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There was a time when Glynis Bryan imagined herself someday retiring from Ryder System, Inc.—a company she entered as an intern and would later exit as a senior vice president. Along the way, she credits the transportation logistics giant with having exposed her to complex M&A transactions and innovative capital structures—two areas that she believes have made a hefty contribution to her post-Ryder success as a CFO. However, the Ryder experience she recalls most fondly was inside the FP&A function at what was her first destination on a finance career journey and one that has served her well at Insight Enterprises, Inc. There, shortly after being appointed CFO in 2007, she energized her team’s FP&A ambitions and set a course that would forever transform the technology services company’s notion of strategic finance. “I think of the FP&A function as being the road map within the finance function that helps each one of the senior leaders across the organization by supplying them with tools and actionable data that they can use to see where the business is going,” she observes. Meanwhile, in 2012, Insight overhauled its internal systems, establishing a single platform from which to integrate acquisitions and satisfy its appetite for growth and helping the company to better unite its North American and Asia-Pacific operations. It’s a platform that Bryan has gotten to know well as she routinely weighs the obstacles and advantages that future merger partners may bestow. ¤
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Guest: Glynis Bryan
Company: Insight Enterprises, Inc.
Headquarters: Tempe, AZ
CFOTL: Tell us about a time when your lines of sight into the organization allowed you to see an important opportunity or risk—what we call a finance strategic moment.
Bryan: Because of our focus on M&A recently, I’ll go back to a period of time in 2008 when I had just joined. We did an acquisition that was not a good cultural fit. At the time, maybe we didn’t realize that it wasn’t a good cultural fit, but that acquisition was not a very successful acquisition for us. We didn’t do acquisitions for a couple of years after that. Through our strategic planning process, we determined that we really needed an M&A strategy—we need to be good at M&A.
And so we used that acquisition, which was such a colossal failure—not because of the business that we acquired, but just because our two cultures were so very different. We came to the conclusion that there are three criteria that we now use when we look at acquisitions.
The first one is, What is the strategic fit? How does it fit in with the strategies that we’re going to be driving and that we want to drive for the future?
The second one is, What is the cultural fit? How do they treat their teammates; how do those teammates behave among and with each other? Where does the customer fit in their hierarchy? How do they treat their partners? We go through a whole series of meetings with the executive leadership team of the target to be able to make that assessment. It’s not what they have on the walls. It’s really the dialog that you have with the executive team.
The third one is financial: Does it meet our economic hurdles and the returns that we need for each transaction?
We have to go through that process. The cultural and strategic fit are the two critical things for us before we get to the financials.
We did an acquisition in 2018—I think we closed in September of 2018—which was in a new line of business for us. It’s our digital innovation solutions group. Digital innovation acquisitions are more expensive, on a multiples basis, than most Insight trades today. So anytime we’re making one of those acquisitions, it becomes really critical for us to determine the fit. It’s all about services and solution executives and technical engineers and architects and app developers. We have to be able to retain the people. And in order to be able to retain the people, we actually have to look each other in the eye and come to a meeting of the minds with regard to the culture of the company.
So we acquired Cardinal after a year, and I would say that four of our senior executives, including myself, were out there in the first meeting with the target, looking them in the eye to make the determination about whether this was a cultural fit and then, as we go through the process, meeting other leaders to be be able to make that determination.
Cardinal has come into our portfolio in September. It’s been a short period of time, so you could argue that it’s still in the honeymoon period, but it is by far the best acquisition that we have done in recent years. By far the best acquisition, and I think part of that is related to two things: One, it was an excellent cultural fit for us. We talked about our values, what they actually lived, the videos that they showed us about how they live their values. That’s one. And the second thing is that they do really, really well financially.
Usually when you do an acquisition, that first cut-over from their company, kind of integrating into our company or any company, that’s really where stuff falls out. We had to make sure that we could do a white glove treatment so that we retained all of the employees, and we have been amazingly successful with Cardinal. ¤