In the areas of both HR and Finance, central foundations have been laid for the entrepreneurial development of tomorrow. In 2022, the HENSOLDT Supervisory Board appointed new Management Board members for both areas with Lars Immisch and Christian Ladurner. During a tour of the Ulm site, the board members describe how they plan to manage the next phase of growth.
HENSOLDT is a young company with a great history: While the independent company is only six years old, the history of its predecessor organizations goes back some 150 years. That’s how long the spirit of innovation has been creating high-tech products at the frontiers of physics.
The two new additions to the HENSOLDT Management Board also represent the combination of experience and new beginnings, Christian Ladurner and Lars Immisch. In the course of long-term succession planning, Christian Ladurner assumed responsibility for Finance on the Management Board on July 1, 2022. Lars Immisch took up his position as the new Chief Human Resources Officer on October 1, 2022. Both have known HENSOLDT and its predecessor organizations for many years and bring extensive experience in the defence industry to their new positions.
Christian Ladurner, born in 1977, joined Airbus Group in 2010 as an economist and held several senior controlling positions at Airbus Defence and Space in Manching, Bavaria in Germany. Moving to the defence industry after starting his career in the automotive industry motivated the former officer to optimally equip armed forces. In 2015, he took over the management of central controlling in today’s HENSOLDT AG and oversaw the IPO 2020. Most recently, Christian Ladurner was Head of Group Controlling & Investor Relations.
Lars Immisch, born in 1967, began his career in what is now Airbus Group in 1999 at DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in Unterschleissheim, Bavaria, Germany, as HR Manager in the area of defence electronics after studying law. Lars Immisch later held numerous management positions in the HR department of the Airbus Group, most recently as Executive Vice President Human Resources at Airbus Defence and Space. His passion for international work took him to France twice, the first time to Paris in 2003 as CFO of the French defence electronics business.
Today, Christian Ladurner and Lars Immisch, as members of the Management Board, lead teams that create the decisive conditions for HENSOLDT to realize what the company has set out to do with its strategy: growth – in a smart, profitable, and sustainable manner. In the process, the company has proven in recent years that HENSOLDT can realise growth. Since 2019, the order backlog has more than doubled. Sales have grown twice as fast as the overall defence electronics market. The workforce has grown by more than 1,000 employees.
With the next phase of growth, the company will continue to transform – also because the defence industry is facing a new era in terms of the Zeitenwende (turning point). At the same time, the defence sector also has to face numerous macroeconomic challenges – from high inflation, unstable supply chains, and the energy crisis to the shortage of skilled workers. So for HENSOLDT, it’s all about actively shaping growth, seizing opportunities, and overcoming challenges. This requires the right people on board, sustainable business practices, and much more. Christian Ladurner and Lars Immisch reveal what exactly during a joint tour of the Ulm site at the end of 2022.
Like Christian Ladurner, Lars Immisch also learned the way from the company headquarters in Taufkirchen very well just a few weeks after taking up office. After all, Ulm is HENSOLDT’s largest site with around 2,500 employees, and even though many meetings take place digitally, Lars Immisch wants to be on site in Ulm for half of the week if possible. Christian Ladurner has also retained his very own meeting culture as a member of the Management Board: The sports-mad manager likes to get on his racing bike with colleagues – it’s the team spirit that drives him: “We set off together and also want to reach our final destination together. We make the most of the slipstream and take good care of each other in the group.”
Both board members arrive at the meeting in Ulm with a tight agenda. And the two also have a lot of other things in common. Lars Immisch is a numbers person, and not only since his time as CFO in Paris: “It helps, especially with supposedly soft topics, to set measurable goals in order to know where you stand and whether you are actually getting things implemented.” Above all, however, Christian Ladurner and Lars Immisch are both technology enthusiasts. That’s why the first stop on the Ulm tour is the radar test chamber, where the devices undergo final testing before delivery. This is followed by the laboratory environment, the heart of the training center, where young people put the knowledge they have learned in technical training courses into practice.
Finally, we part ways in the interview room: two talks on the role of finance as a catalyst for growth and digitalization, strategic skills management, and the working world of tomorrow.
Mr. Ladurner, you have known the company longer than the brand has existed: What makes HENSOLDT special for you?
During my time as an officer, the cohesion and sense of community in the Bundeswehr were the most formative experience for me: this unconditional team spirit of achieving things together and standing closely together when challenges seem insurmountable. I found it again at HENSOLDT – in an almost familial atmosphere that the company has preserved as it has grown strongly and become increasingly international. You have to set an example of this kind of corporate culture and, as a member of the Management Board, I see this as one of my most important tasks.
What has changed for you personally with your move to the Management Board?
The range of topics has once again become much wider, and at the same time the focus is on the concrete need for decisions. For me, the focus is now on how we on the Management Board strategically lead the company into the future. Seeing how well what was long my job is now being done by others has made it very easy for me to let go of a lot. In return, I now invest significantly more time in communication – with investors, analysts, and journalists, but also within the company with our finance team. Our project teams who are close to the product in development or production have an incredibly strong group dynamic and justifiable pride in what we have achieved together. In the same way, we want to create even more of a common home base for our experts from Accounting, Treasury, Investor Relations, and IT in their local areas. This is also important for our performance as a finance team. Because we have big tasks ahead of us.
On the subject of “big tasks” – as CFO, how are you preparing HENSOLDT for the so-called Zeitenwende?
We can already foresee today, before the concrete effects of the Zeitenwende become apparent, that we will grow sustainably in the coming years. The Zeitenwende will provide additional impetus in this direction, but we have laid the foundation with the many long-term, multiyear projects for which HENSOLDT has been commissioned. This is both the result and the beginning of hard work. Because growth must be managed and cleverly designed. We don’t just want to get bigger with our business, we want to become even more customer-focused, more powerful, faster, and more efficient. The aim is to further improve our value creation and generate more value. In the finance division, we have strong levers to do this.
Which levers are particularly important to you?
First, it is our task to create the economic leeway for our strategy and to make innovation financially possible. Innovation has always been the central asset of our company, crucial for success with our customers and driving value on the capital market. Secondly, with our holistic view of the company, we are also a driver of efficient processes that are stringent from start to finish. With the HENSOLDT GO! programme for operational excellence, we have driven these end-to-end processes in recent years and will also roll them out globally in 2023. The focus on processes will accompany us in the long term so that we can grow intelligently and offer integrated solutions across divisions and countries. And third, I see finance as a catalyst for the digital transformation of the company. We want to be able to make data-based decisions on any topic at any time. To this end, we are working intensively on our data governance and system landscape with the aim of transforming HENSOLDT into a real-time company. All of these tasks have become more urgent because of the Zeitenwende. It is therefore also an accelerator for the financial system of the future.
What characterizes this finance organization of the future?
Step by step, we are becoming the navigator and “enabler” for the company. Twenty years ago, the focus of finance was still very much on reporting – in other words, looking back. Today, we are also casting our gaze much more strongly into the future and making a strategic contribution. To do this, we need powerful tools and new competencies. We therefore also need to transform ourselves, and to this end we have set up the Vision Finance programme on three pillars: data-driven corporate financial management, a high-performance finance community organization, and talent development.
You took up office at a time of major economic risks – from inflation to the energy and supply chain crisis. How is HENSOLDT arming itself against this risk situation?
Without question, we live in times of high uncertainty. As HENSOLDT, our long-term project business, in which compensation for price increases is usually contractually agreed, means that we are affected by inflation to a lesser extent than others and are therefore more robust. But of course, we also have to be vigilant and act with foresight. We have secured our refinancing on attractive long-lasting terms. In the supply chains, we take precautions at an early stage wherever we see potential problems. In this way, we have succeeded in keeping the challenges well under control and have started 2023 with a manageable risk situation. The motto here is that we must be even closer to our business and environment in volatile times. That’s why Vision Finance also provides end-to-end transparency for operational, non financial key performance indicators, such as parts availability, delivery reliability, and adherence to technical milestones. Because as a company, we are like our customers: If we have a clear situation report, we are able to act.
In response to the Zeitenwende, are you planning further acquisitions to serve the market?
Our philosophy has not changed as a result of the Zeitenwende. We will continue to look at options for targeted acquisitions. However, for us this is always linked to very clear criteria: Only if the acquisition is clearly value-enhancing and the partner fits us technologically, entrepreneurially, and in terms of their geographical presence will we become active. We also regularly look at potential strategic investments for technology partnerships. In innovation fields that are becoming increasingly relevant for us, such as artificial intelligence, there are many startups and young companies with strong tech expertise. They often need a financial boost and benefit from cooperation with an established technology company, but rely on great freedom in their entrepreneurship. In these cases, strategic investments can be a win-win solution to jointly advance promising technologies.
How does the international capital market view Germany and the Zeitenwende?
During the past months, I have had the opportunity to talk to many investors and analysts, most recently in the UK and the US. Non-European market players in particular are keeping a very close eye on whether Germany keeps its word and reliably implements its announcements. It is very clear that Germany’s cautious, hesitant role over the past decades in the area of security and defence has left its mark. Generalist analysts who have not yet been more intensively involved with defence are much more impatient and understandably much quicker to ask the question of confidence. Others, who know our sector well, know that it can take a very long time after a political declaration of intent before a contract is awarded. And that it is part of our entrepreneurial expertise to optimally shape this business with long lead times in order to be ready with the right product at the right moment.
And how do you experience the capital market’s view of HENSOLDT? What’s behind the significant share price increase in 2022? The reputation of the defence industry as a safe haven in crises? Or something else?
The central currency on the capital market is trust. That is why we are being rewarded for the fact that HENSOLDT reliably implements what we promise. This applies both to our corporate strategy and to our medium-term plans, such as those we announced at our IPO and then consistently delivered. And it applies to the fact that we are disciplined in converting our record order backlog into highly profitable results, because we process major projects in a structured manner and deliver them to the customer on time, within budget, and in the agreed quality framework. HENSOLDT is a reliable partner for customers and investors: For us, it is absolutely central to live up to this status 100 percent, even in times of the Zeitenwende. This is because the valuation of our company also shows that the importance of security and defence for our society has increased significantly since February 24, 2022. This also includes the fact that the proportion of investors with a clear ESG focus in our free float has grown from around 6 percent at the end of 2021 to over 20 percent now. The capital market is therefore increasingly appreciating that security is the basic prerequisite for sustainability. The view of our industry and our company has evolved. We also want to confirm this trust and show that we can do even more.
Normally, the capital market formulates expectations for companies. Think about it the other way around: What would you like to see in your collaboration with investors and analysts?
For me, the dialog with investors and analysts is a very important element of our early warning system and often sets valuable stimulus points for our discussion in the Management Board. I am therefore very pleased that the capital market is following HENSOLDT increasingly closely. I would like not only to maintain this exchange, but also to intensify it and make it even closer. We have resolved to either create more platforms for this ourselves or to participate in them. This also applies above all to dialog with international contacts, now that the European defence sector has come much more into focus worldwide. We want to use this opportunity to explain our smart growth plan and build further trust.
Mr. Immisch, you have been Chief Human Resources Officer at HENSOLDT since October 2022. What surprised you the most when you started?
Definitely the company’s unique spirit! The strong culture and identification of the employees is immediately noticeable. This is amazing for a young company that emerged from predecessor organizations steeped in tradition. The fact that HENSOLDTians enjoy working here is also shown by the ranking “Most Wanted Employer 2022” by ZEIT and the employer rating portal Kununu: We are ranked second in the entire electronics sector! Now HENSOLDT is moving from a kind of startup phase to a stage in which we are shaping the company of the future in order to realize further growth and high ambitions. I am very much looking forward to helping shape this continuous change.
What does the Zeitenwende mean for you as Chief Human Resources Officer? Do you have to massively expand the workforce in times of a shortage of skilled workers?
Thanks to the growth of recent years, we are already in a good position to take on more responsibility. We will continue to strengthen ourselves in the future, but we are proceeding responsibly with a sense of proportion. After all, you also have to handle rapid growth sensibly on the personnel side in order to be able to work well together. And of course, we first have to be able to assess what specific requirements and orders will result from the Zeitenwende. That’s not just a mere political declaration of intent. In some places, we are also making advance payments – for example, with the decision to produce a significant tranche of our TRML‑4D high-performance radar for air defence in order to keep delivery times as short as possible. To this end, we are immediately bringing new employees on board in production. Above all, however, our task in the foreseeable future will be to monitor very closely how our personnel requirements might change. This is not just a quantitative question, but one of the right structure in terms of skills and qualifications. For us, of course, it is primarily a matter of building up the right competencies in the right places. Together with focused structures and processes, this is the key to operating efficiently and growing sustainably in times of rising costs.
Which talents, above all, does HENSOLDT have its sights on? And how does the shortage of skilled workers make itself felt?
Even though HENSOLDT is very well positioned, we also of course feel that there are simply too few applicants in many areas, especially among the highly trained specialists in high-tech professions. Today, we are increasingly hiring more in the IT area and are therefore not only competing within our own industry, but also with e‑commerce providers and many other industries. This makes strategic skills management all the more crucial for us. We need to be able to better anticipate which profiles and qualifications we will need in the future. This applies to several years in advance and just as much to the medium-term perspective. Because if I only start recruiting the employees I need as soon as we’ve secured the major project, it’s far too late. We have to get there much earlier and understand very precisely how the geopolitical context, technological trends, and the needs of our customers are developing. This is a challenging but crucial task in order to attract top people with the technology profiles that are our focus: systems engineers, software developers, and IT professionals. We are also increasingly recruiting experts in programme and project management, as the implementation of complex large-scale projects is increasingly shaping our business. With all these qualifications, I have to think of the bon mot “The battle for talent is over. It’s the talents who have won.”
And what’s to be done in view of this new restructuring on the labour market?
Of course, we have to position ourselves in all areas so that our claim to be the employer of choice is fulfilled. But for the defence industry in particular, we also need to talk more about what we do and why we do it. Today, we see a much greater openness in society to appreciate our contribution to the defence of democracy and freedom. But we also need to engage in this debate when the war in Europe hopefully ends soon and society’s perception may change again. In addition, two aspects come up far too short for me in the discussion about the shortage of skilled workers: On the one hand, we have the task and the opportunity to help young people grow into the talents of tomorrow through proper training. That’s why we have once again significantly expanded our commitment to training and dual study programmes and are helping to shape the concept of courses such as Embedded Systems in order to get young people more excited about technology again. On the other hand, the further development of our own talent, which we already have on board, is enormously important to me. Particularly in our industry, with long project durations but short innovation cycles, the balance of experience and young, fresh impulses is essential.
What impact does the war in Ukraine have on HENSOLDT’s recruiting?
The change in awareness of defence is also clearly reflected in the applicant market. At the same time, the Zeitenwende has further intensified competition in our industry for the best minds. It’s therefore truer than ever: We need to go to the talent and be closer to the people. This starts with such simple things as having more person-to-person dialog on platforms like LinkedIn to give more insight into which personalities work for us. But it also includes broader issues: Should we offer the ability to work entirely from home for certain jobs and profiles? Do we need hubs in regions with strong talent pools? Can we secure particularly sought-after skills through partnerships? We need to find answers to these questions.
How does HENSOLDT win over employees and applicants? What are the strongest factors?
Many of our employees and applicants are motivated above all by making a tangible contribution to the defence of peace and freedom. They develop the best possible equipment for people who risk their lives for our society. In addition, it’s also very much about the fascination of high technology. At HENSOLDT, employees can help shape progress in specialized fields that few other industries can match, from sensor data fusion to aerospace. The personal security offered by a job in a comparatively crisis-resistant industry is also seen as attractive again. Conversely, as an industry leader on the topic of sustainability, we fulfill a basic requirement to convince the applicants we want in favor of HENSOLDT. Together with the team, my predecessor Peter Fieser set up a sound ESG strategy that we are consistently implementing. In doing so, we are pursuing ambitious goals such as carbon neutrality by 2035, which is a tough job and requires significant investments. But this is also money very well spent from an HR perspective.
And how do you start further promoting HENSOLDT as an attractive employer?
On the one hand, we will continue to work on our great strength, our corporate culture. For any company, this is an ongoing task that is crucial to success, especially in growth organizations. I want us to translate what guides and shapes us in a very comprehensible way and to carry it into every corner of the company. This also applies to the international subsidiaries that have joined the HENSOLDT family through acquisitions in recent years. We will certainly not impose this cultural process from above and define it in PowerPoint presentations, but we can and must create the right platforms for employees. This brings us to a second point, leadership culture: Many outsiders still think of the defence industry in terms of “command and obedience.” However, that’s not the reality at HENSOLDT. When employees go to the Management with their idea that our technologies could also be suitable for protecting wildlife, that’s great. But here, too, we can’t simply put a check mark on it; we have to permanently promote an inclusive leadership culture of open doors. Teams rightly and increasingly expect transparency, participation, and flexibility. This is accompanied by new leadership challenges, especially when we collaborate remotely. These cultural issues lead directly to two other very tangible focus topics that we are working on.
Which ones are they?
On the one hand, it’s about the new world of work, for which, after the pandemic, we have definitely not found all the answers across all industries. At HENSOLDT, there is a 50 percent rule for hybrid working between office and from home. This works very well, but in the long term it is more a question of which activities require a team to work together on site. Then we need to understand what collaboration and communicative workplaces of the future will look like that meet the realities of our business and the needs of employees. In Oberkochen, where we will inaugurate our new high-tech campus by 2025, this cultural transformation will be reflected architecturally as a kind of beacon. In all of this, we are also particularly thinking about those employees who can’t work from home, because they are working on classified projects or in radar production. On the second topic, diversity, the target picture is simpler: As a company, we have to be a reflection of society, even in our industry. With regard to the proportion of women in management teams, we at HENSOLDT have clear interim targets that point the way, and I am very happy about the strong role models in our ranks. As a technology company, one of the problems we have to deal with is the low proportion of female graduates in technical professions. This is not an argument to sit back and relax – on the contrary. We will do our part to change that.