How did you choose the boards you serve and have served on?
I was introduced to one of the boards by a search firm, I was referred to one board by a business colleague and a third board opportunity came from a prior business relationship. For each of the boards, I believed that my skills and experience matched the needs and requirements of the companies, and that I could add immediate value to the boards. Thus, I pursued the positions.
Can you share the process that got you a seat in Rite Aid’s boardroom, and the other publicly traded boards you serve on?
The Rite Aid board made the decision to refresh their board in the summer of 2018. The board nom gov committee engaged a search firm to assist with the process. The search firm contacted me about my interest in being included in the selection and evaluation process. At the time of the search, I was sitting on a public company board and had 38 years of financial, audit and management experience with KPMG.
Lithia was adding a board member as part of succession planning. I had a previous relationship with management and certain board members. I also had the audit committee experience both as a service provider and as a board member for a private company.
I joined the Oportun board in 2014 while they were a private company. I had the financial, audit and leadership experience they required. Oportun became a public company in 2019. I have been able to guide the financial team to be ready for an IPO.
You were brought into Rite Aid following a contentious time, including a merger deal with grocer Albertsons that fell apart. How did you go about navigating that? Did you have any reservations about joining the board as a result?
Rite Aid has indeed been challenged given the events of the previous years and changing market conditions. As part of my assessment process, I reviewed financial and other information about the company and realized that the new board members would be challenged to help improve Rite Aid’s operations and financial performance. I believed that I could provide value to the board and company in their turnaround journey and had a keen interest in joining the board. I had observed many companies deal with challenges like Rite Aid during the recession of 2008 and 2009, while I served them in my roles at KPMG. I welcomed the opportunity to be on the Rite Aid board and the challenges ahead.
I had no reservations in joining the board, and honestly, I was and am very proud to be a member the Rite Aid board, as well boards of Lithia and Oportun.
What advice could you provide to directors who face similar issues?
Each board candidate should assess the opportunity they are seeking, to ensure that the candidate understands the company, and has the skills and relevant experience to serve the board well. Consider using references and leverage the executive search firm being used by the target board to gain information in making this assessment.
Has your KPMG leadership experience helped propel your career on corporate boards? How so?
My KPMG experience has been invaluable to my career and my ability to successfully sit on corporate boards. The professional development and experience in serving companies of various sizes and industries formed my corporate mindset. I served clients in retail, real estate and financial services, I also worked internationally with KPMG, in Mexico City and in Latin America. I was managing partner for the San Francisco Office, leading one of the largest offices in the firm. Collectively, these experiences provided me with varied and in-depth insight as to how successful companies operate.
When you were honored by the Association of Latino Professionals for America with a lifetime achievement award in 2014, you talked about the importance of filling the Latino leadership pipeline. Do you think corporate America has made significant inroads in this regard; and, has enough been done to get more Latino directors in the boardroom?
At the time I made my comments, I was on stage looking at over 2000 Latinos of various ages and experiences. My message to them was to “seek the moment” and prepare for opportunities to come for Latino executives. Progress has been made to have Latinos in the boardroom. However, much more needs to be done. I am now a member of Latino Corporate Directors Association. This group is aggressive leading the charge for more Latino participation in the board room.
What are the key issues that are of concern for you when it comes to the boards you sit on?
The first order of business is to protect the company and ensure there is a path to growth and profitability, and to provide financial returns to the shareholders. To do this, a capable and motivated management team is needed, starting with the CEO. Boards oversee the strategy of the business and the ongoing operating results. In my role as audit committee chair, I concern myself with financial reporting, internal controls and risk management.
Board dynamics and performance are key considerations for the long-term success of the companies we serve. I focus on both.
How important are environmental, social and governance issues (ESG) for you? And how are these issues being handled by companies; and what needs to be done when it comes to balancing profits and social purpose?
ESG is becoming a very important topic for management and corporate boards. Companies are in various stages of their respective ESG journey. We are all reading about some great examples and bold moves. As these accomplishments become more common, the pace of change will increase. Boards should be discussing ESG with management teams, including the current state and path to increase ESG expectations and requirements.
What inspires you in your career, your board work and in your life?
I am inspired to be participating in the exciting world of business where challenges and opportunities are identified each day. I am motivated to be a board member that provides high impact and high value to the companies I serve. I am proud to be a Latino serving on two Fortune 500 boards, hopefully opening doors for other Latinos. I am privileged to have a great wife, family and a wonderful group of friends and business colleagues.
What advice would you give individuals looking to get a seat on a corporate board? Would that advice be the same or different for minorities, women?
If being a board member is a goal, start your journey early. Gain skills and experiences that you can use to be an effective board member later in your career. Consider joining a business group to increase your awareness of board opportunities. Read business news often to be aware of corporate performance. Leverage your business and professional network. Join a nonprofit board to gain experience and exposure to business leaders.
To find out about being featured in this section, please contact Eve Tahmincioglu at firstname.lastname@example.org.