- 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.
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equivalents, restricted cash, and investments in marketable debt securities, as well as $500 million available to be withdrawn from our revolving credit facility.”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.