Tom Glocer, the chief executive of Reuters, has delivered a stinging rebuke to his staff in an internal memo which berates them over product delays, poor service and technical breakdowns. The e-mail, sent to staff yesterday, refers to these failures doing reputational damage to the news and financial information group.
Although Mr Glocer, who is cutting thousands of jobs as part of his "Fast Forward" restructuring programme, said the company is "undoubtedly making progress", he is not satisfied with performance.
In his e-mail, Mr Glocer says he is especially concerned about delays to product launches. A cornerstone of the company's recovery plan has been a new, more simplified product range, offering better functionality.
"We eventually got Reuters Trader and other products out the door - but we paid a price. We lost time and money and damaged our reputation. We must learn to set realistic timescales for delivery without compromising on quality and disappointing our customers and ourselves. It happens too often and is certainly not FAST," he wrote.
He added a warning: "Actions have consequences - both good and bad - and I will continue to hold managers accountable for all aspects of our business."
The Reuters Trader product is a mid-tier offering, which was launched at least eight months late in August. Another mid-priced product, Reuters Wealth Manager, aimed at fund managers, was launched this week, although a spokeswoman for the company said it had never given a release date for this product. She said the company had referred to "teething problems" with products in the course of conference calls with investors for both its first-quarter and half-year results.
Mr Glocer was also deeply concerned about technical breakdowns that occurred over the summer. Customers, which are mainly in the financial services industry, rely on the company for constantly updated financial data and news. "During the summer we had serious service outages. Our crisis recovery procedures were inadequate and the outages really hurt our reputation with customers. Here's my issue: there is no point in our breaking our backs to get products to market if the service to support them is not robust," Mr Glocer said.
The Reuters spokeswoman said that Mr Glocer was referring to specific data feeds that went down on two occasions. She insisted that the entire Reuters network had not broken down at any point. She added: "Tom is naturally going to have exacting standards. He will not be satisfied until we reach 100 per cent."
Reuters' revenues, which plummeted after the stock market bubble burst in 2000, are still contracting. Analysts do not expect growth to kick in until 2006. The Fast Forward programme, begun in February last year, aims to cut £440m in costs, eliminating 3,000 jobs.
Mr Glocer said in the memo: "There is no doubt that 2005 will be the toughest year of the Fast Forward program. We have to deliver on our transformation and cost-savings goals for the market, as well as for ourselves. I have said it many times before but I must say it again: don't take progress as a sign that we can take things easy - we can't, we must push harder."
Mr Glocer did have some uplifting things to say. He judged customer satisfaction had risen and "we are well on our way" to achieving the company's goals.
Niall Fitzgerald, the former chairman of Unilever, will take over as chairman of Reuters next month. He is expected to overhaul Reuters' marketing efforts.