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Attracting top talent—and what else mattered to CFOs this week

October 1, 2021, 10:28 AM UTC

Good morning,

Here’s what happened this week:

A study recently published in the Journal of Management Studies proposes that board members at U.K. firms had a bias in favor of male CEOs with deep, “masculine” voices. “CEO vocal masculinity is likely to be important in shaping directors’ perceptions” as a good amount of contact takes place through conference calls and phone calls, according to the researchers. The pitch of voice recordings of CEOs at firms listed in the FTSE 100 index from 2004 to 2013 were measured along with compensation data. “One standard deviation increase in CEO vocal masculinity is associated with a 6.6% increase in total pay,” the study found. For further insight on leadership perception, I had a conversation with Christopher Olivola, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Olivola coauthored a recent study published in The Leadership Quarterly that analyzes and predicts perceptions of leadership in an automated way.

One of the flaws in the corporate ladder for women in America is a “broken rung” at the first step up to manager, according to the new report Women in the Workplace 2021. The comprehensive research was released by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. For every 100 men promoted to manager, on average, only 86 women were promoted, Lareina Yee, senior partner at McKinsey said. This gap has been persistent for the past last three years and hampers sustained progress of promotion to more senior levels, she said. Looking at the practices of middle management may make a difference. “It’s managers that are on the front lines of a lot of these hiring and promotion decisions at the broken rung level,” Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Lean In. CFOs can “create transparent metrics that go all the way down to front line managers, in terms of how are they’re doing on their gender and diversity metrics,” Yee said. “Women in leadership have focused on wellbeing and DEI, Thomas said. “And a lot of this work is going on unrecognized and unrewarded,” she noted. 

ViacomCBS EVP and CFO Naveen Chopra joined the mass media and entertainment giant in August 2020, as the pandemic raged. It was also less than a year into the company’s completed merger, which took place in December 2019. “What I found was an organization that was very passionate about making the transition to streaming,” Chopra said. “It really just needed some clarity and structure around how exactly are we going to do that? How much are we going to invest?” And the leadership and communication element is making sure everyone internally has clarity on the strategy, Chopra said. In Q2 of 2021, the company earned $983 million in streaming revenues, an increase of 92% year-over-year. Fueled by Paramount+, the global streaming service, 6.5 million new streaming subscribers were added in Q2, reaching a total of more than 42 million. Chopra discussed the company’s strategy. He also shared why the CFO chair is “the perfect place” for what he likes the most—”having a broad purview of many different parts of the business,” Chopra told me.

As Gen Z and millennial finance professionals work towards reaching the C-suite, many think only large firms can provide career acceleration—and a big paycheck. A survey released on Wednesday by Tipalti, a global payables automation startup, gauged the opinions of 350 young professionals in finance roles, recent college graduates, and finance undergraduates in the U.S. ages 18-35. Almost half (46%) of respondents want to work in the finance department of a large company. In comparison, just 8% want to work at a non-tech, small or midsize company. When it comes to working at a tech startup—just 6% of the aspiring CFOs are interested. And 45% said a high salary was the top inspiration for becoming a finance chief. But candidates may want to give startups another look, Sarah Dickens Spoja, CFO at Tipalti, said. Spoja explained why startups can provide opportunities for young professionals who want to make an impact on organizational strategy.

Thanks a lot for reading. I hope you enjoy your weekend.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

In Q2 of 2021, multifamily mortgage debt in the U.S. increased $23.8 billion (about 1.4%) to $1.7 trillion from Q1, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) latest report released on September 28. "There was a solid increase in the amount of multifamily mortgage debt outstanding," Jamie Woodwell, MBA's VP of commercial real estate research, said in a statement. In Q2, federal agency and government sponsored enterprise (GSE) portfolios and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) held the largest share of total multifamily debt outstanding at $871 billion (50%). Next are banks and thrifts with $491 billion (28%), life insurance companies with $174 billion (10%), and state and local government with $106 billion (6%). Lastly are commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and other asset backed securities (ABS) issues holding $53 billion (3%), and non-farm non-corporate businesses hold $20 billion (1%).

Going deeper

Here are a few Fortune reads for the weekend:

Why aren’t interest rates going up? There are 3 possible reasons by Ben Carlson


Some notable moves from this past week:

Roberto Cuca was named COO and CFO at TELA Bio, Inc., a commercial-stage medical technology company. Most recently, Cuca served as CFO at OraSure Technologies. He previously served as SVP and CFO at Trevana, Inc. and held various leadership positions within the finance organization of Endo Health Solutions Inc., a pharmaceutical company.

Lillian Etzkorn was named EVP and CFO at Covia, a provider of mineral-based and material solutions for industrial and energy markets, effective October 11. Etzkorn succeeds Andrew Eich, who was promoted to president on June 1. Etzkorn joins Covia from Shiloh Industries, where she has served as SVP and CFO since 2018. Her experience also includes serving as CFO of CPI Card Group, VP of treasury and senior director of investor relations for Dana Incorporated and several senior-level financial positions with Ford Motor Company.

Ronnie Y. Ng was named CFO at National CineMedia (NCM), a cinema advertising network. Ng joins NCM from Allen Media Group, LLC, a diversified media and entertainment company, where he was CFO and head of corporate development. Prior to AMG, Ng served as a VP in the fixed income group for TCW Group, Inc. He was previously was an investment banker for approximately 10 years, including the position of executive director of UBS Investment Bank’s Global Media Group.

Adam Orvos was promoted to EVP and CFO at Ross Stores, Inc., effective October 1. Orvos joined Ross Stores in January 2021 as group senior vice president of supply chain administration. His more than 30 years of experience includes serving as CFO at Neiman Marcus, Belk Department Stores, and the Foley’s Division of The May Department Stores Company. Orvos has also held senior executive roles at Lowe’s and Total Wine & More.

Steven Yuan Ning Sim was named CFO at AGM Group Holdings Inc., an integrated technology company focusing on chip solutions. Zhihe Yang resigned as CFO, effective September 23. Sim has over 15 years of audit and financial management experience. Prior to joining the company, he served as CFO at Pintec Technology Holdings Limited, an independent financial solutions provider in China. Previously, Sim served as vice president of finance at Inc. and CFO at Leyou Inc.

Drew Wolff was promoted to EVP and CFO at Trupanion, Inc., a pet medical insurance company, effective October 1. Wolff began at Trupanion in May as EVP of finance. Tricia Plouf, the current CFO, will remain in the position of co-president. Wolff has more than 20 years of experience including CFO of International for Starbucks, and previously, as Starbucks’ global treasurer. He has also held senior financial roles at retail banks with operations in the U.S., Africa, and Europe.


"This is the most American technology that we have today, similar to the internet ... If someone is going to benefit from this technology, we better make sure it's us."

—Investor and podcaster Anthony Pompliano on why the banishment of crypto trading by the Chinese government is potentially a positive development for the U.S. economy, as told to Yahoo Finance.

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