The beginning of David Knopf’s career was impressive but not unusual: He graduated from Princeton and completed the two-year Goldman Sachs investment banking analyst program before joining private equity firm Onex as an associate. That’s when his career path veered into the exceptional.
Warren Buffett’s favorite private equity firm, 3G Capital, hired Knopf as an analyst. A year and four months later he was promoted to associate partner. A mere seven months later, he made partner, and 3G Capital installed him at one of its biggest joint acquisitions with the Sage of Omaha, Kraft Heinz, initially as vice president of finance and eventually becoming the category lead for the Planters nuts brand.
Now, still just 29 years old, Knopf has been appointed as the CFO of Kraft Heinz, the conglomerate that produces a vast array of food products, including Kraft macaroni and cheese and Heinz ketchup. His appointment is an important bellwether of how the CFO role is transcending the finance department to emphasize ever more strategic and analytic functions, according to AccountingWEB.
It’s safe to say that Kraft Heinz did not hire him for his accounting chops. Rather, Knopf knows “how to think like an investor.”
Knopf will be expected to revive flagging sales and give “serious attention to Kraft Heinz's different brands and product evolution in order to keep up with consumers' changing tastes, something that so far the firm has failed to do,” says AccountingWEB.
This trend for a versatile CFO or finance director isn’t just limited to large corporates. Often the CEO doesn’t have the bandwidth, and when businesses aren’t big enough to appoint a full-time chief operating officer, they’ll look at the CFO or finance director to be able to help build everything, from the product set, through to the strategic plan.
Virtual FD Ciaran O’Donnell says: “These days age is irrelevant. There are plenty of capable people who can accelerate into a senior finance role within eight or nine years…. If you’re just a finance person, you could be wiped out very quickly by the younger generation coming through.”
Separately, David Vogel is the 44-year-old head of one of the world’s most successful hedge funds – $1.4bn Voloridge Investment Management, a red-hot quant fund with a three-year annualized return of 38%, causing the fund to remain in high demand.
Last week, Vogel took his family and all of the employees at his firm and fled Jupiter, Florida, a beachfront town with resident celebrities like Tiger Woods and Kid Rock as Hurricane Irma approached. For a week, he and his staff of several dozen employees holed up in a hotel in New York, not far from Columbus Circle, anticipating the devastation that awaited their return, according to Bloomberg.
The hurricane and its aftermath have shifted Vogel’s perspective, realizing that his hometown is a prime target for damage from climate change-fueled storms. His latest pet quantitative project is helping to prove that climate change is real and made by humans – and getting people to do something about it by presenting convincing economic data.
The math indicates that there will be increasing events like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
A data scientist by training, Vogel’s success in the hedge fund industry never pulled him too far from projects more focused on human health and welfare, such as studying cancer and fighting poverty, than financial markets.
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Photo credit: Kraft-Heinz Display by Kurt Haubrich is licensed under CC BY 2.0.