Square CFO Amrita Ahuja is betting big on Bitcoin
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.
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.
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