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Introducing Fortune’s 25 most innovative boards

April 19, 2022, 10:21 AM UTC

Good morning,

CFOs are strategic partners to the CEO and the board of directors. But even the most visionary CFO can only go so far in helping to advance a company if the board lacks other innovative members. The fact is some boards are more forward-thinking than others and Fortune has found out why.

The Modern Board 25 is an inaugural list of the most innovative boards of directors among S&P 500 companies. Created by Fortune and the Diligent Institute, the list ranks the top boards with the insight and strength to drive strategic change when it comes to talent, sustainability, diversity, and social issues, for example. The premise of the ranking is that innovation and high performance in these area starts with who has a seat at the boardroom table.  

No. 1 on the list is tech giant Microsoft. Innovation is part of any good tech company. But Microsoft walks the walk when it comes to the gender equality of board members, along with board expertise and board independence, and ESG.

John W. Thompson, former CEO of Virtual Instruments and Symantec, “one of the most prominent Black executives in tech,” is Microsoft’s lead independent director, according to Fortune’s report. Thompson, who joined the board in 2012, succeeded Microsoft founder Bill Gates as chairman in 2014 and held that role until 2021. (Gates left Microsoft’s board in 2020.)

There’s also representation by current and former CFOs on Microsoft’s board. Hugh Johnston, vice chairman and CFO at PepsiCo, is the chair of the audit committee. Teri List, former EVP and CFO at Gap Inc., and Charles W. Scharf CEO and President, Wells Fargo & Company, are board members. Before leading one of the biggest banks in the U.S., earlier in his career, Scharf was the CFO of Bank One Corp., CFO of the global corporate and investment bank division of Citigroup, and the CFO of Salomon Smith Barney and its predecessor company.

The top five on The Modern Board 25 list:

1) Microsoft

2) Hewlett Packard Enterprises

3) Walgreens Boots Alliance

4) Intel

5) 3M

Amy E. Hood, EVP and CFO at Microsoft, has served on the board of 3M since 2017. Joel von Ranson, a partner and global functional practice leader at executive search and leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart, recently told me what he’s hearing about CFOs and board positions. 

“CFOs are still definitely in high demand,” von Ranson said. However, as boards are grappling with challenges like the war for talent, for example, they’re looking for a range of skillsets.

“We have seen that CFOs are competing with others for seats on the board who have human capital or technology expertise,” von Ranson said. “And there’s been a little bit of a decline in the percentage of Fortune 500 directors who are CFOs in the last few years.” CFOs who often get chosen for boards are the ones who bring their financial aptitude to the table, along with other vital skill sets, he said.

See the complete Modern Board 25 report here. Maybe your company will be inspired to up its own board game.


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

The 2022 Board Effectiveness Survey, released by OnBoard, a board intelligence platform, takes a look at key challenges board directors are facing today and the role of technology in board collaboration. About 74% of boards that use board management software said they were more effective in the last 12 months, compared to 63% who didn’t use the software, according to the report. More than half of the respondents said they will use board technology in the next 18-24 months. The survey also found the shift to remote work has emphasized the need to attract younger and more diverse board members who are digital natives. The findings are based on a survey of more than 400 directors representing boards in global industries, including nonprofits.

Courtesy of OnBoard

Going deeper

Deloitte’s Technology in Focus, the third and final report in its Tax Transformation Trends series, found widespread agreement that tax professionals need to rethink their data processing systems. The research showed how technology has ushered in an entirely new age of transparency for the tax function. For example, 70% of tax leaders predicted that, in the next three years, revenue authorities will have more direct access to their systems within three years. The findings are based on a survey of more than 300 global tax and finance executives. 

Leaderboard

Sonia Jain was named CFO at Convoy, a digital freight network, effective April 25. Jain will assume the role from Convoy’s president and COO Mark Okerstrom, who has served as acting CFO since December 2020. Jain joins Convoy from Cars.com (NYSE: CARS), where she has CFO. Prior to joining Cars.com, Jain spent 10 years with Redbox/Outerwall and prior to that spent several years at both Morgan Stanley and McKinsey & Company.

Jarrod Langhans was named CFO at Celsius Holdings, Inc., (Nasdaq: CELH), maker of the global fitness drink, CELSIUS, effective April 18. Langhans will succeed CFO Edwin Negron Carballo who has decided to retire from the company. Langhans was most recently with Primo Water, serving as CFO of the European and Israel operating segments. He comes to Celsius with over 20 years of management and financial experience, beginning his career in public accounting with Cherry Bekaert.

Overheard

“Signs are emerging that 1Q earnings season may be more disappointing than we thought, particularly from a guidance/forward estimate standpoint.”

—A Morgan Stanley team of strategists wrote in a note on Monday that as the Russia-Ukraine war and inflation continue, it will likely lead to “disappointing” corporate earnings, as reported by Fortune

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