How Microsoft Won Back Wall Street
Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East|1 August, 2018

Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood got investors to look beyond Windows and the PC

Dina Bass

Clad in jeans and a gray sweatshirt, Amy Hood stands before a room of 140 Microsoft Corp. recruits. It feels a bit like the first day of school, and new hires are taking selfies outside in front of a big Microsoft logo. Hood tells the crowd that her job as chief financial officer is not simply to balance the books and plan spending. “My kids will tell you I practice counting, but my job is really a little different than that,” she says. “I may have thought about it that way when I took the job almost five years ago. But now it’s about creating an environment in which you all remember that you still want to pick us every day.”

That’s not how most people think of a CFO’s responsibilities. But since taking the gig in 2013, Hood’s expansive view of the job is what keeps her in it. Along with Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, she’s played a key role in winning employees, customers, and investors back to Microsoft.

The world’s largest software maker, once undisputed ruler of the PC desktop, has remade itself into a cloud computing behemoth. Hood has translated the company’s strategy and product priorities into precise spending plans and forecasts. She has refocused Wall Street on forecasts for the cloud business and handily beat them. “She was able to change everybody’s perspective on a company where everyone thought their best days were behind them,” says Heather Bellini, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst who has covered Microsoft for more than 15 years. “Satya has done an excellent job, but people think of them as a package together.”

Microsoft shares have been hitting highs, though that may be hard to sustain. The company is battling rival cloud providers including Amazon .com Inc., which got a head start, and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which is rapidly building data centers. Those and other companies are also spending heavily on artificial intelligence, another area to which Nadella has committed considerable resources.

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