Job Hunting

Help Wanted: CFO with Software Experience

Art Technology CEO Jeet Singh tells exactly what he is looking for in his CFO search
Joseph RadiganApril 30, 2001

If you’re a senior financial executive with software experience, a fast- growing company with a strong international presence has just the job for you.

You may not get it today. But don’t worry, the firm’s CEO thinks he’ll need at least three months to fill the slot.

This vacancy was created last week, when Ann Brady, CFO for software publisher Art Technology Group, announced her resignation. Brady’s resignation was announced along with the company’s release of its first quarter results.

Brady was not available for an interview, but in a prepared statement she attributed the move to a desire to spend more time with her children. She also promised to stay with the firm, which makes content management software for Web sites, until its search for a new CFO is completed.

ATG CEO Jeet Singh told that he’s retained a headhunter, and he said, “We’ll be patient about it. We want a good fit.”

Singh said, “We’re looking for someone who has experience in the enterprise software sector and has been with a firm that’s seen fairly large revenue growth.”

Since 40 percent of the firm’s sales come from overseas, he also wants a person who has international experience.

Singh is setting his sights pretty high. It wouldn’t hurt if the candidate also has experienced raising capital either through an initial or secondary offering of common stock. Finally, Singh would also like the person to have some merger experience.

The CFO the firm does hire will come into a situation that won’t be easy. In the first quarter, the company’s loss widened to $12.9 million on sales of $42.8 million. In the first quarter a year ago, ATG lost $607,000 on sales of $21.6 million.

However, the firm suffered a large sequential drop in sales from $62.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2000, and it blamed the slump on the overall weak market, particularly in the U.S., where the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm still garners 60 percent of its revenue.

Singh doesn’t expect this bleak picture to brighten any time soon.

“Visibility is complicated because we don’t know what budgets customers have available,” he said. “Customers themselves don’t know, and until they actually say, ‘Here is a new operating budget for the year,’ we don’t have any visibility.”

Singh is less concerned with the magnitude of the new spending. Even if it’s a small amount, he’ll at least be able to know what to expect. Right now, he can’t even do that much.

But aren’t there any silver linings to this cloudy economy?

Just a few, Singh said. The tech sector appears to have bottomed out. To be sure, spending hasn’t picked up, and there’s no telling when, if ever, it will resume its torrid pace of 1999. But the tech firms that are still standing appear to have survived the worst of the shakeout and may soon be ready to prepare spending plans for the this year and next.

The deepest spending cuts also seem to be over for the financial services sector. However, Singh worries that manufacturers may take longer to come back.

He is keeping his eye on the retail sector, where the firm has been making inroads among traditional retailers like Target, J. Crew, Martha Stewart, and American Greetings. Many old line retailers are expanding their Web sites as part of a bricks-and-clicks strategy.

But here, too, the impact of the spending slowdown is uncertain.

“It will be interesting to watch consumer retailing because of the consumer spending slowdown,” he said. Demand for the company’s software remained strong in the retail sector during the first quarter, but he’s worried about the second and third.

The second and third quarters are typically periods when retailers beef up their technology in advance of the Christmas shopping season. But if retailers fear a weak season this year, they may not repeat that pattern.