter in Xero’s growth in my new role.”

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