Meet the new rock stars of the C-suite

November 10, 2021, 11:22 AM UTC

Good morning,

Being accountable for the balance sheet and mitigating risks during unprecedented times is no small feat for CFOs. As the global semiconductor chip shortage continues into the holiday season, there’s another C-suite position that’s under pressure—the chief supply chain officer (CSCO).

“At most companies, the glory in the C-suite has typically gone to the executives who dream up new products, plot bold market expansions, or out-innovate the competition with money-gushing patents. Think Target’s chief merchant or Tesla’s CFO. But this is 2021,” writes my colleague Phil Wahba. In his new piece, From obscurity to superhero: Chief supply chain officer is now the toughest job in the C-suite, Phil explores how the CSCO role has become vital to an organization.

He writes: “There has been a great identification of supply chain management as being a core competency within companies that creates competitive advantage if done well,” says Melissa Hadhazy, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry, the executive search and consulting firm. The CSCO role has become an ever more crucial one at many companies as the focus has gone well beyond cost control in production and shipping that long dominated the job and into one that increasingly shapes strategy, she adds.

And corporate America agrees. The rise of the CSCO has been brewing for a while, largely as companies have diversified production locales and because of the complexities of e-commerce that have involved faster delivery times and far more nodes in a distribution system. A study in the Journal of Operations Management in 2016 found that 71 new CSCO roles had been created at S&P 1500 firms between 2000 and 2012. Now, according to an analysis of S&P 500 filings and websites by Equilar and Fortune, 85 companies have a CSCO or someone with a title filling a similar role.

Profitability and growth are significantly impacted by supply chain organizations, according to Gartner. And that’s of concern to finance chiefs. In fact, the technology research and consulting company proposes that a strategic partnership between CFOs and CSCOs can optimize resilience during volatile times. Also, “CEOs are tasking their CSCOs to focus on navigating through the ongoing disruption and ensure business continuity,” Thomas O’Connor, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said in the firm’s report released in July. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly further propelled the profile of the CSCO. 

Phil writes: Late last year, Nordstrom made chief supply chain officer Alexis DePree a member of the luxury chain’s executive team, meaning she reports directly to the CEO. Earlier in 2021, Kohl’s added CSCO to its chief technology officer Paul Gaffney’s portfolio of responsibilities because of the growing impact of tech on supply chain management.

Macy’s CSCO Dennis Mullahy is not surprised that so many companies are elevating their CSCO’s profile, and says the job was changing a lot already even before the pandemic. “For a long time, supply chain was viewed as kind of an operational activity, about moving boxes from point A to point B,” says Mullahy. And that goal was to do so at as low a cost as possible. Now, he says, the focus is on “how do we get inventory into locations where we think it is going to generate the highest sales for us and the best profitability?”

You can check out our full Leadership Report, including how to gain more empathy (it’s possible!), a secret to thwarting the Great Resignation, why some bosses are encouraging employees to bring their rage to work, how Instacart’s Fidji Simo found her leadership style, and yes, even a report about the future of the CFO role by yours truly. The whole package is here.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

The 2022 Insurance Industry Outlook Report by S&P Global Market Intelligence's Financial Institutions Research team was released on Nov. 9. Predictions in the report include more M&A activity across international borders. In seven of the past 11 years, cross-border M&A accounted for more than half of global insurance underwriter deal value, the report found. Cross-border transactions include the insurance underwriter company and asset deals in which the acquirer and acquired are based in different countries, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence

Going deeper

Black women’s financial insights concerning their wealth journey are explored in an inaugural study by The American College Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality (CEEE) released on Nov. 9. About 60% of Black women surveyed expressed difficulty in finding financial professionals or advisors whom they trust, the study found. The research revealed that engagement between the Black community and the financial services industry is not advisory but largely transactional. The study, comprised of 3,500 middle-income Black women, also found they experience discrimination, and 62.5% of respondents in higher-income households stated it was important to build wealth for the community. “The financial services industry has an opportunity to increase awareness of what is possible for Black women and their wealth with trusted advisory services, products, professionals, and investments in advisor diversity and Black-owned financial institutions," Karim Hill, executive director of CEEE, said in a statement.


Noel Marsden was named CFO at GRUBBRR, a commerce automation company that provides self-ordering kiosk technology. Marsden brings over 20 years of experience to the role. The company is currently targeting Series B funding, and Marsden is leading the charge. Prior to GRUBBRR, Marsden served as CFO at a financial services company specializing in short-term working capital solutions. He was also president and CFO at CareCloud, a SAAS technology platform provider. Prior to CareCloud, Marsden was SVP and CFO of services and treasurer at Brightstar, a subsidiary of SoftBank.

Eric Muhlheim was named CFO at Mozilla Corporation. Most recently, Muhlheim provided strategic financial and operating services as an independent consultant to a variety of early stage and privately-funded startups. Prior to that, he served as chief financial and administrative officer at BuzzFeed. Muhlheim started his career at The Walt Disney Company, where he held various leadership roles over more than 15 years, including managing the expansion of Disney English in China. Following his tenure at Disney, Muhlheim was CFO at Helix Education and at OpenX Technologies.

Audrey Zhao was named CFO at CloudBees, an enterprise software delivery company. Zhao has experience leading technology organizations through accelerated growth and global expansion. She most recently served as SVP of finance for Cloudera. She facilitated the company’s initial public offering, merger with Hortonworks, and the acquisition by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and KKR. Prior to Cloudera, Zhao was VP of financial planning and analysis and acting CFO at SugarCRM. She also held senior finance positions at Chegg, PayPal, and PRTM Management Consulting.


“A big part of what I believe is that, fundamentally, we each have something truly unique to bring to the table. It’s that diversity that’s going to make it really fun for all of us to work together—and much more interesting and creative than if we were all made out of the same mold.”

—Instacart CEO Fidji Simo on her leadership style, as told to Fortune

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