As the 32-year-old CFO of Brex, Adam Swiecicki has a professional narrative unpopulated by the tales of economic and business hijinks that many of our CFO guests share.
Instead, Swiecicki’s forward-looking delivery seems intent on making a clean break from the CFOs of the past, whose career lessons frequently have involved the same one or two finance constituencies.Read More
“I just realized that there is a broad ecosystem of people whom Brex touches,” he observes, “and it’s really important that we keep all of them in mind.”
To Swiecicki, the phrase “stakeholder capitalism” has become much more than a buzzword du jour and indeed a guiding principle for the kickoff of his CFO career.
Having entered the CFO office from stints with investment banks and hedge funds, he realized quickly that he needed to make a “big change” when it came to his management mindset.
“I had heard about stakeholder capitalism, but I hadn’t really given it much thought until I stepped into the CFO role,” comments Swiecicki, who shortly after assuming the role of finance chief found himself engaging with not only investors and board members but also customers and employees.
“Historically, there has always been a view that shareholders and stakeholders are not aligned, but what I have come to realize is that they are very aligned when it comes to maximizing value for them both together,” reports Swiecicki.
Meanwhile, having spent more than a few hours over the past 9 months with company customers, Swiecicki seems intent on removing any doubt that such an alignment exists, particularly when it comes to serving Brex’s customers.
“The question that we like to think about is ‘What is the value that we’re creating for our customer?’—and this is really not so much a finance metric as it is a goal that the whole company can rally around,” remarks Swiecicki, who notes that executives from product management, engineering, and operations can now share the common goal of finding new value for the customer.
Once this value has been created, the ball is back in finance’s court, where the finance team must determine a pricing model hopefully appropriate to achieving an even better alignment of common goals.
Says Swiecicki: “From a pricing perspective, we want to extract some of this value for ourselves but ultimately deliver a lot of ROI for the companies that are buying our software products.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Brex … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Swiecicki: Brex is known primarily as a corporate card for start-ups. That’s how we started. Five years ago, we were pretty well known for having billboards all over San Francisco, and anyone who lived in the area knew us quite well. Over the past 4 to 5 years, though, we’ve become a lot more than that. We now have a business account, for example. Essentially, we offer companies a bank account and a credit card to give them everything that they need to get going with their business. What has happened is that a lot of our original customers grew up to become really, really large businesses—in fact, almost enterprises—and we realized that there were a lot of needs that they had that we weren’t meeting as just a corporate card.Read More
Specifically, the area that we’ve really pushed hard into is expense management—things like card-based spend management, travel, and bill pay solutions that you might use Concur for. Brex has moved pretty hard into enterprise software, building out the software suite with really the core focus being to help our companies and our customers move faster and have a much better experience with their card and spend management software. Today, I think that the primary players in the market, Amex and Concur, have most of the market share within enterprises, but we hope to change this. Most people know that when they fill out an expense report, it’s a really painful experience. They hate it. It’s miserable. We think that there’s a really big opportunity to disrupt this space and make it much, much better.
We’ve been pretty active on the fundraising side. In the 5 years that we’ve been around, we’ve raised a little over a billion-and-a-half dollars of primary capital and another $500 million of secondary funds. We did about a billion of that over the past year and a half or so on the equity side. On the debt side, we have a little bit more than a billion dollars of committed funding from our bank partners and through our securitization. Our major backers that people would know are Ribbit, Y Combinator, Lone Pine, Tiger Global, and a handful of others, so we have a pretty broad range of backers and have had good success with fundraising from investors.
“Be strategic. Finance historically was about reporting, budgeting, and forecasting. We must evolve to be thought partners to the business and agents of change. We must influence company strategy, evaluate ROI and prioritize ruthlessly, and drive cross-functional coordination to achieve our objectives.” – Adam Swiecicki, CFO, Brex
Brex | www.brex.com | San Francisco, CA