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From fintech breakthroughs to copycat startups, here’s what mattered to CFOs this week

April 23, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Happy Friday!

Here’s what went on this week:

“Whenever I evaluate an issue that is this challenging to us, I step into the shoes of our business leaders and look at it from that perspective, because I know that ultimately, we’ll get to the right financial answer.” That’s what Western Union executive vice president and CFO Raj Agrawal told me. Agrawal shared insight on his career journey at the company, and on digital growth amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We saw more growth last year in our digital business than we ever have before,” he said. Agrawal also said Western Union’s familiarity with cross-border regulatory requirements and its global network of retail agents can assist both banks and fintech companies in the global remittance market. 

It’s not every day that you meet a cultural anthropologist who’s also a C-level finance executive. That’s why I found the story of Anita Ward, chief development officer at fintech company Salary Finance, so compelling. Ward shared how her childhood in Las Vegas influenced her career path in anthropology and finance. In her executive positions, Ward has closely worked with CFOs in mergers and acquisitions—an endeavor where cultural insights matter. “If two cultures [involved in a merger] don’t match, if the value systems, power structures and the way that they communicate don’t match, then the effectiveness of the merger” may be reduced, Ward said. “I would argue that long before environmental, social, and corporate governance and corporate social responsibility came along, there was applied anthropology.” 

The fintech field has rapidly expanded during the pandemic. “The potential economic gain from building robust digital financial infrastructure is about 20% greater now than it was before the pandemic,” a recent McKinsey & Co. report found. But is a burgeoning fintech ecosystem leading to copycat startups? My colleague Lucinda Shen wrote about this subject in her piece, “Why a million and one startups all seem to do the same thing now,” which featured a conversation with Frank Rotman, a founding partner at QED Investors. Rotman told Fortune that younger startups are looking at the acceleration of fintech companies like the brokerage app Robinhood and seeking to build their businesses the same way, even when they aren’t bringing much to the table in the way of innovation. 

The digital payment industry is also growing at an accelerated pace, and companies that can offer customers some safety in public gatherings may have an extra edge. Several major sports teams—including the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars—have partnered with a cashless payment startup called Tappit that provides white-label technology for mobile payments at their stadiums. I had an exclusive interview with Tappit’s newly named CFO, Jonathan Simkins, about his mission to grow the U.S. business of a company founded in the U.K. Tappit’s technology “helps solve a lot of reopening requirements that sports teams and concerts and other similar events need [to solve] to comply with state regulations,” Simkins said. He shared his perspective on the war for tech talent, and why he thinks major sports teams are gravitating toward the startup.


See you on Monday.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm, surveyed small business owners and managers to learn about their accounting strategies. Among those surveyed, Quickbooks is the most popular accounting platform for small businesses.

Going deeper

Here are a few good Fortune weekend reads:

Is corporate America living up to its net-zero pledges? A new report breaks down the numbers by Sophie Mellor

Akon: Why crypto could transform Africa’s future by Akon

A viral LinkedIn post sheds brutal new light on banking’s work-till-you-drop culture by Lananh Nguyen, Harry Wilson, and Bloomberg

‘Unacceptable’: Credit Suisse reveals further mega losses from the disastrous Archegos trade by Christiaan Hetzner

Leaderboard

Some notable moves from this past week:

Gregory D. Smith, executive vice president, enterprise operations and CFO at Boeing, will retire from his position, effective July 9. He was appointed CFO in 2011. Smith "leaves a legacy of leadership and lasting impacts over his 30 years with Boeing," Boeing president and CEO David L. Calhoun said in a statement. Boeing is conducting a search for Smith's successor.

Amol Chaubal was named senior vice president and CFO at Waters Corp., the maker of lab equipment, supplies and software, effective May 12. Chaubal joins Waters from Quanterix, where he has served as CFO since April 2019.

Jennifer Mitzner was named executive vice president and CFO at Baylor Scott & White Health, a not-for-profit health care system, effective June 1. Mitzner most recently served as executive vice president of Hoag Health, as well as chief executive officer of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute.

Stephen Bearpark was named CFO at Bitstamp, a bitcoin exchange company. Bearpark joins the company from Amazon, where he held the role of finance director for the past three years.

Overheard

"A lot of people have been calling this the SHE-session, but it’s really the She-minority-less-than-a-bachelor’s-degree recession."

—Michael Horrigan, president of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, on the struggles that remain for individuals without college degrees in the current job market, as told to The Washington Post.