Of all the CFO career routes that our finance leader guests have shared with us, very few have rendered a path as circuitous as the one blazed by Joan Hilson, CFO of Signet Jewelers Limited, the world’s largest specialty jewelry company.
When Hilson assumed the CFO role at gem giant Signet in 2019, she was entering a business that had charted several evolutionary chapters—including an early one that she knew only too well.Read More
Back in the mid-1980s, Hilson had left public accounting to become controller of a 100-store chain of jewelry stores known as Sterling Jewelers. The regional chain would soon thereafter complete an IPO that put it on a path to grow to more than 1,000 stores, a feat that it would accomplish in part through the acquisition of several chains, including Kay Jewelers. Later, the business would be rebranded as the Signet Group.
In 1992, when Hilson left the jewelry retailer to accept a vice president of finance position with Limited Brands, she had no clue that her career would eventually lead her back to the fast-growing, ambitious jeweler that had first whetted her appetite for retail. Thus, when executive and specialty jeweler were reunited in 2019, Hilson’s career journey took on the storybook quality—seldom achieved in corporate finance—that derives from the protagonist returning to close a figurative loop.
For Hilson, though, the intervening years were perhaps less of a loop and more of a 27-year stint of diligent career-building that included CFO tours of duty at Limited Brands’ Victoria Secret Stores (2003–2005), American Eagle Outfitters (2005–2012), and David’s Bridal (2014–2019).
Asked to supply us with her 2022 CFO priorities, Hilson responds: “To continue to grow my team and create an experience that allows them to grow personally as well as professionally.”
It’s perhaps not surprising to hear such team-oriented goals as the priorities of this finance leader, who, during her 1980s career chapter with the jewelry giant, became the company’s first female vice president. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Signet … what sets this company apart from its competitors?
Hilson: First and foremost, I think that it’s our culture, our vision, and our values—and our purpose of inspiring love—that really set us apart. Our talent and our people really make us what we are today and really bring the gift of love to our customers. I think that this is the competitive edge that will sustain us for the long haul.
I would also say that when we think about Signet, we think about the innovation that we bring to the jewelry industry. We have made significant investments in digital capabilities and really bringing connected commerce to our customers. We have a wonderful fleet of 2,700 stores, and now we’re taking the journeys of our customers and ensuring that they can conduct their business or their research with us anywhere—at any time they want—through our websites, through our virtual jewelry consultants, and in our stores.Read More
So, I think that innovation and these capabilities are really setting us apart from our competition and that our continued success will come from this ongoing mind-set of agility, innovation, and looking to the future for what’s best for our customers.
For me, these next 12 months will be about continuing to grow and engage with my team to create an experience for each of them that really helps them to evolve and grow as people as well as professionals. Twelve months down the road, I’d like to be able to look back and say that we really have come a long way on the path of our strategic plan for Signet and that the team feels great about the value that they have brought to our business.
“Be aware of your own brand. It will help people to understand who you are and how you think. Let them know what’s important to you as a person and as a financial leader. Let them in and lead by example. Motivate your team by showing what can be accomplished together.” –Joan Hilson, CFO, Signet Jewelers Limited
Signet Jewelers | www.signetjewelers.com | New York, NY