Square CFO Amrita Ahuja breaks down the company’s long-term growth strategy and how it positions itself for success

Amrita Ahuja, Square's chief financial officer
Amrita Ahuja, Square’s chief financial officer

  • Square, a digital payments company, is expanding its narrative to include businesses of all sizes. 
  • CFO Amrita Ahuja told Insider about how cryptocurrency is influencing Square’s financial growth.
  • This article is part of the “CFO Project: Future of Finance” series that drills down on what’s on the agendas of some of today’s most influential financial executives. 

Square, which recently changed its name to Block, equips sellers with tools including point-of-sale systems, marketing capabilities, banking solutions, payroll functionalities, and physical hardware. 

The digital payments company led by Jack Dorsey, who recently stepped down as Twitter’s CEO, reported a gross profit of $1.13 billion in the third quarter, while its Cash App offering generated $512 million. 

Though revenue growth slowed from past quarters, the company nearly doubled its payments in Q3 — $15.5 billion — for businesses with more than $500,000 in annual sales. Previously, small businesses with annual payment sales of less than $125,000 outperformed these larger sellers. 

This is positive news for Chief Financial Officer Amrita Ahuja. Square has been appealing for smaller businesses, but Ahuja told Insider she’d worked to expand its narrative: It wants to support small and large businesses alike with not only payments but software and integrated solutions, hardware, and financial services. Ahuja said that explaining its rapidly growing Cash App to people was also key to its messaging. 

Previously, Ahuja was the chief financial officer of Blizzard Entertainment, where she focused on the intersection of digital media and video-game publishing. Ahuja told The Wall Street Journal this year that she became excited about Square because of its impact on small-business owners like her parents, who had immigrated from India and owned a day-care center in a Cleveland suburb.  

Square’s earnings report said it ended the third quarter “with $7.4 billion in available liquidity, with $6.9 billion in cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash, and investments in marketable debt securities, as well as $500 million available to be withdrawn from our revolving credit facility.”

Ahuja said this financial statement put Square in a position for long-term success. 

“We believe we have a strong balance sheet that affords us the flexibility to invest for the long-term both organically and opportunistically inorganically, and we expect our balance sheet to grow over time,” she said. 

Ahuja said Square’s investments tended to be long-term ones. While it’s willing to adapt, the company has a strong belief that investing over long periods will show the strongest returns, she said.

“As we measure effectiveness of those investments, we think about compelling unit economics and about efficiency in returns on those investments across product development, sales and marketing, and customer operations,” she said. 

Ahuja said she believes artificial intelligence/machine learning and cryptocurrency and blockchain technology will disrupt commerce and other fields in the future. 

Ahuja said AI and machine learning would help companies like Square launch products in industries that were otherwise restricted because of a lack of technology or inadequate risk models. These new capabilities, she said, could open the funnel and provide more people access to automation tools.

“AI/ML will enable companies and their employees to be more efficient — the potential to quadruple revenues while only doubling employees,” she said. 

And Ahuja said she believes that while crypto will perhaps initially be used as an asset like gold, it will act more as a currency in the future. “The verifiability, transparency and independence of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency will be disruptive,” she said. 

Ahuja said that she wanted Square to build skills in both of these areas and have a strong understanding of their capabilities. 

One way Square is staying ahead of the curve is through investments in its newest business unit, called TBD, which is focused on building a decentralized, open platform to exchange bitcoin. This is in addition to the development of Square’s hardware wallet, a product that Square says will normalize bitcoin storage. It’s also said to be considering developing a bitcoin mining system to help make mining more accessible. 

According to Bitcoin Treasuries, Square held about 8,000 bitcoins valued at about $376 million as of Tuesday.

To further solidify its place in the cryptocurrency industry, Square has committed $10 million through its Bitcoin Clean Energy Investment Initiative to support a more sustainable bitcoin ecosystem, Ahuja said. 

The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index has estimated that the cryptocurrency uses more energy than nations like Sweden, Insider reported earlier this year. A Bloomberg report in July estimated that bitcoin-mining machines worldwide used the same amount of power as Bangladesh.

“We hope this initiative accelerates the transition of the entire blockchain to clean power rather than only removing the carbon for the bitcoin that Square processes,” Ahuja said. 

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Whoop CFO Tricia Gugler shares how the booming health-tech company uses capital to innovate

Tricia Gulger, CFO, Whoop
Tricia Gulger, Whoop’s chief financial officer

  • Whoop, a human-performance company, closed a significant funding round this year.
  • CFO Tricia Gugler told Insider about how it’s staying disciplined when deploying capital. 
  • This article is part of the “CFO Project: Future of Finance” series that drills down on what’s on the agendas of some of today’s most influential financial executives. 

For a monthly fee, Whoop provides members a wearable fitness band that records health data such as heart rate, sleep quality, and respiratory rate and presents them with insights about their performance and recovery.

The wrist strap — designed for 24/7 monitoring — has been spotted on professional athletes including LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps. Whoop is the “official fitness wearable” of the Women’s Tennis Association, the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, CrossFit, and the “officially licensed recovery wearable” of the NFL Players Association. The brand has also signed partnerships with Division I athletic departments at Howard University, the University of Southern California, and, most recently, Boston College, to name a few. 

In August, Whoop closed a $200 million Series F round, valuing the health-tech giant at $3.6 billion. Whoop said the influx of capital elevated it to one of the most successful stand-alone human-performance companies in the world. 

The company, founded in 2012, has raised more than $400 million in venture capital to date. 

At the center of the successful funding round was Chief Financial Officer Tricia Gugler, who joined Whoop in 2020 after serving as the vice president of finance at ThirdLove. Before that, Gugler was the vice president of finance and treasury at Stitch Fix.  

Innovating on new investments

In an email interview with Insider, Gugler said Whoop leveraged its data and science team to create sophisticated predictive models for investment outcomes. 

One of the tested investments, Gugler said, is Whoop’s recent acquisition of Push, a tech startup in Toronto that says it provides enhanced data on weightlifting performance. 

“We’ll always keep the majority of our investments grounded in product and engineering, enabling us to innovate and provide the most advanced technology and features to our members,” she said. 

Gugler said that though Whoop is still in the early growth stages, it was leveraging the recent capital to invest in several new initiatives, such as international expansion, women’s performance, Whoop Live (a way to visualize incoming health data), and enterprise work across verticals like healthcare and government. 

“Our opportunity is large, which means we need to be disciplined in how we deploy our capital to drive growth in both the short and long term, while balancing bottom-line results and returns,” she said. 

One of Whoop’s ambitions is to scale up across the globe. Gugler said that 27% of the business is international and that Whoop now has a marketing team in Dublin solely focused on international expansion. 

“We believe being in the market with relevant content will enable us to connect better with our members and drive even stronger growth,” she said. 

Perhaps Whoop’s most robust growth initiative is its investments in female athletes. The company recently announced the creation of a Women’s Performance Collective which supports product development and research around women’s performance. 

Whoop said that as part of the program it created a diverse coalition of top athletes from around the world to test new product features and lead sports science research on women’s athletics.  

In addition, Whoop partnered with Voice in Sport to support young women and help them optimize their performance: The initiative plans to give 100 collegiate athletes both Whoop and Voice in Sport memberships. 

Whoop also recently rolled out a Menstrual Cycle Coaching feature designed to provide performance and recovery recommendations that align with hormonal shifts. 

Gugler said Whoop’s allocation of investments toward these initiatives would support its focus on expanding its membership base through product features, community, research, and more. 

Preparing for a future capital structure 

While Whoop isn’t publicly traded, Gugler said Whoop would be ready if it chose to go public.   

“We are very happy being a private company, but do believe WHOOP can be a successful company in the public markets,” Gugler said. “Although we have no specific plans, we are building our capability to be public company ready, so if and when we choose to go, we can.”

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How to know when you’re being discriminated against while trying to buy a house

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  • Housing-related discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation is all too common.
  • Both appraisers and realtors have been accused of changing or adjusting their behaviors.
  • Here are a few ways to tell if you’re being discriminated against.
  • This article is part of “The Road to Home” series focused on helping first-time homebuyers navigate the daunting and exhilarating process of purchasing a home.

Homeownership – made ever more attractive this past year because of the rise of remote work and record-low mortgage rates – has long been regarded as the fastest path to wealth and the ultimate representation of the American dream.

It is, however, more difficult for some Americans to pursue that dream than it is for others.

In the 20th century, discriminatory practices like redlining helped the white middle class build home equity while most others missed out, as Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, told the US House of Representatives in February testimony about racial disparities in homeownership.

Today, “the most insidious forms of discrimination that were once supported by federal policy are now illegal,” he said. But the long-lasting effects of those policies are still apparent, and discrimination is still something many house hunters have to grapple with.

As a house hunter, it is your right to find a property without fear of discrimination based on race, religion, sex, familial status, and more. But Perry said personal biases of “individual appraisers, realtors, and lenders” could still affect your search.

It is “particularly hard to tell” whether you’ve been discriminated against when it comes to housing, the civil-rights attorney Alanna Kaufman said. It can be as discreet as a realtor describing one neighborhood as more of a cultural fit for you over another.

Trust your gut: If you feel something is off during your house hunt, it very well might be. The best advice in confronting housing discrimination is to “pay attention, ask questions, take notes, investigate, and seek legal counsel,” Kaufman told Investopedia.

If you suspect you’re being discriminated against for any reason, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office and reach out to a local fair-housing center to take legal action.

Housing discrimination can take numerous forms, including harassment and intimidation. Here are the two most prevalent – and sometimes more covert – forms of discrimination to watch out for:

Realtors using coded language

“If you feel a person is trying to direct you to certain neighborhoods with certain races or religions, that could often be a flag,” Kaufman said. The Department of Housing and Urban Development refers to this kind of realtor activity as “steering.”

For instance, you could meet with a real-estate agent to discuss house hunting and list a few neighborhoods of interest. That realtor may then try to show you homes in different neighborhoods under the guise of you “feeling more comfortable.” While visiting those suggested homes, you may notice the neighbors share your ethnicity or religion.

Seemingly harmless statements like “This house and neighborhood don’t seem like the right fit for your family” or “Don’t you want to live somewhere where more people speak Spanish, like you?” are also forms of steering. The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan even tells community members that housing discrimination like this often comes with “a smile and a handshake.”

Recognizing those behaviors can help you combat discrimination, Kaufman said.

Mortgage lenders and home sellers immediately waving you off

Discrimination stemming from realtor biases is not the only kind to look out for. Receiving an immediate denial from a mortgage lender could also be cause for concern.

On its website, HUD provides the example of a couple being denied a mortgage because one partner is pregnant. In the example, the loan officer asks the couple whether the pregnant woman will take maternity leave. When she says yes, the loan officer denies the loan and says, “I’ve seen too many women change their mind about going back to work.” The situation would be considered discrimination based on sex and familial status. It also extends to ultimately being offered a loan but under nonstandard terms.

Similar to the lender example, home sellers refusing to entertain your competitive offer could also be discriminatory. If you reach out about a home and are immediately told the home isn’t available even though you are financially prepared for the property, you should question the denial from the property sellers and “see if the home is still on the market,” Kaufman said.

Another form of this is having the availability of housing change from the time of initial contact by phone or email to the time of an in-person visit. Kaufman said she saw this variety of discrimination most frequently.

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Employees aren’t as optimistic about company diversity efforts as managers. Consultants explain why, and how to change that.

Shot of a young businessman looking stressed while using a smartphone during a late night in a modern office

One year after a wave of civil rights protests pushed CEOs to double down on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Insider surveyed workers on how they think corporate leaders are doing to fulfill their promises.

As part of a series called Cost of Inequity, Insider conducted a survey of over 1,000 professionals, the majority of American workers think business leaders are motivated to improve DEI in the workplace. However, managers are significantly more hopeful than rank-and-file employees.

About 74% of managers said they think their employer’s executive team cares about improving diversity, compared to 63% of workers.

As corporate America faces increasing pressure from investors, employees, and customers to make good on DEI promises, addressing the gap between manager and employee sentiment is crucial. DEI consultants said that leaders who drive employee engagement around DEI goals will be more successful in their goals.

Why managers feel more engaged

Kerryn Agyekum
Kerryn Agyekum, principal of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice at The Raben Group, a DEI consultancy, said companies need to boost employee buy in on DEI efforts.

For Kerryn Agyekum, DEI principal at consultancy The Raben Group, the findings were not surprising.

Individuals who are largely at the worker or individual contributor level are more likely to be from historically marginalized groups, she explained. Data shows managers and leaders, across a variety of industries, are more likely to be white.

“It’s not surprising that workers, individuals who do not have that power or privilege like managers do, have a very different perspective around whether or not an organization’s diversity, equity, or inclusion efforts are having an impact,” Agyekum said. “They are waiting to see results.”

There will be a gap in sentiment until managers are able to really bring about change in their organizations, the DEI consultant said.

Cynthia Orduña, DEI consultant at consultancy Peoplism, credited the gap in enthusiasm to a communication problem. Oftentimes leaders communicate their DEI efforts to managers, but not to all of their employees, so employees aren’t as up to date, she explained.

Leadership can be very scared to be transparent about what’s going on in the background in terms of new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives…They’re afraid of not getting things right. Cynthia Orduña

“Leadership can be very scared to be transparent about what’s going on in the background in terms of new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” she said. “They’re afraid of not getting things right.”

If employees aren’t aware of what’s going on, however, they’re more likely to think that their executive team doesn’t care about DEI efforts.

Orduña said that 63% of workers thinking their executives care about DEI was somewhat disappointing.

“It’s more about, how do we get that number to be 75% 85%?” she said. “If a good chunk of employees don’t think their executives care about DEI, that’s a story.”

Managers were also more likely than their direct-reports to say their company has clear channels for participation in DEI efforts. Some 76% of managers said there were distinct ways to get involved, compared to 68% of workers.

Agyekum said that many managers are being tasked with changing their behaviors, reaching new DEI goals, and having new conversations with their employees. They feel there are concrete ways to participate in DEI efforts, she explained.

However, employees may define “concrete ways of participating” differently. They may be waiting to see more people like themselves in positions of power, they may be waiting for their salary to increase as a result of a pay equity report, they may be waiting to be compensated for their ERG work.

“I think the differentiator is in the definition,” Agyekum said. “Managers and workers may define ‘concrete ways of participating in DEI efforts’ differently.”

When asked about the results of their company DEI strategies, respondents gave a mixed range of outcomes:

Increasing employee engagement

In order to increase employee buy-in on DEI efforts, leaders and managers need to drive results, Agyekum said.

Cynthia Orduña's headshot
DEI consultant Cynthia Orduña said managers need to communicate their diversity efforts more to employees.

She explained that a “war room approach to DEI,” where diversity is treated just as importantly as profits, will communicate to employees that diversity is truly a core tenant of a company’s values.

“If you have managers that are doing well on diversity and inclusion, hold them up as the gold standard and reward them accordingly,” the DEI consultant said. “At the same time, hold folks accountable for not making progress.”

At the same time, leaders and managers need to increase the level of communication around DEI.

More leaders need to be vulnerable and share their DEI journey with workers, Orduña said. Keeping employees informed of what’s going on and sharing ways to get involved in the process will drive engagement. Insider’s survey also found that 50% of respondents said their managers are not incentivized to hit DEI goals and/or hire more BIPOC employees. The other half indicated a mix of bonuses and promotions for making more diverse hires.

There’s a lot of strength, I think, in admitting to people that you don’t have all the answers Cynthia Orduña

“You can even say ‘We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to work as a team to figure it out.'”

In addition to communicating your company’s future plans, it’s important to make sure your employees stay informed on what you’re already doing.

For example, don’t just email once about employee resource groups (ERGS), have ERG leaders speak at company events and send multiple emails about their progress, the DEI consultant suggested. When it comes to new trainings you have, incentivize participation in them and have leaders talk about them in town halls.

C-suite executives should also encourage managers to tell their direct reports about their DEI work.

“It’s about creating mini-cultures that foster inclusion and psychological safety,” Orduña said.

Psychological safety is an environment where people from all backgrounds can feel safe enough to be their whole, true selves at work, without fear of judgment or punishment.

“Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable,” she said.

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The Cost of Inequity: How and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America

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Inequity, not to be confused with inequality, is the result of injustice and cultural exclusion. Cost of Inequity explores how and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America while illustrating the real economic cost to society.

From education to the workplace, banks, healthcare and more, this series examines the historical causes, current policies and societal norms that perpetuate unfair, avoidable differences for marginalized groups.

Insider also conducted a survey of over 1100 American workers to examine the challenges businesses face in fulfilling DEI programs. Detailed results of the survey will be published in the coming weeks.

Read the original article on Business Insider