Where there’s change, there’s opportunity. Whenever a Fortune 500 company decides to shake up its C-suite or make a splashy new hire, there’s usually a storyline involved. If you take the time to read between the lines, it can be easy to spot windows for executive engagement.
The conclusion of Q1 is a good time to look for these opportunities, as executives proceed with rolling out the new year’s initiatives. Using our BI PRO platform, we recently analyzed new C-level hires across the Fortune 500 to spot trends and help you capitalize on the changing business landscape. Together, we reviewed more than 170 hires in Q1 alone. Here are our key takeaways:
Look for strategic and operational shifts
There’s a lot on the line for Fortune 500 companies in 2021. Many companies are leaning into the skid or looking to completely reform their business, and they’re finding new visionaries to lead the charge.
A majority (52%) of Q1 executive hires were in business strategy and operations. These high-level positions include the CEO role at both the corporate and divisional level, CFOs, COOs, and chief strategy officers.
New CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch is an example of a chief executive who led a sea change at the top. CVS has long established roots as a pharmacy chain, but the company has emerged as a more comprehensive health player, with in-house clinics, telehealth, and a role in administering COVID-19 vaccines.
But the future of CVS looks to be even bigger, due to its acquisition of health insurance provider Aetna. Lynch served as Aetna president before assuming her new position on Feb. 1. This strategic integration coincides with a plan to reenter the individual public exchange market in 2022, as Lynch discussed in a recent earnings call.
“As the [Affordable Care Act] has evolved, there is evidence of market stabilization and remedies to earlier issues,” Lynch said. “It is now time for us to participate in these markets. We will show that we can bring great value to those who seek coverage.”
Follow the tech talent
The past year has been a critical time for tech leaders in the C-suite. Between a stay-at-home economy, remote work, and the SolarWinds hack, companies are investing in their tech stack, new products, and omnichannel strategies.
More than 20% of executive hires were for technology leadership roles, such as CTOs, CIOs, and chief digital and analytics officers. For companies looking to reinvent themselves, securing top talent for these roles is paramount.
HP Inc. is one company that is looking to innovate and evolve. This time last year, the computer hardware and printer manufacturer was fresh off a hostile takeover bid from printing competitor Xerox. The bid fell through due to the pandemic, but HP was put on notice.
In the year since, HP’s stock has rallied considerably, and the company is finding new leaders for the future. In Q1, HP tapped Xerox veteran Tolga Kurtoglu as its new CTO. Kurtoglu most recently served as CEO of Xerox subsidiary Palo Alto Research Center and senior vice president and head of global research at Xerox. In his new role, Kurtoglu will serve alongside new chief strategy and incubation officer Savi Baveja.
“In these roles, they will drive cutting-edge research and incubate new business opportunities working together with the leadership team,” Enrique Lores, HP CEO, said in a February earnings call.
COVID-19 is still on executives’ minds
Though COVID-19 cases are on the decline and long-awaited vaccines are here, the pandemic and its effects still weigh heavily in boardrooms everywhere. Many are navigating how to reintroduce employees to the office strategically and safely while the vaccine rollout continues and virus variants circulate.
KPMG recently surveyed more than 500 CEOs to get their thoughts on how they see the return to normal taking shape. According to their results, nearly half (45%) of CEOs expect a return to normal in 2022. A smaller number (31%) think it will happen this year, while 24% believe their business is changed forever.
We’ve seen this dilemma manifesting in numerous ways. Some executives seek to accelerate digital initiatives and find innovative ways to support their salesforce digitally, while others are focusing on trimming costs and managing liquidity. Within these directives is ample opportunity for strategic engagement, done always with a thoughtful approach.
What they’re saying
“We look forward to the future and do so with a lot of confidence and optimism. While the pandemic continues to impact our business adversely, we have achieved positive EBITDA in both Macao and Singapore in the fourth quarter, and there's no doubt, in my mind, our business [will return] to pre-COVID levels in the future.” – Rob Goldstein, chairman and CEO, Las Vegas Sands [January 2021]
“looking ahead, we remain well positioned to fully participate in a global economic recovery. There remains, however, significant uncertainty driven by macro conditions that are beyond any of our control because the timing and magnitude of economic recovery clearly hinges on the resolution of the health crisis. We fully expect to return to positive organic growth over the course of this year and to post full year 2021 growth consistent with the industry, on top of our relatively stronger 2020 performance. But from our vantage point today, based on our bottom-up approach to building a financial plan as well as conversations with clients, it's fair to say that visibility to the full year 2021 remains challenged.” — Philippe Krakowsky, CEO, Interpublic Group of Companies [February 2021]
“The pandemic will pass, but the world has been changed forever. Technology adoption is accelerating across every industry. Companies and products need to be more remote and autonomous. This will drive data centers, AI, and robotics. This underlies the accelerated adoption of NVIDIA's technology. The urgency to digitize, automate, and accelerate innovation has never been higher. We are ready.” — Jensen Huang, founder, president and CEO, NVIDIA [February 2021]
“While we expect COVID-19 will continue to have a significant effect on the economy and our end markets, especially in the early part of the year, we expect to see the beginning of the COVID-19 recovery for our global market to start in the second quarter. It will then take a few quarters to fully realize the new normal. However, we believe that our strong new business wins, product and service innovation, investments in new hygiene and digital technologies and successful sales and profit initiatives will deliver full year 2021 earnings above 2019 results from continuing operations.” — Christophe Beck, president and CEO, Ecolab [February 2021]
Your Next Steps
We all need to be aware of how executive priorities are changing. Marketers should be focused on bringing the latest information to their account teams as it develops. Given that we employ a small army of really smart people to read and parse corporate earnings call transcripts and CXO interviews all day long, we can help by feeding you the latest.
What do you do with this information? Do what you have always done — align and support. Here are the four questions you should try to answer about all of your top accounts:
- How has their strategy/priorities shifted post-COVID-19?
- What are they cutting?
- Where are they investing--or doubling down?
- What can you offer that supports their current focus?