Paul Drechsler, the new chief executive of contractor Wates, has been given a free rein to modernise the 111-year-old family firm

Drechsler, who replaces Struan Robertson next month, will review the company’s interests over the next four months with the aim of turning the traditionally run building contractor into a more modern, customer-focused organisation.

Drechsler joined Wates from chemical company ICI, where he worked for 24 years.

Chairman Andrew Wates said: “He’s got a real reputation for taking a business and developing it. He’s not familiar with the industry yet, but we know we’ve got someone who has a strong customer focus.”

Wates said that Drechsler was specifically recruited for his track record in successfully fusing together different areas of business.

He said: “We are in a whole range of different fields as a company and we want to focus on selected areas in the future.

“Paul will help us to do that. There would be no point in recruiting someone like him if we didn’t give him the space to do that.”

He said Drechsler’s review would identify the key areas that needed attention and report back in the new year.

We will be looking to focus on selected areas in the future. Paul will help us to do that

Andrew Wates, company chairman

Last year, the firm pulled out of the executive homes field. Wates would not be drawn on which areas the firm would focus on after the review, but said it would not be pulling out of other areas completely.

Wates said that Drechsler would continue the push to turn the contractor into a total asset manager of construction projects.

The contractor’s ambition, said Wates, was to build up frameworks that manage the whole life of a project, including design and facilities management, rather than simply construction.

Up to 70% of its work is now tied to framework agreements. The firm is bidding for English Partnerships’ London-Wide Initiative programme to build key worker housing and is also active in the PFI education market, where it is bidding for framework deals in the London boroughs of Ealing and Slough.

The company has also announced that Jonathan Houlton, the chief financial officer, will be leaving the company in December. Andrew Wates said he expected to fill the post in late autumn.

Wates, which is a private firm, was set up in 1893.