Peter Thommen - Career Trajectory

We can’t separate the future from the past – everything we do today is shaped by our history. I hail from a Swiss family of restaurateurs and have been bitten by the «soccer bug.» My parents owned and operated a restaurant in the Basel region, giving me first-hand insight from an early age into what it means to work hard. In addition to playing soccer actively for 15 years, I was a board member, event organizer, and reporter at the local amateur soccer club, where I gained what proved to be my first leadership training – as a soccer coach with the Swiss Football Association. It was a fruitful learning ground for life’s essential skills, and had big impact on my personal development. I have never shied away from rolling up my sleeves and tackling the tasks at hand, and to this day I envision the ideal management team as being very much like a soccer team. A successful management team is also built around solid defensive players in risk and compliance, innovative and creative strikers in marketing and sales, and prudent midfield strategists in leadership (here more on the topic).

Already by the third year of my business management traineeship, I was entrusted with the responsibility of being the company’s sole accountant, and I believe that my trustworthiness and integrity helped me earn that responsibility. At some point my thoughts turned to seeing the world, so I enrolled in a degree program in business administration, which did indeed open the door I had been seeking and led me straight to IKEA. In December of 1990, I was appointed Controller for Central and Eastern Europe. My dream job.


Poland – my second home country

Within just two years, my path led me abroad – to Poland (1993-2007) – a decisive turning point and an assignment that felt like scoring two winning lottery tickets at once. First, I got to be involved in IKEA Poland’s pioneering period, dating back to the early post-communist era. During my time there, IKEA evolved into a company with seven furniture stores, along with six shopping centers, and a central warehouse serving Central and Eastern Europe, while Poland grew to become a country with a modern free-market economy. Secondly, I had the privilege of establishing the entire finance and administration operations, spanning all CFO functions. In the process, I grew to become an agile finance generalist and, over the course of my last five years, a seasoned CFO. It was a challenging and turbulent time that also had an enormous personal impact and brought me Polish citizenship: I have been a proud Swiss-Polish dual citizen since 2005.

Japan, Russia, China, and the US – my journeyman years

Two mind-blowing CFO assignments followed in Japan (2007–10) and Russia (2011–13), which were punctuated by a (far-too-brief) interlude at corporate headquarters when the cornerstone was laid for IKEA’s globe-spanning Group Shared Services (2010–11). The tasks in Japan were very much like what I did in Poland, albeit in the context of a completely different culture. We were a highly diverse and international team, and many of the team members had ties to Japan and were inspired by the idea of successfully establishing IKEA in Japan – diversity at its best. For me, it was among the finest working environments I have ever had the privilege of working in.

I was then called to Russia to be part of the shopping center organization, which at that time had 3,500 tenants under contract in 14 shopping centers occupying two million square meters of retail space, attracting 260 million visitors annually, and generating a staggering total of eight billion euros in retail sales. This period proved to harbor IKEA’s most challenging crisis and change management effort to date, and I had the chance to deliver a significant contribution to the company’s successful and sustainable turnaround. After those two and a half years in Russia, years that consistently pushed me to the limits of my capacity, I used to say that there was probably nothing left in my professional life that I hadn’t seen before... but who knows?

I then became Group CFO and Supervisory Board member in the Inter IKEA Shopping Center Group before landing my dream job in 2015: I led IKEA’s corporate Group Shared Services for five years, during which we successfully transformed three standalone service centers in Poland, China, and the US into one well connected and integrated global organization, which I was able to hand over in shipshape to the global transformation team by the time I left in 2020.

Since 2020   Young Entrepreneur – the Global Strategist, based in the Basel region, Switzerland
2021 - 2022   Head of Strategy & Finance, KUNO Leadership Community, Lidhult, Sweden
2015 - 2020   Global Managing Director Group Shared Services, Poznań, Poland
2014 - 2015   CFO and Board of Directors Member Inter IKEA Centres Group, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Supervisory Board Member Inter IKEA Centres China, Shanghai, China
    Supervisory Board Member Inter IKEA Centres Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark
2011 - 2013   CFO and Board of Directors Member IKEA Shopping Centres Russia, Moscow, Russia
2010 - 2011   Finance Organization Development Leader, Leiden, Netherlands
2007 - 2010   CFO and Board of Directors Member IKEA Japan, Tokyo, Japan
2003 - 2007   CFO and Board of Directors Member IKEA Poland, Warsaw, Poland
1999 - 2002   Business Controller and Board of Directors Member IKEA Retail Poland, Warsaw, Poland
1993 - 1998   Finance Manager and Board of Directors Member IKEA Poland, Warsaw, Poland
1991 - 1992   Controller East Central Europe, Pratteln, Switzerland

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