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Square CFO Amrita Ahuja is betting big on Bitcoin

March 29, 2021, 1:00 AM UTC

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Good morning,

Welcome to the first edition of CFO Daily. My name is Sheryl Estrada.

I’m thrilled to be launching this newsletter because it’s clear that no matter how much the job of CFOs has evolved during the pandemic, even bigger changes lie ahead. The stage is set for more disruption, more demands from more stakeholders, and more potential as finance professionals have at their disposal a wealth of new tools and technologies. CFOs are navigating these changes at an accelerated pace—and those aspiring to reach the C-suite are taking notes.

A bit about me: I was born and raised in New York, and have a B.S. from Syracuse University and a Master’s from NYU. I’ve spent more than a decade in business journalism writing about leadership, and look forward to hearing from you about what trends, topics or people you want to hear about (you can find my contact info below).

To start, I’m so excited to kick off CFO Daily with Square’s CFO Amrita Ahuja. Let’s dive in.


“There’s absolutely a case for every balance sheet to have Bitcoin on it.”

That’s what Square CFO Amrita Ahuja, who joined the company in January 2019 from Blizzard Entertainment, told me during a recent chat. Indeed, she’s one of a growing number of acolytes, from Tesla’s CFO Zach Kirkhorn to longtime booster Michael Saylor of Microstrategy, who argue that Bitcoin has a place in any CFO’s arsenal. A recent job listing for a new CFO of Time Magazine listed a “familiarity with Bitcoin” as a prerequisite.

“We see Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as expanding access to financial services, especially when you think more globally,” she said. In October 2020, Square invested $50 million in Bitcoin followed by a $170 million investment in February

Square CFO Amrita Ahuja
Square CFO Amrita Ahuja
Courtesy of Square

Thinking globally certainly comes as second nature to Ahuja. Her father was born and raised in India and came to the U.S. in 1961. Ahuja grew up with her parents and siblings in Cleveland watching her mother—who was born in India but raised in Kenya—as both a nurturing caretaker in the household, and as a leader running a daycare center with a staff of eight employees.

From a product perspective, Square leaned in to Bitcoin in 2018 on Cash App, a peer-to-peer payments platform where users can buy Bitcoin that is stored in a digital wallet. Cash App was launched in 2013. “Last year, we had 3 million customers buying and selling Bitcoin on our platform; and in January, we had 1 million new customers to Bitcoin, alone,” Ahuja said. Square wants to continue to support the broader adoption and awareness of the cryptocurrency, she said. Cash App users will no longer be charged transaction fees to send or receive Bitcoin, Square announced March 17.

As for Bitcoin’s heavy environmental toll? Square’s clean energy investment initiative is a $10 million commitment to help accelerate the adoption of clean energy in Bitcoin mining; the company intends to reinvest any gains from investments back into the initiative.

Square will evaluate its strategy “on an ongoing basis based on how the Bitcoin ecosystem evolves,” she added. “The investment that we made on our balance sheet for Bitcoin represents about 5% of our cash; we intend to hold for the long term here,” Ahuja says.


One thing is for sure: Bitcoin is one of the most divisive investments out there. But I’d love to hear what you think. Does it belong on every balance sheet?

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

Pay Governance LLC surveyed how companies are responding to the focus on ESG and whether it is resulting in a change in the design of incentive compensation plans. The number of companies that included ESG in incentive plans ticked up in 2021, and while half of companies still don't plan to incorporate the metric, there was a big shift from the "no" to the "unsure" camp, according to the report.

Going deeper

Transparency 2021: Addressing Gaps in Equity Compensation, a report released by Shareworks by Morgan Stanley, an equity plan management platform and division, found that inequity at private companies persists in equity compensation. Working mothers were just 25% of the respondents who said they were granted 4-5% of equity as a part of their total compensation, compared to 60% of men with children, according to the report. 

Leaderboard

Caroline Litchfield was appointed executive vice president and CFO at Merck, effective April 1. Litchfield succeeds Robert M. Davis as he will become president of Merck on April 1 and CEO on July 1.

Jamie Miller was named CFO at Cargill and will serve on the company's executive team, effective June 1. Miller was the senior vice president and CFO at GE from November 2017 until February 2020.

Nevin Shetty was named CFO at Fabric, a headless commerce platform. The company’s latest addition comes on the heels of a $43 million Series A funding round in February led by Norwest Venture Partners, with additional participation from Redpoint Ventures and Sierra Ventures.

Overheard

“I think what we’re all suffering from is that [lack of] break we used to get just walking from room to room. Now, you jump from meeting to meeting and it takes literally seconds.”

— Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg on CNBC regarding the challenges of video conferencing during remote work.