GM CFO Dhivya Suryadevara leaves for San Francisco tech company

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara is leaving the automaker to become CFO of San Francisco-based Stripe, a global technology company that handles online billing and payments.

Suryadevara, GM's first female CFO, was appointed to the position in September 2018. In this role, she was responsible for leading the company’s global financial and accounting operations.

Dhivya Suryadevara

John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named acting global CFO, effective Saturday while GM conducts an internal and external search for the next CFO, GM said Tuesday.

Suryadevara, who made $6.77 million as GM's CFO in 2019, is joining Stripe after the recent appointments of Mike Clayville, formerly of Amazon Web Services, as Stripe’s chief revenue officer, and Trish Walsh, previously at Voya Financial, as general counsel.

“Dhivya is a rare leader who has run an industry-leading leviathan but also gets excited about enabling the brand-new products and the yet-to-be invented products, too”, said John Collison, co-founder of Stripe, in a statement.

Stripe offers a payment infrastructure for the internet. Companies use Stripe's software to accept payments, send payouts and manage their businesses online.

With the shift to online purchasing during the pandemic, Stripe claims it soon will have paid out $10 billion to customers that joined Stripe since March.

“I’m very excited to join Stripe at a pivotal time for the company. Stripe’s mission to increase the GDP of the internet is more important now than ever,” Suryadevara said in a statement.

Hiring Suryadevara could be a a precursor to an initial public offering, but Collison told The Financial Times he had no “near-term” plans to take the company public.

Stripe is Silicon Valley's most valuable start-up with a valuation from earlier this year of $36 billion, which it achieved after raising $600 million in new funding, Axios first reported in April.

"Fintech is big right now and they are in payments and that is a just a growing, thriving area ... naturally there's a lot of opportunity in that industry and this company is up and coming," said David Kudla, CEO and Chief Investment Strategist of Mainstay Capital Management LLC. "They may be getting ready for an IPO and ... certainly her background would be instrumental in that. There's tremendous opportunity and probably a lot of excitement that comes along with getting involved with a company like this."

GM CEO Mary Barra called Suryadevara "a transformational leader in her tenure as CFO," adding in a statement: "She has helped the company strengthen our balance sheet, improve our cost structure, focus on cash generation and drive the right investments for our future."

Just two months into her tenure as CFO, Suryadevara helped Barra lead a restructuring of the company to save $6 billion through $4.5 million of cost reductions.

GM has transformed its global operations by closing assembly and propulsion plants, reducing salaried and salaried contract staff by 15% — which includes 25% fewer executives, and exiting unprofitable markets outside of North America.

The pandemic has cut into GM's profit, but the Detroit automaker still made progress on its cost savings initiatives this year. Since 2018, the automaker has cut costs by $3.8 billion. The company expects to hit its target of $4 to $4.5 billion, with another $0.2 billion achieved in the second quarter.

Suryadevara "was very, very capable," said Carla Bailo, CEO of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research.  "That's very clear from the things that she's done since she took office."

Her capability shined in how she handled earnings calls and in the "severe attention to cost control, which is one of the reasons why their numbers have been as good as they have been. Generally, that kind of diligence is managed through the finance area," Bailo said. "I think they will miss having someone so capable ... and really miss what it meant to have that diversity in their executive offices."

But Kudla and Bailo both believe that with Barra leading the company, GM's future looks to be strong. Barra has kept a consistent focus for GM that is centered around preparing for an all-electric, highly connected and autonomous future.

"They'll work through it," Kudla said. "I don't see it as being extremely detrimental to the company. Mary Barra is indisputably one of the best — if not the best — CEOs General Motors has ever had. The CFO role is important, but the most important role of the company is CEO, and Mary Barra is doing a tremendous job at leading General Motors."

Prior to her role as CFO, Suryadevara was vice president of corporate finance at GM from July 2017 until her promotion to CFO in 2018. She also worked as vice president, finance and treasurer from 2015-2017. She was CEO and chief investment officer for GM Asset Management from 2013-17.

Suryadevara began her career with GM in 2004. Acting CFO Stapleton has been GM North America's CFO since 2014. He joined the company in 1990 and has had a series of finance roles with the automaker.

Twitter: @bykaleahall