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CFO of the Year
Di Lewis, Heather Stewart, Sarah Ryther Francom
June 1, 2012
As Utah’s CFOs confront a struggling national economy, turmoil in the financial markets and stringent compliance requirements, our CFO of the Year award recipients play an increasingly critical role in securing their corporation’s future. These CFOs take on a strategic, communicative leadership role, acting as a partner with the CEO while providing sound fiscal guidance to ensure their company’s short- and long-term success. Join us as we honor these dynamic leaders who are crucial to the success of some of Utah’s most esteemed organizations.
Joseph W. Baty
EVP and CFO, Schiff Nutrition International, Inc.
From the first day of his first accounting class, Joseph Baty knew he wanted to go into the accounting industry. He says it was obvious that understanding cash flow is critical to building successful businesses and he wanted that responsibility.
After receiving his bachelor’s in accounting and becoming a CPA, Baty spent 12 years with KPMG, eventually becoming a partner. He’s been with Schiff Nutrition International since January 1997 and was named CFO about three years later. Baty enjoys being involved in all aspects of the business. In addition to overall responsibility for finance, IT and accounting, he has direct interaction with research and development, marketing, operations, and sales.
Baty’s oversight in the last several years has guided Schiff through many large transactions. In the last year, the company closed two acquisitions with an aggregate purchase price of $190 million. It also has multiple commitments to underwrite the $150 million acquisition of Airborne. Schiff also distributed almost $100 million in special dividends to stockholders during the four-year period ending May 31, 2011.
But Baty refuses to take credit.
“Whatever I have accomplished has clearly been a team effort,” he says. “I learned a long time ago that your odds for success increase dramatically if you surround yourself with high-quality people.”
That team has helped Baty as the role of CFO continues to evolve. He says he’s witnessed a lot of change during his tenure as CFO. Today, an effective CFO must work beyond the accounting function and be actively engaged in all the key parts of the business. “Continue to grow as a communicator—the CFO role today is not just about accounting. To be effective you need to communicate with all functions of the company.”
During his 15 years with Schiff, Baty says he’s worked with five different CEOs, who all brought their own approach to business. Working with so many different people and viewpoints has been a fun and challenging ride, and Baty says he enjoys the relationships he’s built with the many individuals he’s worked with.
Through all of that, Baty says he follows three main principles: cash is king, under-promise and over-deliver, and full transparency with no ethical gray areas. Those principles have guided Baty and the company through the best three years in the company’s history, even as the economy struggles. His focus on “cash is king” played a large role in making sure Schiff was in a good position to grow.
CFO and COO, Ancestry.com
Howard Hochhauser has provided incisive financial acumen to Ancestry.com during a period of unprecedented growth and change. He joined the company as CFO in January 2009, and since that time Ancestry.com completed its $100 initial public offering, along with two $100 million follow-on offerings. And from 2010 to 2011, the company’s revenue grew nearly 33 percent to $399.7 million.
Hochhauser says the role of a CFO is to “help funnel capital and other resources to the areas that provide the highest risk-adjusted return.” Such strategic choices help lay the foundation for further growth. For example, he was instrumental in Ancestry.com paying in full an outstanding credit facility and securing a new $100 million credit facility.
With such strong financial guidance, Ancestry.com has been able to focus on developing new tools and technologies for its 1.7 million paying subscribers. Its latest offerings facilitate social networking and crowd sourcing, enabling users to collaborate with relatives across the globe. Its mobile app has been downloaded 2.7 million times so far.
“I always keep a real person in mind when we are thinking about writing our financials or reacting to a new product,” says Hochhauser. “I always like to think, ‘Would my mom understand this? Would my mom use this?’”