Future proofing Rolls-Royce

If you don't look decades ahead, you can end up being blindsided by trends you should have seen coming, says strategic marketing director Ben Story.

by Stephen Jones

Ask someone to name a great British engineering company, and they will almost certainly say Rolls-Royce. Alongside the luxury motor company it split from in the 1970s, it has a heritage of quality and innovation stretching back 135 years, perhaps best exemplified by the world-class Merlin engine that powered Allied aircraft to victory in the Second World War.

But in recent years the FTSE 100 firm has stuttered. After paying more than £600m in fines for its role in a large-scale bribery scandal, a series of profit warnings led to CEO John Rishton being replaced in 2015 by Warren East and the company is currently embroiled in a long-running and costly battle to fix a fault with its Trent 1000 engines. 

East’s turnaround has focused on simplifying Rolls-Royce’s five businesses into three: defence, aerospace and mechanical systems. It’s started to show flickering signs of success: in August 2019, the company announced its half year pre-tax losses narrowed to £791m from £1.2bn in the same period last year. 

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