If there’s one thing that separates managers at technology companies from their counterparts at more-traditional businesses, it is this: They go their own way.
Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that the chief financial officer at the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. — which, after all, is home to so many high-tech companies — is a bit of a maverick. In fact, David Warren, the new CFO at Nasdaq, has made a career out of going his own way.
Warren has been an investment banker. He was also deputy treasurer at the State of Connecticut. In addition, he was CFO at the Long Island Power Authority, where he helped transform the organization from a state agency into one of the largest public power authorities in the United States. Warren joined Nasdaq in January and was named acting CFO at the exchange in July. He got the job on a permanent basis in late September.
Warren says he relishes a new challenge. He’s come to the right place, then. Nasdaq is in the midst of being spun off from its parent, the National Association of Securities Dealers. Officials at the OTC specialist are also seeking to take the company public. Before that happens, however, the Securities and Exchange Commission must okay Nasdaq’s request to become a full-fledged exchange. Last week, the SEC postponed its review of that request.
In addition, Nasdaq has witnessed a drop in revenues, as a number of the tech companies on its roster have been de-listed because of shrinking market capitalization. If owners of privately held technology companies continue to avoid the IPO market, things could get even tougher for Nasdaq and its new CFO.
CFO.com recently spoke to Warren about career choices, M.B.A.s, and serial CFOs.
As you know, there’s quite a debate about what makes the best career path for CFOs. Many recruitment specialists say finance managers should stick to one industry. But you’ve had jobs in the private arena, in government, and even in the not-for-profit sector at the Nature Conservancy. Do you think working in various sectors has helped prepare you for your job at Nasdaq?
My theory is that skills and experiences are transferable. Lessons that you learn in any sector or industry are lessons you can take with you, regardless of where you go. I think the one thing for me that remains constant is that an organization is only as good as its people. You’ve got to be able to bring in good people and create an environment that lets people thrive.
For a finance manager, what are the differences in working at a public company versus working at a not-for-profit?
In a publicly owned company, the emphasis is on building shareholder value, and that’s what a CFO spends a lot of time doing. In that sense, the job is probably more defined in the for-profit world. But those challenges are still very much there in the not-for-profit sector. The problem is that it’s a little bit more diffused in terms of what the objectives really are. There are wide definitions of what would be the equivalent of “shareholder value.” In government, I found that the challenge is serving multiple constituencies that all have different ideas of what the government should do for them.