Several themes pop out in our fifth annual lineup of CFOs who we’ll be observing closely in the next year.
First, all of the finance chiefs hail from companies that face powerful competitors and tumultuous industry changes: Walgreens Boots Alliance, Macy’s, Ford, to name three. Second, all of their organizations are either technology disruptors or being disrupted by technology: Tesla, Slack, JPMorgan Chase, for starters. Third, many of these CFOs are relatively new to their jobs, though maybe not new to the CFO chair.
Why spotlight these particular finance executives? Their companies face numerous challenges, yes, and they are highly visible, but their circumstances are not unusual. The real reason, in fact, is because the problems they face are hitting the desks of scores of other finance chiefs. Slowing sales. Dwindling profitability (or strings of losses). Ambitious cost-cutting goals. Capital raising needs. Murky forecasts of how their companies will fare in the current economic cycle.
What we particularly like about this year’s profiles are some of the details we unearthed about these CFOs’ operating styles. One was called “smart and fearless,” for example, another “cool, methodical, and scientific.” Whether those traits will translate into success for their companies is a question yet to be answered.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the 20 CFOs we’ll be keeping close tabs on in the next 12 months.
The following profiles were written by David McCann, deputy editor of CFO; managing editor Lauren Muskett; contributors Bob Violino and Michelle V. Rafter; and Vincent Ryan, editor in chief.
When working for a business like automotive and energy company Tesla and a CEO like Elon Musk, there aren’t many dull moments.
Fortunately, overseeing finance for the company is Zack Kirkhorn, 34, who was appointed in March 2019 after a period of turmoil in the position. Since joining Tesla in 2010, Kirkhorn has served as senior analyst, senior manager, director, and vice president of finance. Prior to working at Tesla, he was groomed as a business analyst at McKinsey & Co.
“The single most important quality that distinguishes Zach is his clarity of thought in dynamic or stressful situations,” says Justin McAnear, CFO at biotechnology company 10x Genomics, who previously served as vice president of worldwide finance and operations at Tesla.
Kirkhorn is able to quickly get to the root of an issue, develop a framework for resolving it, then start working on solutions, says McAnear, who worked with Kirkhorn for three years. “He does this in a cool, methodical, and scientific way,” McAnear says. “He’s great at leading discussions among [executives] and driving a group toward a decision, using his analysis as a guide.”
“He knows how manufacturing works, and knows how it works best at Tesla.” – Justin McAnear, 10x Genomics
Tesla specializes in electric car manufacturing and, via its SolarCity subsidiary, the production of solar panels. The company’s strategy has been to begin with low-volume, high-priced vehicles and evolve to higher-volume, lower-priced cars and sell the vehicles online and in company-owned showrooms.
An educational background in engineering gives Kirkhorn the skills needed to understand the workings of such a business. Kirkhorn “has been deeply involved in the operational planning and execution at Tesla,” going back several years, McAnear says.
He adds, “He knows how manufacturing works and knows how it works best at Tesla. In fact, at times Zach has helped run the factory when there were leadership gaps. I witnessed this during the challenging Model X ramp, and Zach was in the middle of it all, [helping] lead the team while preparing for Model 3 at the same time.”
The financial imperatives at Tesla are no less important. As it grows and builds more factories worldwide, it will need to do so in a capital-efficient way, McAnear says. That means efficient management of working capital within its supply chain (as well as the need for capital raises in the future).
McAnear says that on recent earnings calls Kirkhorn has been a clear communicator on Tesla’s financial drivers, something Wall Street at times has had trouble grasping: “What you hear on there is just how he talks and thinks: Clear, concise, direct,” says McAnear.
That’s vital for a company that wants to get from here to there in a hurry. | Bob Violino
Bricks-and-mortar retail has an uncertain future, and like other retailers, Macy’s has struggled with falling sales as shoppers make fewer trips to physical stores and do more shopping online.
For the majority of fiscal 2018, Macy’s was flying high. The retailer’s comparable-store sales rose almost 3% year over year through the first three quarters. Then sales trends slowed dramatically after a strong Black Friday. Macy’s has continued to narrowly post positive comparable sales, and digital sales are up more than 10% for the 40th quarter in a row, but the retailer is under intense pressure from online brands.
To help compete, Macy’s has been remodeling stores, growing its off-price and online businesses, and trying to build its customer base with its updated mobile app. The company also just revealed a cost-cutting program to save $400 million to $550 million annually. At a Goldman Sachs conference in September, CFO Paula Price explained that Macy’s is heading toward targeted promotions instead of heavy discounts, which have been taking a toll on its bottom line.
“I told her that the market is not going to resist the temptation of making overtures to you.” – Peter Crist, Crist Associatess
Price joined Macy’s in July 2018, taking over from Karen Hoguet, who retired after 21 years as the retailer’s finance chief. Price worked mainly in the retail and consumer products industries for 30 years before becoming a full-time senior lecturer at Harvard Business School in 2014. In her most recent corporate role, she was chief financial officer of grocery company Ahold USA.
“When she left Ahold to go to Harvard she was so young,” says Peter Crist, chairman of executive recruiting firm Crist|Kolder Associates. “I told her that the market is not going to resist the temptation of making overtures to you, and at some point, someone will convince you to come back. The market ultimately was able to convince her that she’s highly valued.”
Crist points out that this is not Price’s first time working with a retail enterprise going through a dramatic change. At Ahold USA, she successfully developed and executed a $1 billion program to fund the company’s strategic growth initiatives, which included sales efforts, customer loyalty programs, and e-commerce initiatives.
As Macy’s tries to adapt to changing consumer habits, it is also facing tariff headwinds and a possible recession. Will Price be able to lead Macy’s to its long-awaited comeback? “Macy’s is in a total change mode and she needs to lead the transformation that has to go on,” Crist says. “She out of anybody will be able to effect that change. She’s smart and she’s fearless.” | Lauren Muskett
During 20 years with Amazon, Tim Stone served as finance chief for multiple divisions. After he finally got his shot at running finance for a whole company, at Snap, he stayed in the job for only eight months—and in the process left $20 million worth of restricted stock on the table.
Even while still fairly new at Snap, Stone reportedly went around CEO Evan Spiegel and asked the board of directors for a substantial increase to his $500,000 salary. The request was denied, and Stone left Snap in February.
Only a month later, Ford announced its hiring of Stone. He replaced the retiring Bob Shanks, who had been with the automaker for 42 years and its CFO since 2012, in June.
Has Stone—whose compensation package at Ford has not been made public—landed on his feet? It will be interesting to see. First, having spent his career with technology companies, he’s hardly a traditional hire for an automaker. In fact, he was the first outsider that famously insular Ford has appointed to the finance chief role since 1949.
Having spent his career with technology companies, Stone is hardly a traditional hire for an automaker.
Also, Ford, like Snap, is struggling, although on a much larger scale. Even as most of the auto industry has been fairly healthy, in September Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s debt to junk status. The credit ratings agency projected that Ford’s EBITDA margin would fall this year to 1.2%. That would be a fourth consecutive down year since 2015, when the margin was 4.7%.
Additionally, Ford’s free cash flow sank into negative territory in 2018, and Moody’s expects that key metric to remain underwater at least through 2020. Moody’s blamed the downgrade partly on Ford’s “lengthy and costly” restructuring program. It’s expected to continue for several more years and to result in $11 billion in charges plus a cash cost of approximately $7 billion.
“Ford is undertaking this restructuring from a weak position, as measures of cash flow and profit margins are below our expectations, and below the performance of investment-grade-rated auto peers,” Moody’s said.
The agency’s report did allow that despite its costs, Ford’s so-called “global redesign” will “contribute to gradual improvements in the company’s earnings, margins, and cash generation, albeit over a number of years.” The highlight of the initiative is a focus on high-growth product segments, especially electric and autonomous vehicles.
The technology-laden strategy points to the reason Stone was brought to Ford. The company’s aim, as new CEO Jim Hackett puts it, is “designing smart vehicles for a smart world.” It’ll be Stone’s job to make sure new-age cars drive the envisioned financial future. | David McCann
Being first at something is not easy — no one has paved the road ahead or set guidelines for how things should be done.
Allen Shim can relate. In February 2018 he was named the first-ever finance chief of Slack, a provider of team collaboration software tools and online services. Not that Shim wasn’t prepared. He had been informally heading up finance at the fast-growing company for some time.
Slack was founded in 2014 and grew from a small business serving a few thousand beta testers to a global team of more than 1,000 employees. Shim says Slack has benefited from the seemingly insatiable demand for new business technologies. Research shows that a typical enterprise uses more than 1,000 cloud services, and many of the largest IT departments maintain thousands of enterprise applications.
“Software is very valuable, and it provides a huge increase in towline productivity, but there is an unwelcome side effect: attention becomes fragmented into different specialist tools,” Shim says.
“Slack’s rapid global growth means I have to build for scale,” says Shim.
That’s where Slack comes in. The company provides “a new layer of the business technology stack that brings together applications, information, and people.”
The $401 million company, which just went public in June, has to be intentional about where it invests its resources, Shim explains, “particularly in technology, given its powerful role in augmenting our ability to communicate, coordinate, and drive efficiency.” He adds: “Slack’s rapid global growth means I have to build for scale, ensuring that we are investing in the right people, the right systems, and the right processes now and for the
While Shim has a great message of why Slack should be a hit, and the company’s sales continue to grow (as do the number of companies it gets more than $100,000 in annual recurring revenue from), most of Wall Street is lukewarm about its stock. Slack stock traded close to $42 per share on the day of its direct listing but has not seen that level since.
Investors may have a good reason to stay away. Slack has never made a profit, and while it has $785 million in cash on its balance sheet, that doesn’t seem like much compared with its chief competitor, Microsoft.
Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield says Shim “has been my right hand from the earliest days” of the company, and that he is a trusted adviser to the executive leadership team and the board of directors. In a critical time for the young company, Shim is playing a crucial part. | B.V.
Joanne Crevoiserat, who took up her post at Tapestry on Aug. 1, was an interesting choice. The company’s three brands are all in the luxury accessories market, which is far different from the mass-market retailers (Kohl’s, Walmart) where she’s spent a good portion of her career.
Crevoiserat most recently logged five years as CFO and then chief operating officer at Abercrombie & Fitch, which is somewhat upscale but still barely resembles Tapestry’s Coach, Kate Spade New York, and Michael Kors labels.
Whatever challenges that presents, Crevoiserat will face no shortage of other ones. In 2017 the company, then named Coach, bought Kate Spade, already a declining brand, for the hefty sum of $2.4 billion. The plan was to apply Coach’s expertise to effect a turnaround for Kate Spade driven by international expansion, much as Coach had accomplished with its own brand.
In short, the plan isn’t working. Tapestry’s share price, which was over $50 in August 2018, had sunk to $26 a share in early September, largely because of disappointing financial performance by Kate Spade. The company recently shelved plans for new Kate Spade stores and products, and the brand’s financial forecast for fiscal 2020, which began in July, was fairly grim.
Crevoiserat “will have multiple opportunities to deliver operating leverage at Tapestry.” – Management CV
It was no surprise, then, that Tapestry’s board ousted CEO Victor Luis in early September, with the chairman saying “there has been a gap between strategy and delivery.”
“Tapestry probably overpaid for Kate Spade,” says Morningstar analyst David Swartz. Morningstar rates the stewardship of a company’s management as excellent, standard, or poor, and it has Tapestry rated as poor “primarily because of those acquisitions.”
A key issue is that Coach is a very international brand, while Kate Spade is primarily in North America. It has a moderate-sized business in Japan but only a small one in China, a prime market for luxury goods. Pricing is another issue. Kate Spade inhabits the $100 to $250 price range for its handbags, which is “an extremely crowded space,” notes Swartz.
Tapestry apparently tapped Crevoiserat because it was looking for a CFO with extensive operational experience. According to Management CV, an independent research firm that analyzes executive teams, at Abercrombie & Fitch she “delivered strong results as COO” and “will have multiple opportunities to deliver operating leverage” at Tapestry.
As finance chief at A&F, Crevoiserat “faced a substantial restructuring and turnaround challenge” and “did a good job,” Management CV wrote. Will she be able to pull it off again at a larger company with some difficult problems to solve? | D.M.
An IPO Ahead
Airbnb announced in September that its long-awaited IPO will occur in 2020. Eyes will be trained on CFO Dave Stephenson, whose role has been tightly focused on that goal.
Airbnb hired Stephenson, a longtime Amazon finance executive, in November 2018 to help orchestrate the IPO after a decade that saw the company grow from room-sharing app to travel industry behemoth. Today, Airbnb offers 7 million places to stay in 191 countries, hosting more than 2 million people a night.
Since Stephenson’s arrival, the company has made a series of acquisitions, among them Urbandoor, which offers short-term corporate rentals, and HotelTonight, a service for last-minute hotel bookings. The company has also branched out to offer tours and adventure activities.
“People always ask what the impact of Airbnb has been, and I say [hotels] have sold more rooms than ever.” – Jan Freitag, STR
Unlike other unicorns with recent IPOs or ones in the works, Airbnb appears to be on solid financial footing. The company reported more than $1 billion in revenue in this year’s second quarter, and has had positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization for the past two years.
A 17-year veteran of Amazon and former finance chief of its worldwide consumer organization, Stephenson replaced Laurence Tosi, a former Blackstone Group executive who reportedly prioritized financial stability over preparing for an IPO, to the dissatisfaction of CEO Brian Chesky.
When Stephenson was hired, Chesky called him “one of the best financial operators in the world.”
Stephenson will need to optimize Airbnb’s performance at a time when hotels are going gangbusters, with U.S. properties smashing records for rooms sold, revenue per room, and other metrics. But that trend, which is ongoing despite the millions of potential hotel stays Airbnb is siphoning off, is a solid indication that the timing is right for a travel industry IPO.
“The industry is firing on all cylinders,” says Jan Freitag, senior vice president for lodging insights at STR, a hospitality industry consulting firm. “People always ask what the impact of Airbnb has been, and I say [hotels] have sold more rooms than ever.”
Still, it’s not all wine and roses for Airbnb. It faces increased competition in the short-term rental business, including from Marriott, which launched a home-sharing division this year. And it continues to be hounded by local governments at home and abroad that want to regulate it and other short-term housing providers.
The IPO should provide a clearer picture of Airbnb’s financial standing and the mechanisms Stephenson has helped implement to deal with the competition and regulatory constraints. | Michelle V. Rafter
Seeking a Cure
In several respects the challenges facing Walgreens Boots Alliance are no different from those gripping other retail pharmacies. Competition, pricing, and insurer reimbursement issues that are largely out of pharmacy companies’ control are dragging down their financial performance and stock prices.
There just seems to be a little extra noise around Walgreens.
Front and center is the company’s aggressive, $1.5 billion cost-cutting agenda. One-third of the amount is expected to come from reduced information technology spend. Hundreds of stores have been marked for closing, and store managers’ annual bonuses have been halved.
But is the cost push the most fruitful path for Walgreens, considering its predicament?
CFO James Kehoe and CEO Stefano Pessina “have been so focused on their cost restructuring efforts that they have put themselves at a serious disadvantage in the marketplace and now need to rethink their market strategy,” wrote Management CV, an independent research firm, in a June research note.
The company would be better off if it were more focused on growth and refurbishing its Rite Aid stores, claims Management CV.
Kehoe has acknowledged that the company was “quite damaged” by archrival CVS Health’s late-2018 acquisition of Aetna. Management CV suggested that “the CFO and executive team are now reacting adaptively to CVS.”
Walgreens’ C-suite is largely filled with new kids on the block that came on board after Kehoe did in June 2018. Based on his history, one may wonder how long Kehoe, a native of Ireland, will stick around. After 25 years at Kraft Heinz, he left the company with spun-off Mondelez in 2013, then moved on a year later to become CFO at Gildan Activewear. He stayed there less than two months before coming back to take the top finance seat at Kraft, only to leave six months later to run finance at Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical.
CFO Kehoe has acknowledged that the company was “quite damaged” by archrival CVS Health’s late-2018 acquisition of Aetna.
If Kehoe does stay awhile, other challenges require solving: a squeeze on front-of-the-store performance stemming from pricing advantages enjoyed by Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and dollar store chains, for one. The Boots UK stores, which are affected by Brexit uncertainty, are also delivering sluggish results. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating Walgreens over its allegedly large volume of tobacco and e-cigarette sales to teens.
Fortunately, Walgreens is a huge company with significant attendant economic advantages, and it’s working on numerous fronts to rejuvenate sales. Those include bringing health diagnostics firm LabCorp, low-priced Kroger groceries, and Boots cosmetics into hundreds or thousands of stores.
The company needs to precisely execute such plans, and Kehoe will be at the forefront of ensuring that happens. | D.M.
Many finance chiefs might envy Amy Shapero. She is head of finance at a company, Shopify, that has had few competitors and whose sales have grown 70% since she joined. What’s more, Shopify’s e-commerce infrastructure platform, used by 820,000 small and midmarket merchants, isn’t easily ripped out and replaced. And the Ottawa-based company’s stock? Shopify shares trade at more than 20 times forward sales, compared with 2 times for the S&P 500.
Fortunately, for Shopify, Shapero is used to sizzling growth. Formerly CFO of online investment company Betterment, Shapero arrived at Shopify in March 2018 as only its second CFO ever. Her fintech experience, as well as a string of finance leadership roles at software-as-a-service companies, made her a great fit, say analysts.
“Those key elements of her background gave her added credibility with Wall Street and investors,” says Colin Sebastian, a managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co. who has sat in meetings with Shapero and key investors. Sebastian calls Shapero “incredibly professional and very articulate in terms of her ability to explain the complexities” of the organization and its markets.
“Shopify’s biggest challenge, quite honestly, is the ability to manage growth,” Sebastian says. “It’s an innovator, a disruptor, and doesn’t face a lot of direct competition. If you imagine that scenario, there are almost countless ways Shopify could invest to expand the scope of its software offerings.”
Shapero and her team have shown an ability to nourish Shopify’s expansion with investment while also routinely beating quarterly earnings estimates. And so far they continue to provide the financial flexibility for Shopify to bulk up.
“There are almost countless ways Shopify could invest to expand the scope of its software offerings.” — Colin Sebastian, Robert W. Baird & Co.
Shopify now offers point-of-sale software for the bricks-and-mortar side of customers’ retail operations, for example, as well as merchant cash advances and loans for customers’ online channel expansions. Most notably, in June 2019, it launched a fulfillment network, services that give merchants cheap shipping, warehousing, and picking/packaging.
Shopify doubled down on the fulfillment network in early September, acquiring warehouse robot startup 6 River Systems for $450 million, a “critical” part of the fulfillment network’s ramp-up and “a new multi billion-dollar market opportunity for Shopify in third-party warehouse technology,” according to one analyst.
Fulfillment network services may enable some small retail ecommerce firms to eventually ditch Amazon as a selling platform. Going up against such a Goliath, Shapero and her fellow C-suiters will be in the spotlight constantly. | Vincent Ryan
Replacing a Bestseller
What do you do when your company’s star product is about to collapse into a black hole?
That’s the dilemma facing AbbVie and CFO Robert Michael as the drug maker prepares for a future with diminishing revenue from, and the eventual extinction of, Humira.
The auto-immune disease medicine is the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest money maker. It’s been the key to AbbVie’s financial success over the six years since the company was spun off from Abbott Labs. In 2018, even with Humira sales starting to sink, it accounted for nearly 64% of AbbVie’s “adjusted net revenue.”
U.S. patents for the drug will expire in 2023. Its European patents ran out in late 2018, and revenue has already taken a big hit from biosimilar drugs there.
After spending close to 20 years coming up through the finance ranks at Abbott, Michael took over as AbbVie’s CFO a year ago as part of a management restructuring tied to the company’s long-term growth strategy.
So far, Michael’s and AbbVie’s answer to the Humira problem has been to hunt for new hits through a string of acquisitions. One, announced in June, is a whopper: a deal to buy Botox maker Allergan for $63 billion.
Michael’s and AbbVie’s answer to the Humira problem has been to hunt for new hits through a string of acquisitions.
AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez said on an earnings call that he sees no downside to the transaction. That may be. But some analysts greeted it with skepticism. “Two businesses with separate and unique challenges of their own do not easily combine to make a single great business,” wrote Piper Jaffray analyst Chris Raymond.
Indeed, AbbVie’s stock price fell close to 17% on news of the deal, and as of early September it hadn’t recovered. The acquisition is expected to close in early 2020.
While it can, AbbVie is squeezing revenue out of Humira by aggressively going after licensing deals. The deals stem from patent lawsuits AbbVie has settled with at least eight drug makers, which will allow them to sell generic versions of Humira beginning in 2023.
Forays into other products haven’t all worked out. In late August, AbbVie halted work on an experimental lung cancer treatment, Rova-T, after disappointing clinical trials. Gonzalez had cited Rova-T, which it acquired when it bought Stemcentrx for $5.8 billion three years ago, as among several drugs the company expected to generate $35 billion in non-Humira revenue by 2025.
But the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new rheumatoid arthritis treatment, Rinvoq, which is being touted as AbbVie’s biggest immunology win since Humira. The company also has won approvals for some other drugs. Maybe one day Michael will be able to make hay with one of them as the company’s next golden goose. | M.R.
JPMorgan Chase announced in April 2019 that Jennifer Piepszak, former CEO of the bank’s card services unit, was being named CFO of the company and a member of its operating committee.
The good news for Piepszak: this is a great time to take over as CFO of JPMorgan Chase. The bad news: this is a terrible time to take over as CFO of JPMorgan Chase. That’s the assessment of Mike Mayo, head of U.S. large-cap bank research at Wells Fargo.
“The tough part is that the new CFO must contend with the trickiest interest rate environment in 25 years, a range of macro issues from Brexit to Europe to China, and the latter stages of a recovery, when mistakes are [usually] made,” Mayo says.
“Piepszak also has tough shoes to fill because JPMorgan has performed so well this decade,” Mayo says, and her predecessor Marianne Lake, who was named CEO of the bank’s consumer lending business, was well respected on Wall Street.
“Yet, she takes over at a time when Goliath is winning more than ever before, and JPMorgan is the strongest Goliath,” Mayo says.
Low interest rates are a problem because they diminish the value of JPMorgan’s greatest attribute — cheap deposits, Mayo says. Medium term, the threat of a recession needs to be monitored, given the length of the recovery. And long-term, technology is transforming banking as never before. JPMorgan, as a technology leader, needs to ensure that it gets a proper return on its tech investments, he says.
“Piepszak has tough shoes to fill because JPMorgan has performed so well this decade.” — Mike Mayo, Wells Fargo
“The one word that sums up the task for [Piepszak] is ‘ruthless,’” Mayo says. “First, she needs to be ruthless with the protection of the risk culture. This means avoiding revenues with risks that are outsized for the environment or the company’s controls. Second, she needs to be ruthless with costs and provide confidence that the company is spending money like it is [management’s] own.”
He adds, “The greatest opportunity is to better capitalize on JPM’s strength and scale. In retail, this means continued expansion in digital banking and a level of service that creates greater lifetime value. In wholesale, JPMorgan, like other large U.S. global banks, has the potential to continue the trend of improving market share at a time of weakened non-U.S. competitors.”
CEO Jamie Dimon has called Piepszak an “enormously talented executive.” It sounds like she’ll need every bit of it in her new post. | B.V.
Ten More To Keep an Eye On
◗Nelson Chai, Uber
Nelson Chai, former finance chief of Merrill Lynch, joined the ride-hailing company in August 2018 to help prepare Uber for its IPO. The highly anticipated listing disappointed, and the shares are down 17% from opening day. Uber is battling regulators and slimming down operations with layoffs, but it will be up to Chai to stop its billion-dollar quarterly losses.
◗Spencer Neumann, Netflix
As heavy hitters Disney and Apple enter streaming, Netflix is scrambling to hold onto its 151 million subscribers. Netflix brought in Neuman in January to focus on production finance as it continues to invest heavily in its own content. It’s hoping Neuman’s experiences with Activision Blizzard and Disney will keep the streaming giant on top as the field crowds with competition.
◗Jason Warnick, Robinhood
IPO talk surrounding commission-free stock trading startup Robinhood began when it announced last November that 20-year Amazon veteran Warnick was named finance chief. Robinhood has also discussed another round of private funding that could value the company at more than $10 billion. Warnick’s wide range of financial experience will certainly be crucial if Robinhood’s banking charter gets approved, inviting stricter regulation.
◗Pat Grismer, Starbucks
Starbucks reported its best quarterly sales growth in three years recently, but Grismer, in the job less than a year, warned its profits won’t be as big in 2020. The coffee chain has found success in the U.S. with digital ordering and loyalty programs, but its growth markets are global. Fortunately, Grismer has served in a number of international finance positions.
◗Fareed Kahn, Surterra Wellness
Surterra Wellness brought in former Kellogg finance chief Kahn in July to help the cannabis startup capitalize on the sale of legalized marijuana. The company has been in a period of rapid expansion since former chewing gum executive William Wrigley Jr. became CEO. The real reason to watch Kahn? He is one of the first CFOs of a consumer giant to join a cannabis company.
◗Todd Morgenfeld, Pinterest
After a short stint at Twitter, Morgenfeld joined Pinterest as the company’s first CFO in 2016. Since its IPO in April, Pinterest shares are up more than 59%, and the social media company expects to be profitable by 2021. Morgenfeld will have to balance that earnings target with the investments needed to take advantage of Pinterest’s pivot into an e-commerce platform.
◗Ewen Stevenson, HSBC
In August, HSBC announced 4,000 job cuts, with a focus on senior roles. With CEO John Flint ousted, Stevenson, who joined the bank in January, has become such a dominant force that he is rumored to be a top candidate for CEO. Can his “tough love” approach revive HSBC’s performance as it cuts costs and shrinks its global footprint?
◗John Murphy, Adobe
Adobe’s revenue has grown by 20% or more for several years, and the company’s recurring cloud-based subscriptions make up more of that revenue each quarter. Murphy, who became CFO in April 2018, helped the company further exceed its own growth and earnings guidance and analysts’ estimates. With Adobe’s strong financial profile, Murphy will have plenty of choices of where to invest in artificial intelligence and other developing technologies.
◗Brian Newman, UPS
UPS brought in Newman from PepsiCo in August at a crucial time. UPS is looking to benefit from rival FedEx’s decision to end its contracts with Amazon. Taking on part of FedEx’s Amazon business could bring in more revenue, but it will also create more logistical challenges for UPS, especially during peak buying seasons. Will Newman be able to capitalize on greater e-commerce volumes without driving up costs?
◗Mark Mason, Citigroup
The flattening of the yield curve and expectations that the Federal Reserve will continue cutting rates have made Citigroup more cautious about its lending outlook. But Mason, appointed CFO in March 2018, has said the bank is not planning for a recession. Instead, it’s optimistically allocating capital to its highest-return units: U.S. consumer and corporate treasury and trade solutions.