No. of Recommendations: 51
There can be a million reasons for these departures, so take this post with a huge grain of salt. I don't want to troll or throw reckless FUD on Square. I have no agenda. I recently sold after Jack's misadventures in Myanmar and am tracking the company to explore the validity of trusting my intuition. I continue to find the company's culture troubling. Of note, another reason I'm posting this is because I think that investing is much more intuition than most of us want to admit. Three geniuses can all come to wildly different valuations on the same company. It's only intuition, really, that can figure out if the fortune is behind curtain 1, 2 or 3.

Onto business...

SQ, of course, recently lost Sarah Friar - superstar CFO. Now they lose their Head of Product Development, Mary Kay Bowman. Like with insider sales, when execs depart it could be entirely meaningless. They got better offers, time to move, etc. But it is never an inherently good thing. And it could be a bad thing. Here we have a fast growing company operating in a space with a massive TAM and two major - major - players leave in the early innings. Fine - one took a CEO job, one moved to VISA, both could have left for a million valid reasons. No doubt. But both also know better than any of us what the future looks like for SQ. And both left. These are objective facts.

You probably heard that Square hired the CFO of Activision. That sounds comforting. But I just poked around a bit and found some curious things. Her name is Amrita Ahuja and she has an impressive resume/education. BUT - get a load of this. She was only the CFO of ATVI since March. That's odd. Maybe ATVI is a mess and she wisely jumped ship. But you do wonder how someone throws her name in the hat for SQ when they just took such a massive job. So, then I found this link on Reddit about her move and one comment twisted my under britches. I edited it for brevity ...

https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/acc0tc/mo...

... But the panelist I was by-far most surprised to see was the company's CFO: Amrita herself! I was struck by the things she said, because she told her story of how she got the position, and spoke with such passion about how excited she was by opportunity to join Blizzard. She seemed to be so authentically hype to be a part of the company and community...

And then it was just a couple weeks later that the Kotaku article was posted that name-dropped her specifically as the person who at their Spring meeting last year said they would be seeking to cut costs. And when I saw that I felt, on some level, like....I had been duped by this person.

And now this happens, and I just don't really know what to think anymore about this person that 2 months ago I saw for the first time and thought was a positive, authentic person, but now seems to be just another soulless, spreadsheet-worshiping, money-chasing corporate ghoul :/


Gosh that's interesting. The gaming community is a very tight knit community that takes gaming very seriously. And here is a poster who is a big ATVI fan who is real impressed by Amrita's seeming passion, which turns out to feel false. Gosh.

In this CNBC article, Dorsey sites her "entrepreneurial qualities"

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/03/square-hires-amrita-ahuja-as...

Dorsey told CNBC that Ahuja rose to the top of the search for Square’s Board of Directors given her entrepreneurial qualities. Ahuja has held various roles at Activision Blizzard in her eight years there including: SVP of Investor Relations and VP of Finance and Operations.

Here's her LinkedIn resume...

https://www.linkedin.com/in/amrita-ahuja-2402595/

Entrepreneurship plays a role - she has worked with start ups. But it doesn't jump off the page the way it might if she sold a company for 100M that she built. Seems like a track record working up the ladders of giant corporations. There is nothing wrong with that and it likely means she is very talented and intelligent. But...

The bottom line is two major execs leave the company and one comes in with virtually no experience as a CFO. And I think she is only 39. Of interest, the Reddit thread suggests she is ruthless in terms of cutting costs. Might there be some cost cutting coming to Square? (Again, could be a good thing!)

Lastly, let me play with fire - I do notice she is a very attractive young woman as is Sarah Friar. I will say NOTHING about this other than I find it interesting in light of Dorsey's recent escapades. You can do with this comment what you will. I will not comment on it further.

For my taste, again, this doesn't feel right. And this is not just foo-foo emotional talk it's a gut feeling I notice in the most elite business, entertainment and sports leaders of all the time. I like teams that stay together for a long time because I believe it makes them better. The better you know people, the more you trust them, the harder you fight by their side. People that come to mind include Jayshree Ullal (ANET), Dheeraj Pandy (NTNX), Reed Hastings (NFLX), Bill Belichick, Khabib Nurmagemedov and his dad (UFC), and the Chicago Cubs - whose joy of playing and brohood was evident in every play of their miraculous 2016 World Series championship season. And the other greatest triumph-over-a-hex, Mark Messier's leadership of the New York Rangers in 1994. Legendary film directors like the Coen Brothers and Coppola work with the same actors and musicians. The Rolling Stones are still freaking banging out 100M+ tours!

Anyway, forgive the long post, I don't have time to write a shorter one.

Fool On,

The Intuitive Investor,

BroadwayDan

P.S. My intuition also tells me the major contributors to this board and the NPI board - whose aggregate intellect and generosity of spirit/time is astounding - are the best in the investment world, period. The rallying to process the news of Amazon coming after MDB is truly awesome. And I'm sure I speak for many lurkers when I say thank you to the heavy hitters here who post real, elite analysis. It is massively appreciated.
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Just a couple of quick points:

From a Variety article, "Ahuja has been with Activision Blizzard in numerous finance and strategy roles for the past eight years. These include Vice President of Finance and Operations and Vice President of Strategy and Business Development." So, it's not like she just joined Activision a few months ago and immediately turned around and left.

From the same article, there does appear to be turmoil in the finance dept., though I have no idea it had any effect on Ahuja: "Ahuja’s departure from Blizzard is the second high profile exit from Activision Blizzard this week. On Jan. 2, Netflix announced that Spencer Neumann — previously CFO of games company Activision Blizzard and a former Disney finance exec — was joining the company as chief financial officer. Reports of Netflix’s hiring of Neumann hit late Monday, after Activision Blizzard said in a regulatory filing that it was planning to fire Neumann. On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard said Neumann was 'terminated for cause for violating his legal obligations to the company,' an indication the company believes he breached his employment agreement."
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No. of Recommendations: 5
I think you are way over-thinking this. Mary Kay Bowman was head of payments BTW...not product development.
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Rundog - My point was just that she has no real experience as CFO. I respect your point that she's not just hopping mindlessly from company to company.

PLynchJR (Great name first of all) - my bad! sincere apology to the board. But I did see this regarding Mary Kay Bowman's new job at Visa, must have tweaked my brain...

https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/33199/visa-poaches-squa...

In her new role she will lead Visa’s strategy for acceptance products and services to "transform the payment experience for both sellers and consumers".

Says Visa: "This is a critical role, as the point of sale is undergoing dramatic change as it shifts from traditional payment acceptance to digital, cross-channel payment experiences."


Seems like a serious player.

Look, you might be right. I may be spouting drivel. I think the financial metrics of a company are the most important thing. And understanding the product/moat is second. I'm just exploring signals that I feel are there for all to see but not respected. I'm picking up one here. It could be noise not a signal. But we all need our filters and not all can be based on deep analysis. Ludicrous as it sounds, two of my best investments have been NFLX and TTD, both came from 1) Fool rec 2) Watching interviews with CEOs for about ten minutes. And sensing a superior combination of intellect, leadership skills, toughness and charisma.
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No. of Recommendations: 5
Hi Broadway,

ATVI is a mess right now. They have execs leaving right and left.

Mike Morhaime is leaving in April, Bungie just left, They lost two CFO's who Amrita is one of them. It looks like ATVI is the one who has the problem

Lastly, let me play with fire - I do notice she is a very attractive young woman as is Sarah Friar. I will say NOTHING about this other than I find it interesting in light of Dorsey's recent escapades. You can do with this comment what you will. I will not comment on it further.

We are investing right? Do you really care how anyone that is taking a position looks like? If she was ugly would that make her more reliable or a better employee. Employer: " Ma'am we only hire one legged bald blind women" Woman: "Can I come back tomorrow so I can get ready for my interview"

Sorry Broadway but I couldn't resist. :)

Andy
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I am saying that some companies seem more inebriated with lesser qualities of the human experience. And factor in star power. My guess is SQ is one of these. Point being I think it's within the realm of possibility she is not the best candidate but the most telegenic. Admittedly pure speculation. I realize she has a very impressive resume. And may absolutely be a genuinely brilliant executive, star and wonderful person. This is the fun of the market, we get to watch the story play out in real life. I just like a different vibe is all. End of day, it's people that make up companies and I detract points for certain qualities that strike me as hyped. Again, I'm more of a Jayshree Ullal kind of guy. I think her charisma, integrity, intellect, honesty and authenticity combined with hard won veteran experience are more likely to inspire troops into battle. And I believe her story, that she feels she found a better mousetrap.
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No. of Recommendations: 24
Hey guys, let's be realistic about this. Sarah Friar left to be the CEO of a little start-up. I wrote at the time that I couldn't understand the decision. Maybe she just wanted to be a CEO, but I thought a better decision career wise would be to move to a CFO position at a much larger firm and then move to a CEO position.

But Mary Kay Bowman got an offer from VISA (!), for God's sake. That's a huge advancement! Wouldn't you take it? I don't see how that is a negative for Square's reputation. Maybe it's even a plus for them. And the share price didn't budge when that was announced.

Best,

Saul
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No. of Recommendations: 0
My point is the new CFO has little experience in the role of CFO. And some question her authenticity while in the role at ATVI. I always appreciate hearing how much, or how little, you value this stuff. Case closed. I didn't want this to take up a bunch of space.
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No. of Recommendations: 11
People climbing the corporate ladder is not a minus IMHO. As has been pointed out the comment in reddit is inaccurate. She was in ATVI for 8 years not just joined. Yes she was CFO for only 11 months but she has been VP of Finance for 2.5 years, has a BA Econ from Harvard, and has held numerous business dev/strategy positions. So, seems well qualified. Again CFOs have to do tough things like cost cutting even if they dont like it. The reditt comment again is off-mark. BTW Sarah Friar is about the same age as Amrita, was not a CFO prior to SQ and had 1 year of experience as SVP, Finance before she joined SQ.
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No. of Recommendations: 0
All good points, Texmex. I may buy back in. I appreciate your thoughts and the thoughts of the board very much. FWIW, my method is Saul/This Board/Fool Newsletters/Bert/Own Gut in that order. I may be trusting the 5th and least important too much here.

All, let's kill this thread. Thx.
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No. of Recommendations: 5
1) Dan I disagree with your take but I'm glad you brought up your concerns. A recent Motley Fool podcast brought up concerns about Square's culture after observing red flags there too: https://www.fool.com/podcasts/answers/2018-12-11-culture-cru...

2) Saul, I agree with this:

But Mary Kay Bowman got an offer from VISA (!), for God's sake ... I don't see how that is a negative for Square's reputation. Maybe it's even a plus for them.

Visa also owns a stake in SQ. This could be another thing that brings the two companies closer together, which could be very positive for SQ.

Matt
Long SQ
Phoenix 1 Contributor
MasterCard (MA), PayPal (PYPL), and Square (SQ) Ticker Guide
See all my holdings at http://my.fool.com/profile/TMFCochrane/info.aspx
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No. of Recommendations: 3
“ Of note, another reason I'm posting this is because I think that investing is much more intuition than most of us want to admit.”

So agree with this statement. Understanding the financials is a great and necessary foundation at all times, but it’s the added ability to trust your gut, to open up to your intuition that for me makes all the difference.

I’m an entrepenuer, I currently own 4 businesses, have owned as many at 9 now. When people ask me for advice when thinking of leaving the corporate world to open their own business, I always tell them that they need to have this other ability that all successful entrepenuers have. You have to put the pen down and get up from the desk and jump into all the other senses. The ability to read beyond what’s obvious.

It’s not just black and white, it’s the ability to see the gray.


Only reason I’ve been so successful, I see the grays.


Chris
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Don’t wanna belabor the thread but wanna be clear where I landed after further review. Not my people. I wish all Fools luck though with the pick. I always root for Fools to make cash.
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Saul: But Mary Kay Bowman got an offer from VISA (!), for God's sake. That's a huge advancement! Wouldn't you take it? I don't see how that is a negative for Square's reputation. Maybe it's even a plus for them. And the share price didn't budge when that was announced.

Ah, but what if they are poaching her to hurt SQ and to figure out how to beat them.

Miami Dolphins want to hire the Defensive Coordinator of the Patriots, they get a little inside info AND maybe make the enemy weaker. Maybe.

Pete
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Ah, but what if they are poaching her to hurt SQ and to figure out how to beat them.

Square is not a competitor to Visa. In fact, if anything, Square is a catalyst for Visa, as it enabled more merchants to accept Visa's products. Also, Visa owns a fairly large (maybe 10%, but don't quote me on that) stake in SQ.

Matt
Long SQ
Longer-suffering Dolphins fan
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