Identifying Industry Transitions to Accelerate the Business

Identifying Industry Transitions to Accelerate the Business

By Bob Swan, SVP, Finance & CFO, eBay

Bob Swan, SVP, Finance & CFO, eBay

One of the things I love about my job is how the role of the CFO has continued to evolve to be more and more strategic over time. Historically, the CFO was seen as the mere “bean counter” and has since evolved to a strategic partner to the CEO, driving strategies to “grow the beans.”

At eBay we believe that the best way to create long-term shareholder value is to stay focused on the customer, understand how your business fits within broader industry trends, and listen and engage with employees.

Focus on the customer: Today, much of my time is spent with our customers. Speaking with them allows us to understand their needs and have a deeper understanding of future trends in commerce and payments. This enables us to be better partner and drive success in the markets in which we operate.

Understand the industry: Technology has sped up the pace of change across industries and as a strategic business partner, CFOs must be an expert at spotting industry transitions and using market inflection points to accelerate their business. Innovating, executing and delivering great results are hallmarks of the most successful CFOs.

"Speaking with customers allows us to understand their needs and have a deeper understanding of future trends in commerce and payments"

Specific to eBay, my team has helped transform the company from a startup to a $16 Billion company that is well positioned for ongoing success. We always take a look at where the market is going and ask ourselves: “Where is the market headed and which assets will we need as a company to enhance the role we play in commerce? How are we expanding the role we are playing in the industry to gain share and make the right decisions to create value for shareholders?” By asking these questions, we’re able to make strategic business decisions that can help to fuel growth and allow us to maintain our leadership position.

A perfect example is merger and acquisition activity. In the past five years, eBay has completed 37 acquisitions. With each acquisition, we strategically identify companies that have the technology and talent that can be added to help accelerate our business. As the CFO, my job is to ensure these companies enhance our growth strategy.

For instance, if you take a look at the recent PayPal innovations, you can see how we’ve integrated technology from acquisitions into our products. In our digital wallet, we leverage the credit card scanning technology from card.io. We’ve also used Fig Card’s technology and expertise in mobile POS to build out our PayPal Here offering. At the same time, we’re taking the talent and deploying them throughout the business, having them work on interesting and strategic projects.

Engage with employees: Internally, my team has continued to focus on engaging employees and helping them to understand the health of our business. Over time, we’ve learned that the best possible way to be the best business partner is to make everything we do extremely simple. We all know that finance can be complex with new accounting rules or complexity within our own business. At the end of the day, the best way for us to be a great partner is to embrace the complexity, but simplify it.

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