Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Southfield/San Francisco — General Motors’ (GM’s) CFO is stepping down after two years to take a job at financial technology company Stripe in an unexpected move depriving it of a rising star and one of the vehicle industry’s few senior female executives.

GM said on Tuesday that Dhivya Suryadevara, who had served as CFO since September 2018, was leaving and it would start a search for her successor immediately. Suryadevara will join closely held Stripe as its CFO, the San Francisco-based company said.

Suryadevara’s departure leaves GM without a talented executive who oversaw its finances during 2019’s strike and a pandemic-induced factory shutdown earlier in 2020. At 41, she was one of the youngest leaders on CEO Mary Barra’s team.

Dhivya Suryadevara, who resigned as executive vice president and chief financial officer of General Motors. Picture: REUTERS/JOHN F. MARTIN/GM
Dhivya Suryadevara, who resigned as executive vice president and chief financial officer of General Motors. Picture: REUTERS/JOHN F. MARTIN/GM

The high-level departure from the blue-chip carmaker for a nine-year-old tech company comes as Detroit faces an uncertain outlook amid falling demand and the ascendancy of electric-vehicle leader Tesla, whose valuation dwarfs GM’s $41.9bn market capitalisation.

“I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given at GM,” Suryadevara said in a statement. “While I look forward to a new opportunity that will allow me to apply my skills in a new sector, I have great confidence in GM’s trajectory and future.”

Highly valuable start-up

In April, Stripe raised $600m from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst and Sequoia Capital. The round gave Stripe a valuation of $36bn, making it one of the most valuable start-ups in the US, according to CB Insights.

The company has been in growth mode during the global pandemic and expanded to five new European markets in May. That fast growth trajectory and its high valuation has made it a top candidate to go public. Hiring a prominent CFO is often a step companies take as they advance in preparations for an IPO and need to make a strong case to potential investors.

Stripe had no immediate comment on that possibility, but told the Financial Times it did not hire Suryadevara in preparation for an IPO.

GM named John Stapleton, its North American finance chief, acting CFO as of Aug. 15 while it conducts a search for an internal or external candidate to take on the job in permanent capacity.

Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy in a note published on Tuesday called Stapleton a GM veteran who has been responsible for the automaker’s most important business unit.

Tumultuous tenure

Suryadevara ran GM’s finances through a successful and also tumultuous period. She was a key player in GM’s cost-cutting moves in 2019 that saved $4.5bn and kept profits aloft even as car sales stagnated.

Her tenure also included a 40-day labour strike that cost the company $2bn and, more recently, almost two months of plant shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Suryadevara initiated cash-saving moves during that time, which resulted in smaller-than-expected losses in the second quarter. GM has told investors it will likely return to profit in the second half of this year.

GM shares rose as much as 4.9% to $29.34 as of 11.30am in New York on Tuesday.

Bloomberg

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