“Investments to Improve the Lives of Patients”: A Conversation with Pfizer’s New CFOJuly 12, 2022
In April, Pfizer announced that David Denton would join the company as chief financial officer after holding the same position at Lowe’s and two decades at CVS. He brings more than 25 years of finance and operational expertise to the role, including more than 20 years in the healthcare sector.
Pfizer’s chief investor relations officer, Christopher Stevo, caught up with David to get his thoughts about what excites him about the job, his philosophy on how to communicate with investors and what creates value for companies.
Christopher Stevo: What is most exciting to you about joining Pfizer right now?
David Denton: First and foremost, Albert has really assembled just a world class team focused on making investments to improve the lives of patients around the world. I think if we do that correctly, you’ll also see us improve shareholder value over the long term as well.
Christopher Stevo: How do you think about capital allocation and the balance between investing for future growth and R&D or business development versus returning capital to shareholders?
David Denton: I think the good news about Pfizer is the company is very well positioned from a cashflow perspective. We’re going to invest in research and development that’s going to improve patient lives over time. At the same time, we’re going to invest in areas that are focused on shareholders to enhance shareholder value.
Christopher Stevo: What would you say is your philosophy about how management and boards should interact with shareholders and how has that changed over the years?
David Denton: Management needs to be very transparent, certainly from a board perspective, but also from an investor perspective. I think we will be very transparent on our objectives over time. We plan to set standards and measures of which you should judge our performance and we’ll be very transparent on how we’re progressing against those objectives over time. One of my many duties as CFO is to ensure that that discipline carries through over the long term.
Christopher Stevo: I heard two key things there, transparent and accountable.
David Denton: That’s correct.
Christopher Stevo: What drives value in acquisitions?
David Denton: You’re really not looking at an acquisition just from a growth perspective. You’re looking at an acquisition from a returns perspective. I think importantly, as you do an acquisition, as you bolt on that asset or that capability onto the company, how does it make the core business better? What are the interplays between the core company and the acquisition and how can you unlock additional value by thinking about the assets differently or using the assets differently to drive outsize returns? So when I think about an acquisition, that’s how I evaluate it and look at it and evaluate it.
Christopher Stevo: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish as Pfizer’s new CFO?
David Denton: I want to make sure I leave the company better than when I found it, number one, even though the company’s in really great standing at this point in time. Secondly, the job as CFO is really to allocate capital in the highest and best use. So, I’d be very focused on that and over time really create substantial shareholder value. That’s important to me as the CFO, but along that journey, getting back to our purpose a bit is making sure that we’re investing areas that really improve the lives of the patients that we serve globally. I think those two can work in concert together and I’m excited about the future.
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