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Automation, ESG and crypto—here’s what mattered to CFOs this week

December 10, 2021, 11:33 AM UTC

Good morning,

Here’s what happened this week:

To kick off Fortune’s new series called Career Rewind, where we ask executives with interesting career paths to recount how they climbed the corporate ladder, we featured Vanna Krantz, CFO at Passport, a transportation software and payments company. Krantz previously served as the CFO of Disney Streaming Services, part of the team that launched Disney+ and ESPN+. She held various divisional CFO roles at Thomson Reuters and served as CFO at Masterclass. But to accomplish all of this, she took a risky path. Read the full story here. You might be inspired to embark on your next move.

A panel of CFOs at Honeywell, J.M. Smucker Company, Bayer, and Komodo Health discussed advancing the automation agenda for finance during Fortune’s Emerging CFO virtual conversation, in partnership with Workday, on Monday. Smucker has been on an automation journey for 24 months, incorporating its first bots in the payments and payroll areas, CFO Tucker Marshall said. Most of the finance chiefs said their companies are in the early stages of automation. “I think part of the journey of this entire dynamic we’re talking about is to get folks [in a] growth mindset versus a fixed mindset,” Mike Spencer, VP and CFO at Honeywell Connected Enterprise, said. Spencer tells his team that automation is about advancing the overall agenda for the company, he said. But sometimes “changing the mindset is one of the toughest challenges,” Spencer noted.

A group of Stanford researchers want corporate America to work towards removing uncertainty around environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) practices and metrics. “I’m really pro-diversity and really pro-climate,” David Larcker, a professor emeritus of accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business, told me. But Larcker and others in the group think there are assumptions about ESG that “need to be made explicit,” he said. That’s the basis of their thesis in the recently published the report, Seven myths of ESG. Myths listed include, “We can tell whether a claimed ESG activity is actually ESG,” and “A company’s ESG agenda is well-defined and board-driven.” Larcker shared his thoughts on how companies can address the uncertainties of ESG.

“This has been a crazy year for everything having to do with cryptocurrencies and digital assets, but also one where we’ve seen a tremendous amount of real activity,” Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics at The Wharton School, said. Yet Werback predicts that 2020 will be “even crazier” for cypto. During Wharton’s virtual press briefing on Wednesday about 2022 predictions in finance, he said CFOs should become more familiar with blockchain and crypto. “There are a few companies like Tesla, who are holding Bitcoin on their balance sheet really for ideological reasons,” he explained. “But there are reasons why companies might actually want to hold these assets—partly as a store of value as an inflation hedge, and partly for international cross border transactions.” Werbach also shared how metaverse and Web3 are going to influence the blockchain in 2022. 

Enjoy your weekend.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

A new Accenture report, Innovation Unleashed, offers insight on building a workplace culture that supports sustained growth. Innovation is defined as a "new way of doing things that adds value." Accenture examined the performance of "pacesetters," companies that have strong innovation cultures. These companies create a cycle of behaviors (actions, habits, responses), structures (processes and technology resources), and mindset (beliefs and intentions) that work together to fuel an innovate culture, according to the report. Pacesetters grew revenues 6.5x faster than their "straggler" peers during 2018–2020, Accenture found. And straggler companies missed out on 34% of its potential revenue, or $3.4 billion, compared to the pacesetter, the research found. "Leaders must absorb learnings from the past year and a half and implement change with innovation culture in mind,” Shivani Vora, head of innovation, Accenture North America, said in a statement. The report findings are based on a global C-suite survey of executives at 1,000 companies, as well as a survey of middle- and lower-management executives at 500 companies. 

Courtesy of Accenture

Going deeper

Here are a few Fortune reads for the weekend:

Shorter supply chains and higher wages will be key to better green technology, CEOs say by Maria Aspan

Stablecoins are taking over the crypto world and they’re a hot topic for Congress—here’s what they are and the fastest-rising ones to keep an eye on by Felicia Hou

Here’s how to buy digital real estate in the metaverse by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez

European VC investments outperform U.S. ones—and have over the past two decades by Jeremy Kahn

Leaderboard

Julie Cameron-Doe was named CFO at Wynn Resorts, Limited (NASDAQ: WYNN), effective in the second quarter of 2022. Cameron-Doe will succeed Craig Billings, who will become the company’s CEO early next year. She will join Wynn Resorts from Aristocrat Leisure Ltd where she has served as CFO since 2018. Cameron-Doe held senior finance roles at Aristocrat since 2013 as well as in global businesses, including Orbitz, The Walt Disney Company, and KPMG.

Brian Dong was named CFO at Greenlight Financial Technology, Inc., a fintech company that offers a money management platform for families. Dong joins Greenlight from Goldman Sachs where he served as managing director in the Investment Banking Division, advising technology companies such as Apple, eBay, Square and Qualcomm. As CFO, he will lead Greenlight’s financial and capital markets strategies as the company has surpassed $100M in annual recurring revenue with more than 4.5 million parents and kids using the platform.

Neal Fuller, CFO at AMERISAFE, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMSF), a specialty provider of workers’ compensation insurance, announced his plans to retire in 2022. Fuller will remain with the company to assist in the transition of responsibilities to his successor. AMERISAFE plans to launch an executive search for a new CFO. Fuller joined the company in September 2015 as EVP and CFO and has over 30 years of experience in leadership within the insurance industry.

David Garrett was named CFO at iECURE, a biotech company. Garrett joins iECURE from Dynacure, where he served as CFO and managed led its IPO process. Previously, he held various roles at Nabriva Therapeutics, including VP, corporate controller and head of investor relations and senior director, business planning and analysis. Prior to Nabriva, Garrett held senior-level finance roles at Covis Pharmaceuticals, Auxilium Pharmaceuticals and ViroPharma and was a manager at KPMG.

Elaine Paul was named CFO at Lyft (Nasdaq:LYFT), effective Jan. 3, 2022. Paul replaces Brian Roberts, who is stepping down but will remain an advisor until June 2022 to assist with the transition. Since 2019, Paul has served as CFO and VP of finance for Amazon Studios with responsibility for portfolio and financial planning for Amazon’s global slate of original film and television programming, studio operations, and Prime Video marketing finance. Prior to joining Amazon, Paul was CFO of Hulu for six years. Before Hulu she spent 19 years at Disney in senior finance, strategy and business development roles, including as SVP of corporate strategy, business development and technology.

Ashley George was promoted to CFO and SVP of global finance at Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group (GPG), a division of Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc. (NYSE: FBHS). George joined GPG in 2018 as VP of finance, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in finance, cross-functional leadership, business analysis and strategic planning. Prior to her current role, she was responsible for leading global FP&A for Moen North America and the global finance organization for House of Rohl. Preceding her roles with GPG, George spent 18 years in finance with Kimberly-Clark.

Edward Schlesinger was named EVP and CFO at Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW), effective Feb. 18, 2022. Schlesinger will succeed retiring CFO Tony Tripeny. Schlesinger has led the company’s corporate accounting, compliance, financial planning and analysis, shared services, and external reporting functions since 2015. He was appointed SVP in 2019 and became a member of the Senior Leadership Team in 2020. Schlesinger joined the company in 2013 as CFO of Corning’s Optical Communications segment. Prior to Corning, Schlesinger spent more than 20 years serving in various financial leadership roles.

Toby Xu was named CFO at Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE: BABA and and HKEX: 998), an online commerce company, effective April 1, 2022. Xu, deputy CFO, will succeed Maggie Wu, current CFO. Wu will continue as a partner in the Alibaba Partnership, and serve as an executive director on the Alibaba board. Xu joined Alibaba in July 2018 and was appointed deputy CFO in July 2019. Before joining Alibaba Group, he was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers for 11 years, where he joined in 1996.

Overheard

“Currently, I believe the investing public may not be getting like protections between traditional IPOs and SPACs. Due to the various moving parts and SPACs’ two-step structure, I believe these vehicles may have additional conflicts inherent to their structure.”

—Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said on Thursday, as reported by CNBC

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