A dozen years ago, if you had told Ryan Gwillim that within the next decade he would be named CFO of the Brunswick Corporation, he may have laughed. At the time, he was an associate with law firm Baker & McKenzie who was spending his days traveling the globe to advise legal clients as an M&A transaction guru.
However, over the next decade, Gwillim and Brunswick would together find a common groove as each embarked on a journey of transformation. For Brunswick—a 155-year-old conglomerate—the evolutionary arc would trigger a flurry of historic M&A activity that included the sale of its marquee bowling center business (2014) while at the same time advancing its steady stroke into marine products. For Gwillim, the transformation chapter would put an end to his vagabond existence while landing the seasoned M&A attorney inside Brunswick’s corporate counsel office in 2012.Read More
It would be little more than 5 years later, after a steady progression of internal M&A projects, that Gwillim would be asked by Brunswick’s CFO to step into the role of vice president of investor relations.
“From September 2017 to about the summer of 2019 was one of the most volatile times in Brunswick’s history, and here I was, along with the management team, becoming the face of storytelling for the investment community,” explains Gwillim, who characterizes the period as one when Brunswick once-and-for-all “closed the books on its conglomerate viewpoint.”
Determined to focus investor attention on the company’s promising future in marine technology products, Brunswick accelerated efforts to jettison businesses procured during its conglomerate years, such as a struggling fitness operation that had been undermining investor confidence in the company.
Along the way, Gwillim would become a primary driver of the Brunswick transformation as he helped to manage investor expectations as well as the financial levers that would allow the company to find its footing while opening its post-conglomerate chapter.
As it turned out, the beginning of Brunswick’s post-conglomerate life coincided with the completion of the seasoned-M&A-attorney-turned-IR-executive’s own transformation chapter. Appointed as Brunswick’s vice president of finance and treasurer in 2019, Gwillim would be named Brunswick CFO only a year later.
“We are completely different from what we were 10 or 15 years ago,” reports Gwillim, sharing a thought that one could argue applies to the CFO as well as to the company. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Brunswick Corporation today … what sets this company apart?
Gwillim: We are a completely different organization than we were 10, 15 years ago. We are now a much more narrowly focused marine recreational technology company that really owns everything around the water, including the boat, the engine parts and accessories, a boat club, and a freedom boat club, which is a fantastic part of our offerings.
We really succeed in focusing on technology and capital spending, R&D spending, on things not only that people want but also that will drive a profit for the company and for the shareholders.
We are the market leader at Mercury Marine outboard engines. We are a market leader in some of our boat categories. We believe that we have the biggest parts and accessories business in the world. And we have the biggest boat club.Read More
Our public guidance this year is to get to about $7 billion in revenue. Last year was the best year in company history, and we believe that this year will top that. This has been on the back of making very strong decisions on the portfolio and having very good execution in all of our business lines. Our CEO, Dave Foulkes, has put together a management team that is all moving in the same direction. I try to avoid “we’re all rowing in the same direction” because that’s too easy of a boat pun, but we are indeed all moving in the same direction in understanding what it takes to succeed in this environment.
We are primarily B2B. We sell our boats to dealers. We sell our engines to other boat OEMs or to dealers or distributors. We do most of our sales to our business partners. The inventory in the field all over the world is extremely low, so we know that we can run our facilities pretty hard over the next, really, years. Even with the basic assumption that retail is going to be flat, or flat to slightly up, or slightly down, or wherever you want to put it, as long as it’s not too far out on either end of the spectrum, it’s going to take quite a bit for us to put more net inventory into the field. We have probably more visibility today than we’ve ever had.
We believe that the end-use customers, our core retail customers, the people who are buying our products from our channels, are still quite healthy today, but we’re all watching Wall Street and what’s going on in the news. There’s obviously more uncertainty today than there was maybe 12 months ago, but at the end of the day, our core customer remains relatively healthy and, we are supportive of that retail environment.
Brunswick Corporation | www.brunswick.com | Mettawa, IL