Software startup Celonis has hired Guido Torrini as its first CFO to help the company accelerate its operations at a crucial point in its growth.
Meanwhile, Canadian metal distributor Russel Metals is on the hunt for a CFO to replace long-time finance chief Marion Britton, who is retiring next year, and Dutch grocer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV is looking for a CFO to replace Jeff Carr, also leaving next year.
The moves signal the heightened expectations companies have of their finance chiefs to help them move forward. "CIOs, CMOs and even CEOs increasingly recognize the importance of having a system to accelerate your operational performance,” Alexander Rinke, Celonis co-CEO, told the Wall Street Journal last week.
Celonis, with offices in New York City and Munich, Germany, provides software to help companies speed up their data mining and business processes. The company launched in 2011 and has brought in about $80 million in funding, putting its valuation at $1 billion — the point at which startups that want to go public can start to seriously consider it.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, company executives didn't say whether an IPO is in the works, but Rinke said Torrini's international experience with both public and private companies will be an important factor going forward.
Torrini echoed that. “There’s definitely an opportunity to continue to grow at the pace equal or faster to what we’ve been growing so far,” Mr. Torrini told the Journal. “We want to build a large global company, and everything else—more offices or employees—will just be a function of that.”
Ahold seeks e-commerce growth
Part of Dutch grocer Ahold's future is in e-commerce and it's looking to a new CFO to help it succeed in that space.
“This is something they need to focus on because the market is transforming,” Robert Jan Vos, an analyst at ABN Amro NV, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Vos said that Ahold, which owns the Food Lion and Stop & Shop grocery chains, only generates 2.3% of its sales online in the U.S.
While helping the company move online, the CFO will have to simultaneously help the company cut labor and other costs. The company said it's looking for a candidate with a CV of strong international experience who can help it pursue comparable sales growth and market-share gains while driving down costs, resulting in a cumulative saving of just shy of $2 billion by 2021, according to the Journal.
“The CFO at Ahold typically gets quite involved in overseeing the annual cost savings program,” Bruno Monteyne, head of investment bank Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd.’s European food retail unit, said in the Journal. “That is critical to stay competitive in any mature food retail market.”
Russel faces uncertain environment
At Russel Metals, the challenge will be to find a CFO who can fill the shoes of Britton, who has been in one finance capacity or another at the company since 1994. “She’s been planning this a long time,” John Reid, chief executive of the company, said in the Journal.
Russel is one of the largest metals distribution and processing companies in North America, according to the company. It distributes steel products and conducts its distribution business in three segments: metals service centers, energy products and steel distributors.
The new CFO will face a highly uncertain environment, not helped by up-and-down U.S. tariff policy that makes planning difficult.
During Russel’s most recent quarter, the U.S. lifted a 25% steel tariff on Canadian and Mexican products. That shift, according to the Journal, “lowered steel prices and returned Russel’s earnings to levels seen before the change in tariffs as the company charged less for its products.”
As at the other companies, the CFO will be tasked with helping the company pick its way through changes shaking up its markets.