When Samsung acquired Stamford, Connecticut-based Harman International for $8 billion in cash in 2017, it was not the first time that the South Korean company’s appetite for convergence IP had intersected with the career path of Harman CFO Sandra Rowland.
A little more than 7 years earlier, Samsung executives had sat across the table from Rowland when she was head of corporate FP&A for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. At the time, Kodak was busily negotiating IP licensing deals with several smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, that were eager to leverage what Kodak had amassed—an inventory of more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents.Read More
“Kodak was the inventor of the digital camera, and there was a real opportunity there to leverage the intellectual property and create a key funding source,” reports Rowland, who left Kodak in 2012 after a Harman board member recommended her for a top IR role. She would enter Harman’s CFO office 2 years later.
“There’s a high correlation between investor relations and company strategy, and at Harman the role involved the execution of M&A transactions as well as the corporate strategy,” comments Rowland, who adds that IR remained her primary focus for the first six months, after which point she took on a variety of corporate development activities.
Not unlike the case during her years at Kodak, the winds of technology convergence were steadily blowing at Harman, a publicly held company specializing in designing and integrating in-vehicle technologies.
Observes Rowland: “Whether it is automotive technologies or consumer technologies, there is a lot of convergence—and people want the same experience in their cars today that they have with smartphones at home.”
Of course, Samsung’s $8 billion in cash afforded the electronics giant something more than Harman’s IP and technologies—it also acquired long-term relationships with most of the world’s largest automakers.
“As part of the transaction, Samsung’s team asked our key leaders to stay because they were new to the automotive space,” states Rowland, who as part of her agreement with Samsung remained as CFO of a newly formed Harman independent subsidiary for a period of 3 years.
It was less than 30 days beyond the expiration of her Samsung agreement that Rowland was named CFO of water technology company Xylem—thus opening a new CFO chapter for her with plenty of converging technologies to explore.
Asked about parting from Samsung, Rowland admits, “I did want to go back and become a public company CFO once again.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Xylem … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Rowland: Xylem is a really interesting company. First of all, one thing that I’d love folks to appreciate is that it truly is an enterprise that is focused on creating both economic and social value. These are hard things to balance as a public company. One of the things that makes us unique is that we really play in all parts of the water sector. We have some very strong and powerful legacy products related to pumping and transporting water as well as metering water. We’re also marrying these foundational legacy products with digital technologies to help solve water problems, whether this is with regard to the affordability of infrastructure, the affordability of solutions, or climate change resiliency, for example.Read More
There is so much going on in the world right now, with all of the droughts and floods. We see incredible opportunity for growth and incredible opportunity to create both economic and social value.
We’re just over $5 billion in revenue. We have aspirations to rack up and grow and get close to $10 billion. I think that we have a tremendous opportunity to grow organically. The water sector is quite fragmented, so this brings about opportunities for Xylem to make additional acquisitions to further round out and broaden its portfolio.
One thing that we’ve learned for sure is that the “next 12 months” is really a longer time period than it has been in the ways in which we used to think about it. Over the past few years, we’ve all learned that we had to be extremely nimble, even when we were thinking out just 12 months. At Xylem, we’ve been just incredibly proud of the team and how they’ve persevered and continued to take care of our customers over this period of global turmoil. jb
“You can make a difference through a finance career—advancing economic opportunity for underserved communities, combatting climate change, and creating a more sustainable future. But it takes a village to succeed, especially to drive change. Tap into your network, seek mentorship, and know that people are rooting for you.” –Sandra Rowland, CFO, Xylem
Xylem | www.xylem.com | Washington, DC