He was a lieutenant on a submarine for 8 years. Now Cruise’s CFO is navigating big plans for driverless cars

Portrait of Cruise CFO Bill Nash on orange background.
Cruise CFO Bill Nash.
Courtesy of Cruise

Good morning,

“If you go out in San Francisco, on any evening, we’ve got hundreds of cars that are operating without anyone behind the wheel,” Bill Nash, CFO of Cruise, an autonomous vehicle company, tells me. “I take rides a lot, probably at least every two or three weeks, to see how the service is progressing.”

Cruise, majority owned by General Motors, but a fully independent company, is based in San Francisco. The company announced in February that its fully driverless vehicles have traveled over 1 million miles. In November 2021, Cruise completed the first fully driverless ride in San Francisco. Since then, it launched the first driverless, commercial robo-taxi service in a major U.S. city, and completed its first public, driverless, paid rides in Austin and Phoenix in December. 

This year, the company plans to introduce Origin, an autonomous car without a steering wheel or pedals. Nash has taken a ride in a test vehicle. I asked him how it went.

“Sitting in the back of an Origin, I’m kind of a tall guy, so I appreciate the extra legroom,” he says, describing the trip. “It feels like you’re in a business class train scenario, and it’s driving you around. But we’ve still got some work to do in terms of bringing it to the market.”

Nash joined Cruise in 2018, serving as head of finance and accounting, and then as VP of finance, before taking on the CFO role in 2020. His philosophy as a finance chief: “CFOs have to understand the business, the challenges of the various business partners, and give them the resources to solve it,” he says. 

Life at sea and a special mentor

In our conversation, I found out he’s also an engineer, and his journey to financial leadership started at sea. “I was in a submarine underwater for three and a half months,” Nash says of his longest tour as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Submarine Force. 

A lot of time to be introspective about life? “You work so hard that you’re really just focused on what’s in front of you,” Nash recalls of the experience. And engineering projects “created plenty to do,” he says. 

His parents served in the Coast Guard, and their parents were also in the military, he says. Nash followed family tradition and attended the Naval academy for his undergraduate degree. He later earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering while in the Navy, and ran the engineering department on the submarine.   

After eight years of service in the Navy, Nash was hired at biotech company Amgen and earned his MBA, which drew him to finance. “What I liked about finance is that it’s cross-functional,” he says. Before joining Cruise, he served as senior director of finance at Oracle and Theravance Biopharma, and was the division CFO at biopharma firm UCB. 

Mentors and sponsors are essential, “even if they don’t look like you,” Nash says. Who were your mentors? “There’s been an army of folks who’ve helped me along the way,” he says. But he named a special one: “My wife is also a CFO, so I see her as a mentor as well.” Shannon Nash is the CFO of Wing, a drone delivery company and subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc.

Changing the transportation landscape

At Cruise, Nash has about 80 people under his purview, the finance team, in addition to the corporate workplace, real estate, purchasing, and strategy teams, he says. The company is in a “rapid scaling phase,” he says. “We’re going to build out the business to be able to capitalize on the opportunity we have in front of us.” 

As CFO, Nash is the strategic partner of Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt. “One of the greatest shifts that will occur in our lifetimes is going from driving to being driven,” Vogt told my Fortune colleague Phil Wahba, in a recent interview. Regarding the safety concerns about autonomous vehicles, “what we see is that a lot of people are initially pretty nervous about getting into driverless cars,” Vogt told Wahba. “But within two or three minutes of riding around, they get it. Over the next year or two, I think everybody will know someone with firsthand, on-the-ground anecdotes that will change perceptions.” 

“Our goal is to really change the landscape of transportation,” Nash says. 

And he’ll most likely be testing out each new venture for years to come. 

Enjoy your weekend.

Sheryl Estrada

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Big deal

A new Pew Research Center survey of 5,902 U.S. workers, including 5,188 who are not self-employed, explores how workers feel about their current job, and their experiences in the workplace. One of the areas of the survey was workplace benefits. Regardless of whether their employer provides it, more than half of workers (62%) say it’s extremely important to them to have a job that offers paid time off for vacations, routine doctor’s appointments, or to deal with minor illnesses. An additional 27% say this is very important to them. Meanwhile, 51% say it’s extremely important to have a job that offers employer-sponsored health insurance; 28% say this is very important, according to the report. Forty-four percent of respondents say it’s extremely important to have an employer-sponsored retirement program, like a 401(k), with 32% saying this is very important. And 43% say it’s extremely important to them to have paid parental, family, or medical leave (31% say this is very important).

Courtesy of Pew Research Center
Courtesy of Pew Research Center

Going deeper

Here are a few Fortune weekend reads:

"Marc Benioff says he can juggle empathy, cost cuts, and layoffs as he doubles down on efficiency at Salesforce" by Michal Lev-Ram

"Who is Sergio Ermotti? Switzerland’s most successful banker returns to steer the merged UBS-Credit Suisse behemoth in its time of need" by Christiaan Hetzner

"Ivy League schools are closing in on an $90,000-a-year price tag—but experts insist it’s still worth it" by Eleanor Pringle

"'I’m still alive’: Elon Musk reveals his unusual breakfast choice, joining other big-name CEOs with strange eating habits" by Eleanor Pringle and Alexa Mikhail


Here's a list of some notable moves this week:

Helen McCabe was named CFO at Rolls-Royce (LSE: RR., ADR: RYCEY), joining the company later this year. McCabe is currently SVP of finance for the customer and products division of BP, which runs the company’s customer-focused business. She also holds accountabilities for BP’s global refining portfolio. McCabe previously served as CFO of BP Downstream’s fuels and refining Europe and Southern Africa businesses. Before that, she spent four years as head of planning and performance management for the downstream division.

Alexandra Brooks was named interim CFO at Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: HTZ), effective April 1. Brooks will replace Kenny Cheung, who is leaving the company after two and a half years in the CFO role. Brooks is currently the chief accounting officer at Hertz. The company is initiating a formal search process for its permanent CFO. Cheung will remain at the company until April 14, 2023, to support the first quarter financial closing process and to facilitate a transition process.

Kenny Cheung was named CFO art Sysco Corporation (NYSE: SYY), a global food service distribution company, effective April 17. Neil Russell, who has served as Interim CFO since Jan. 6, 2023, has been appointed to the newly created position of chief administrative officer. Cheung most recently served as EVP and CFO at The Hertz Corporation, Before he was appointed CFO, Cheung served as EVP and chief operational finance and restructuring officer and in roles including SVP of global financial planning and analysis and CFO for Hertz North America. 

Erica Gessert was named CFO at Upwork Inc. (Nasdaq: UPWK), a work marketplace, effective April 25. Gessert joins from PayPal (Nasdaq: PYPL), where she held several senior leadership roles since 2015, most recently including chief transformation officer reporting to the CEO and senior vice president of finance and analytics. Before PayPal, from 2009 to 2014, Gessert served in a variety of roles for Sprint Corporation, including VP of finance for Sprint Postpaid marketing and CFO for the Sprint Prepaid business unit, as well as director of investor relations. She previously served as head of investor relations for Virgin Mobile USA from 2007 to 2009.

Adrian MitchellMacy’s, Inc. CFO, was appointed to the additional role of chief operating officer. In the combined role, Mitchell will lead the stores, technology, and supply chain teams, in addition to his existing finance and real estate responsibilities. Mitchell has served as CFO since November 2020. Before joining Macy’s, Inc., Mitchell advised retailers on growth strategies using advanced data and analytics as managing director and partner in the digital and consumer practices of Boston Consulting Group.

Anastasiya “Stasy” Pasterick was promoted to CFO at Nikola Corporation (Nasdaq: NKLA), an electric truck maker. Pasterick will succeed Kim J. Brady, who will retire as CFO effective April 7. Pasterick currently serves as Nikola’s VP and corporate controller at Nikola. Before joining Nikola in 2019, Pasterick was director of accounting operations at Erickson, Inc., and corporate controller at nLIGHT Inc. Pasterick started her career at KPMG LLP.

Tom Panther was named CFO at FleetCor Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: FLT), a global business payments company, effective May 12. Interim CFO Alissa Vickery will return to her full-time role as chief accounting officer. Before joining FleetCor, Panther served as the CFO at EVO Payments, Inc., prior to its acquisition by Global Payments Inc. Before joining EVO, he worked at SunTrust Banks, Inc. for nearly 20 years serving in numerous leadership roles including chief accounting officer.


​​"The evidence seems pretty clear that except for really unusual situations—the company is about to go under, it’s the start of the Great Recession—large layoffs actually seem to hamper the ability to restart when things improve."

—Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told Fortune in an interview on the topic of whether layoffs may be a confession of bad management

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