After Chip Zint jumped two levels in NCR Corp.’s retail division finance hierarchy, he couldn’t help but savor the moment while reflecting on the fact that his career years thus far—including nights and weekends studying for an MBA—had all been put to good use.
Still, while altitude matters when it comes to career leaps, where you land in an organization—and when—sometimes matters more. In Zint’s case, his arrival as sales finance head for NCR’s retail division coincided with the completion of one of the largest acquisitions ever undertaken by that group.Read More
“The moment I raised my hand, I was jumping into the fire,” recalls Zint, who reports that NCR faced multiple challenges when it came to assimilating the newly acquired business, not least of which were the newly merged organization’s revenue expectations.
Says Zint: “It was about grinding it out every single day and going to bed at 2:00 a.m., only to wake up and be 50 emails behind.”
As the problematic transaction took its toll on the division’s finance leadership, Zint says, one day he found himself working alongside NCR’s CFO, who had temporarily stepped in to serve as CFO of the company’s retail division.
Then came a directive for Zint to run the next “order cadence” call, a weekly conference call of NCR’s top leaders that was regularly attended by the CEO. The call was designed to have leaders from across the company update top management about the closing of orders from the week prior and the week pending.
As it turned out, on this particular week, the CEO was determined to get to the bottom of what was troubling retail.
“I sat there for over an hour answering his questions with regard to what was going wrong with certain accounts and what was being done to offset some of the negative developments,” comments Zint, who notes that years later the same CEO would recall the exchange and how he had made Zint “deliver the bad news and stand behind it.”
Having successfully helped the retail team to navigate the ups and downs of the merger’s integration challenges, Zint began seeking finance roles that would complement his FP&A experience, such as stints with the treasury and investor relations functions.
Ultimately, Zint’s 13-year career at NCR would include a turn as head of corporate FP&A for the company as well as a career chapter as a divisional CFO. Not unlike many senior executives, Zint tells us, he found that the arrival of the pandemic led him to begin reevaluating his professional aspirations.
“I was looking for a smaller public company where I could come in as #2 to the CFO and have a successor opportunity—but not entitlement,” remarks Zint, who adds that he first used an executive recruiter to help him to map out such a position in painstaking detail.
Zint remembers the recruiter’s exact words: “He said, ‘Chip, do not answer the phone unless it’s someone bringing a role to you exactly like the one you seek.’” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Deluxe … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Zint: Let me start by explaining where we are going. We are heading toward being a payments and data company that helps businesses to pay, to get paid, and to grow. This is what we’re moving toward. You’re probably going like, “Well, I don’t really know what that means,” so let me rewind the tape here for a second. You probably know who Deluxe is. We are the original check company. We’re 107 years old and best known for written checks, the personal check, the business check—that’s who Deluxe was. This is still a good piece of us.Read More
We started out as a check company, and over the years, we became a very big printing organization and even expanded into other printing avenues. We still have a big check-printing business. We also have what we call our “promo” business, which is really business forms and business essentials. These are things that businesses consume in the natural course of doing business, which means all sorts of print and paper products.
This is what Deluxe was for 90 years, and by the way, those businesses are in decline. No surprise. The physical paper check business—just like you in your life—went from paper to digital, so this began to be a declining area. Then, in the mid-2000s, Deluxe couldn’t grow anymore, so it went on a journey. Actually, it went on about a 10-year journey of acquiring about 50 different businesses, all for the sake of good multiples, providing some revenue growth, and allowing us to expand—but none of these firms really had any strategic connections with each other.
This was where we found ourselves when Barry McCarthy, who’s the new CEO, joined about 4 years ago. We had a great set of assets and a great brand with fantastic customers, but we had no connectivity and were not really going to the market as one provider. After Barry got announced as the new CEO, at his first customer meeting a client said, “Great to meet you. Which CEO are you? Are the CEO of [this product]? … [that product]? … ?” And Barry replied something like, “I’m pretty sure that I got hired to be the CEO of the whole thing.” We immediately had to go to work in sort of rebuilding the whole structure. We call it the “One Deluxe” model. We needed to bring it all together to leverage its value, which comes from individual customers and our 4,000 bank partners.
We have an incredible brand. Most people know what Deluxe is. They may think of it in the way that we now want them to, but at least they know who we are. We have Incredible sales distribution and a great sales organization. We have all sorts of bank partners, plus there are reseller capabilities and e-commerce capabilities out there. We had all of these assets that were untapped, so we’re now in the middle of a transformation. Another reason that I came here was precisely because NCR had been going through a transformation, and I had professionally grown up in that world, in watching change unfold.
Deluxe was 5 or so years behind them on their journey, so I thought that I could come in and provide a lot of strategic value. We’re on a transformation to really integrate all of these assets into one, to simplify the portfolio, to really figure out what we want to be going forward, to invest in the right things, to modernize the infrastructure, to get the org structure right, and to turn into a payments and data business that helps businesses to pay and get paid. This is the journey that we’re on here today at Deluxe. jb
“Taking risks and failing from time to time are parts of the journey. As long as you strive to be the best at the job that you are currently in, your next career opportunity will come—and you’ll be ready for it.” –Chip Zint, CFO, Deluxe
Deluxe | www.deluxe.com | Minneapolis, MN