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Ex-PayPal CFO Joins Industry Upstart

Small but fast-growing YapStone lands one of the best-known names in the payment-systems business after her two-year detour to CBS Interactive.
David McCannSeptember 21, 2012

YapStone, a small payment-systems vendor that’s in a powerful growth phase, has scored a coup by hiring PayPal’s former CFO, Mary Hentges, as its finance chief. She is set to join the company on October 1.

Hentges led PayPal’s finance team for seven years until 2010, when she became CFO of CBS Interactive, the broadcasting giant’s web-news division.

She indicates she is pleased to be back in the payments industry, which she characterizes as a contributor to societal good by making things easy to pay for. While acknowledging that finance skills are transferable across industries, “I think some of the most effective CFOs are identified with a particular industry,” she tells CFO.

Asked what experiences from CBS Interactive she will bring to bear at YapStone, she points only to the experience of “working with more executives.”

“This is her first role as a CFO at a start-up or a small company, so there is some risk for her,” says Larry Ormsby, a recruiter in the financial officers practice at Korn/Ferry who knows Hentges. Before the announcement of her hiring by YapStone, he says, he would have looked at her as more of a big-company person. “But she is bright and has a strong reputation, and she became well known for succeeding with a number of smaller projects” during her long career at Hewlett-Packard, where she also worked on its 1999 spin-off of Agilent Technologies. “So I’m sure she’ll be good at this.”

It’s also her first CFO role where she’s not outranked by another CFO, as PayPal was (and is) a subsidiary of eBay.

Although YapStone was created in 1999, Hentges too characterizes it as still being a start-up. According to Inc., its annual revenue was only $18 million in 2008. But by 2011, it had climbed to $51 million. Revenue has doubled in the past year, according to multiple published reports, partly as a result of acquisitions. Also last year, YapStone landed a $50 million investment by Accel Partners.

The company’s core payment product is aimed at inns and bed-and-breakfasts. But it also now offers systems for use by vacation-rental providers, apartment-rental firms, utility companies, storage companies, dues-based organizations, and churches. At present it’s processing about $5 billion in payments annually.

In a press release, YapStone chairman Tom Villante said of Hentges that she “has the ability and experience to help YapStone disrupt and innovate payment markets around the world. She’s one of the very few who have done it before.”

Some of YapStone’s employees may be hoping that a new CFO can stimulate some cultural changes at the company. On Glassdoor.com, a site where workers can post anonymous reviews of their employers, among four YapStone employees  two current, two former  who weighed in, all gave the company the lowest grades. They called it out for allegedly offering substandard compensation, having ineffective management, and driving away staffers in droves. Two of the reviews were posted in 2010 and two this year.

With such a small sample, it’s very possible that the four do not represent the feelings of the entire employee base. And almost every company has some employees with axes to grind, real or perceived. Hentges, though, does not deny (or confirm) the charges. “I’m not coming to YapStone to dwell on the past,” she says, and “a CFO has a very strong role to play in guiding company culture.”