CFO: Five chief financial officers and the university that helped them along their way
It’s been a long road for Wayne DeVeydt. Growing up on public assistance with his mother who worked as many as three jobs to make ends meet, DeVeydt was the first in his family to attend college. It’s the kind of background that teaches valuable lessons about how to handle a dollar.
Today, DeVeydt handles nearly 60 billion of them as executive vice president and chief financial officer of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc., a Fortune 100 company that outstripped the 2011 revenues of PepsiCo, Intel and Kraft Foods.
“I remind people that the way you manage a dollar is no different than the way you manage $60 billion,” DeVeydt says. “It’s still one dollar at a time.”
DeVeydt grew up in south St. Louis, and his path to success was largely cut at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1993.
“I think having a standard that says, ‘we’ll accept nothing less’ is maybe not the most political thing to do, but it was the right thing to do to develop real leaders,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the university for that.”
DeVeydt’s story is only one of thousands to emerge from UMSL’s College of Business Administration, which counts 137 CFOs among its graduates.
Not only is the college featured in the 2012 edition of the annual guidebook “The Best 294 Business Schools” by The Princeton Review, but the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business also accredits the college and its accounting program, making UMSL one of only a handful of universities in the country to hold dual accreditation for its business college and accounting program.
“We’ve had a very strong accounting program for quite a number of years, certainly one of the largest in the state,” says Keith Womer, dean of the business college. “Quite a few of those folks that we’ve identified as CFOs have accounting degrees and got their start from that program.”
And many UMSL graduates haven’t stopped at the CFO level. Sandra Van Trease, BSBA 1982, is group president of BJC HealthCare. George Paz, BSBA 1982, is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Scripts, and Warner Baxter, BSBA 1983, is president and CEO of Ameren Missouri. All three leaders have held the position of CFO.
“I think the main thing to know is our commitment to serving the St. Louis business community,” Womer says. “The vast majority of our students come from St. Louis and live and work here after they graduate.”
CFO of Smith, Moore & Co.
Erin Baskett, BSBA 2003, had two dreams during her time at college.
“Ever since taking a finance class at UMSL, I said one day my ultimate goal is to be a CFO or part owner of a big financial firm and to walk onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange,” she says.
The second dream came true a few years ago when a friend’s uncle got her onto capitalism’s most hallowed ground.
“It was a madhouse,” the 28-year-old says. “You get knocked around like crazy. It was insane.”
Her first dream came true as well. She’s the CFO of Smith, Moore & Co., a financial services provider based in Clayton, Mo. Named to the position about a year ago, she was recently added to the St. Louis Business Journals’ 30 Under 30 list. Her career has spanned a number of organizations including the Moneta Group, Wolfe Nilges Nahorski and A.G. Edwards.
She says she likes the depth the CFO position offers. It’s not her only role, either.
“I get to wear a lot of hats,” Baskett says. “I’m also director of human resources and internal controls and the wellness coordinator. There are a lot of different job duties, a lot of variety.”
She recalls her time at UMSL being, in some respects, much like the hustle and bustle of the NYSE trading floor. She entered the university with credit hours from St. Louis Community College–Meramec and advanced credit courses in high school. She took 18 credit hours a semester at UMSL and earned a bachelor’s degree in only two years.
She says one instructor, in particular, stood out. Baskett took International Finance from G. D’Anne Weise, associate professor of finance at UMSL.
“She gave a lot of real-world information,” Baskett says. “It wasn’t so much just to read it out of a book and take a test. The way she explained things, you really understood how you were going to apply it to your life.”
Executive Vice President and CFO of WellPoint Inc.
Wayne DeVeydt, BSBA 1993, sounds a little like Erin Baskett when describing his academic experience at UMSL.
“What I really enjoyed was not just hearing what real life is supposed to be like but hearing from teachers that were actually living real life,” he says.
DeVeydt has lived a good bit of real life himself. He worked in leadership roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers for a number of years, eventually making partner before joining Indianapolis-based WellPoint in 2005 as a senior vice-president and chief accounting officer. The next year, he became chief of staff to the chair- man and chief executive officer before moving to the CFO position in 2007.
And although the demands of his career are great, DeVeydt makes time to give back. He’s involved with the boards of several organizations, including the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Cancer Support Community and Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
His recollections of his years in the College of Business Administration at UMSL paint a picture of an institution that insisted on making its students the most competitive in the marketplace.
“When everything is judged on a curve, you just have to be better than the rest of the pack,” he says. “What I remember at UMSL, it wasn’t about the curve. It was about the bar. There was this drive toward academic excellence and not just a drive toward being better than the next lowest student.”
CFO of Delta Dental of Missouri
Barbara Bentrup, BSBA 1989, has had quite a career.
She’s been auditor at Coopers & Lybrand and audit manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers before becoming finance director and finally CFO of UnitedHealthcare’s Missouri market. Somewhere in there she had time to help take a small start-up company public, earn a law degree and master’s degree in business administration from Saint Louis University and work as an attorney at the prestigious firm of Capes, Sokol, Goodman & Sarachan.
Today, she’s CFO of Delta Dental of Missouri in Sunset Hills, a position she’s held since last year.
But she still recalls where it all began. “Had it not been for UMSL, I may not have had the opportunity to attend college in the first place,” she says.
It’s been a long road and, in some ways, not the one she expected.
“I never in my wildest dreams envisioned myself as a CFO,” she says. “When you are in school, you have dreams and aspirations but that was a pretty high goal and hard to attain.”
But she’s attained it nonetheless. She’s even a recipient of two awards by the UMSL Alumni Association – You Make the Difference Award and Salute to Business Achievement.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” she says. “I’ve been successful, and I think a lot of that is from the foundation I received in my education at UMSL.”
CFO of the St. Louis Public Library
William Jackson, BSBA 1972, has a simple philosophy, and it’s one he tries to communicate to others.
“Really, it’s all about what you put into it,” Jackson says. “Some people these days want it handed to them, or they don’t really have an appreciation for how much work is involved in trying to get what you want.”
Jackson, 61, has what he wants as CFO of the St. Louis Public Library. It’s a position he’s held since he came to the organization in the late 1980s. Before that, he was director of finance at the St. Louis Housing Authority. He’s also held positions with Consolidated Aluminum, Beaird-Poulan/Weedeater, Brown Shoe and Emerson Electric.
“The Emerson job really put me on the path of being a successful accountant, because I got a wide array of experiences and travels with the different companies that we audited,” Jackson says. “I got to see a lot of different systems and the various ways that people go about dealing with the business aspects of a company.”
But that position is not the only thing that’s shaped him. He says advertising, marketing and promotions courses at UMSL also helped his career.
“I enjoyed my whole business curriculum,” says the lifetime member of the UMSL Alumni Association. “It definitely prepared me for what I am doing today, because I still draw on some of those experiences and some of the things I learned during my time at UMSL.”
CFO and executive vice president of Maritz Holdings Inc.
Richard Ramos, BSBA 1984, can tell you instantly why he loves his job: He’s a big picture guy.
“I like being involved in all facets of business operations,” says Ramos, CFO and executive vice president of St. Louis-based Maritz Holdings Inc. “In the CFO position, I can see everything from strategy to client negotiation to pricing to internal operating issues such as compensation, benefits, pensions and how we operate domestically and internationally.”
The native Floridian has overseen the finances of the $1.4 billion privately-held corporation for the past five years during which he won the prestigious William E. Maritz Award. In 2008 and 2011, the St. Louis Business Journal nominated Ramos for its CFO of the Year award. He was a finalist in 2011.
His ascension to the CFO position caps a 10-year rise through the corporate ranks over a more than decade- long career at Maritz. Before joining Maritz, he worked at Purcell Tire & Rubber Company and the audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. He also practiced as an attorney for a time.
Ramos says the friends and professors he met at UMSL helped him when he was just starting out.
“I would have had no connection to the industry whatsoever if it hadn’t been launched by the career center at UMSL,” he says. “[That help] was everything to my career.”
Now he works to extend those kinds of opportunities to others. Maritz recently held an event for employees who are UMSL alumni, and Ramos says he often tries to recruit from the university’s talent pool.
“We have a large contingent of UMSL grads here,” he says. “I encourage [Maritz] to hire out of UMSL because of the quality of the students that come from the school and the ability of the students to become successful quickly and prosper.”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=14859