520: Inside the Arena Makeover | Kevin Lind, CFO, Arena Pharmaceuticals

Listen to the Episode Below (00:43:54)

Up until about three years ago, Kevin Lind would likely have been identified as just another gifted private equity executive capable of issuing business remedies from the tip of his tongue.

Or at least this may have been true in the minds of his CFO peers, who are accustomed to listening to PE pundits routinely hand down such remedies for ailing businesses. For Lind, the CFO office at Arena Pharmaceuticals is a game changer, a nexus where he no longer hands down remedies but serves as a finance leader–an individual tasked with summoning others forward and building trust across an organization even as he or she sometimes completes necessary layoffs.

“Good drugs can succeed in spite of bad management, and bad management can fail despite good drugs,” explains Lind, who says that the frequent mismatch led him to want to get “one step closer” to management decision-making. Lind would take that one step after receiving a call from Amit Munshi, CEO of Arena Pharmaceuticals.

At first, Lind was less than interested, as Arena’s past struggles were not unknown to him, but Munshi encouraged him to take a close look at the company’s pipeline.  “From an investment point of view, the pipeline was really interesting, and there was a turnaround opportunity if we got the right management team together,” recalls Lind, who adds that knowing that Arena was a turnaround–and not a standard CFO tour of duty–made it far more appealing.  —Jack Sweeney


Guest: Kevin Lind

Company: Arena Pharmaceuticals

Headquarters: Boston, MA

Connect: www.arenapharm.com

CFOTL: As Arena underwent a restructuring, did you seek to rework the reporting function in some way?

Lind: Like a lot of companies, we live and die by reports, just because we need to understand the business. When there are 35 people in a conference room, it’s easy to understand what’s going on, but as we grow to 200 and then 300, we can’t know everything, so with the reports, we definitely look at budget-to-actuals. We spend a lot of time interacting. We have our finance team embedded with our clinical team to make sure not only that we’re accruing for the clinical trials appropriately from an accounting perspective, but also that we’re forecasting appropriately so that we understand what the burn is going to be going forward.

Obviously, we are paying a lot of attention to what the analysts are saying about us, so we get lots of reports on that. We have a pretty open and collaborative environment here.

There aren’t a lot of things that go to the board that haven’t been seen by the rest of the organization. We feel like more information–as long as it’s appropriately curated, so that it doesn’t become data overload–more data definitely helps folks to do their job better. On the accounting side, we have just implemented a new ERP system, but we have actually shrunken the ERP down. We had a system that was a little bit too big for what we needed today, so we’ve implemented a new ERP, a new budgeting system. On the clinical side, a lot of that infrastructure had to be upgraded and changed. It’s funny–at one point, we had more servers than employees. We’ve now moved everything up to the cloud. jb