Korn Ferry Assists CPS Energy In CEO Search

July 27, 2016 – Korn Ferry has recruited internal candidate Paula Gold-Williams as chief executive officer of CPS Energy.

Past CEO Doyle Beneby has left the organization to join Chicago-based New Generation Power International.

Ms. Gold-Williams, who had served as the company’s group EVP and chief financial officer, assumed the interim CEO role when Korn Ferry began the search. “She has demonstrated to us she has the skill and the talent,” said San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, a CPS Energy trustee. “I’m excited she is a local person who has come up through the ranks.”

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally owned natural gas and electric company, providing service to 741,000 electric and 331,000 natural gas customers in the Greater San Antonio area. The company offers the lowest rates among the top 10 largest U.S. cities, while ranking No. 1 in wind-energy capacity among municipally owned energy systems and No. 1 in Texas for solar generation.

Korn Ferry’s energy sector offers a range of talent solutions designed to fit the energy sector — from strategic search services, competency-based assessments, and interactive high-potential leadership development programs to one-on-one coaching, strategic talent design, and succession planning. Richard Preng serves as global sector leader for the practice. His expertise includes electric and gas utilities, upstream, midstream and downstream as well as the oilfield services sectors.


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According to executive recruiters specializing in financial officer search mandates, CFOs are fast-tracking into CEO roles with increased frequency and predictability.

“Boards tend to see two people with regularity: the CEO and CFO. Boards want people with outstanding external communications skills, strategic orientation and comfort with the balance sheet to become CEO — all skills possessed by great chief financial officers,” said Peter Crist, chairman of Chicago area-based executive search firm Crist | Kolder Associates. It might be why, he said, that many really strong CFOs now aspire to become CEO.

“If a CFO truly wants to become a CEO, he or she must have the right motivation for doing so,” Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison told CFO Magazine recently. “The ambition shouldn’t be driven by ego or by an assumption that moving up is the next logical step in a career that has been marked by continual advancement.”

Mr. Burnison said the process begins with the self-awareness needed to move beyond what is comfortable and develop a requisite broader array of leadership strengths. Mr. Burnison served as CFO at Korn Ferry before taking the CEO reins.

“The CFO is, in the vast majority of public companies, viewed as the No. 2 executive to the CEO,” said Mr. Crist’s colleague, Scott Simmons, a Crist | Kolder managing director. “The CFO has a unique vantage point to see the entire enterprise and interact with the board of directors. If a CFO has operational knowledge and truly understands the underpinnings of the business, not just the numbers, then he or she will and should be seen as a legitimate CEO succession candidate.”

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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