“I climb high mountains in my leisure time and I want to also climb high mountains in my professional time,” Dr. Klaus Zumwinkel told the Financial Times in 2005.
In 1990, at the behest of the German government, the devoted mountain climber approached a behemoth: the German national postal service, Deutsche Bundespost Postdienst. As CEO, Zumwinkel was charged with converting the money-losing public entity into a successful business. On his watch, Deutsche Post became an international group with four large divisions: mail, express, logistics, and financial services.
The German-language manager-magazin named Zumwinkel Manager of the Year in 2003. Before Deutsche Post and after earning an MBA and PhD, Zumwinkel worked for a decade at McKinsey Consulting in Düsseldorf and New York. He moved to Quelle AG, a huge retail company in Germany, where he became CEO. Zumwinkel’s success at turning an under-performing national postal service into Europe’s largest postal group entailed aggressive globalization, judicious acquisitions, skillful integration, treating unions as partners (he has called labor reform his “passion”), and taking advantage of deregulation.
The company has invested heavily in recent years to make its subsidiary DHL competitive with UPS and FedEx. Furthermore, it acquired the British logistics group Exel and integrated it into DHL, thus turning DPWN into the global leader in logistics. Looking forward, Zumwinkel has stressed the potential of direct mail to replace the personal-mail portion of the business, which is rapidly shrinking due to the prevalence of email. He has also positioned Deutsche Post to benefit from the projected full liberalization of the European postal market in 2009, by which time he will have presumably retired.
Zumwinkel is chairman of the supervisory boards of Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Postbank AG (the latter a subsidiary of DPWN), as well as a member of the supervisory boards of Deutsche Lufthansa AG,Karstadt Quelle AG and Morgan Stanley. He is also a member of Wharton’s Executive Board for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.