Ex-Holland & Barrett IT director takes Post Office CIO role

Experienced IT leader Mark Fabes has been named interim CIO of Post Office Group.

Fabes, who has led the technology function at a range of large retail and hospitality organisations including McDonald’s UK, Starbucks EMEA, and – most recently – Holland & Barrett, replaces Rob Houghton.

Essential Retail understands that Houghton, who has held the position of Post Office CIO and business change director for the last three years, is taking the job of group chief operating officer. Fabes and Houghton have now started the process of handing over responsibilities for technology at the group.

The Post Office has been going through a major modernisation programme in recent years, involving the refit of many branches and the addition of new parcel collection and drop-off services.

Click & collect facilities have been implemented across its UK estate, enabling online retailers to use the network as a pick-up, and returns channel for parcels as eCommerce has grown in popularity among consumers.

However, Fabes joins the Post Office in the aftermath of a Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy inquiry into the future of the group. In a one-off evidence hearing on 21 May, the inquiry examined issues such as the franchising of Post Offices, the reduction of government subsidies, and the long-term resilience of the service.

County councils, consumer groups, and the Association of Convenience Stores were among those that submitted evidence to the inquiry, highlighting concerns such as falling government subsidies, staff remuneration, and government service partnerships.

All this is being played out against the backdrop of an ongoing High Court trial where 500+ former sub-postmasters – people who ran the Post Office branches – are alleging historical faults with a Horizon IT system led to accounting errors that they claim they were held responsible for by the group.

Some sub-postmasters were prosecuted or ended up in bankruptcy after the Post Office made them pay thousands of pounds linked to the accounting discrepancies. Some sub-postmasters went to jail.

A High Court ruling in March vindicated the sub-postmasters allegations, but the Post Office has sought permission from the Court of Appeal to appeal the judgement.