John “Clay” Hale has spent much of his 25 years in corporate finance working in manufacturing and industrial production.
Prior to joining Siemens in 1994, Hale served as a controller for an AVX Corp. electronics manufacturing facility before focusing on manufacturing and banking as an accountant for Price Waterhouse.
Hale has since worked across Siemens’ industry sector, most recently leading all financial and commercial operations of Siemens Industry as vice president of finance and business administration for the customer services division.
In late March, he rose to the ranks of chief financial officer and senior vice president for Siemens Government Technologies, the firm’s federal business organization. He now oversees all of SGT’s financial management and drives business strategy and investments.
ExecutiveBiz caught up with Hale last week to discuss topics including how he is working to replicate Siemens’ commercial success with federal customers, the role of research and development and how to upgrade the country’s ailing infrastructure.
What unique challenges does an industrial firm face when its customers are in the federal government?
Siemens is a global leader in the industry, infrastructure and cities, energy and healthcare markets. We must learn how to translate the strengths that make us successful in the commercial market to those that are focused on the interests of our federal customers.We have incredible product and service offerings that just need to be targeted to solve problems for a large enterprise customer, such as the Defense Department or federal agencies.
The lifeblood of Siemens is innovation and we invest much more than our competitors in R&D. As a result, we have the proven technologies that help our customers be more productive and efficient.
Our federal customers’ missions are also focused on being more productive and efficient. Siemens’ portfolio, combined with our financing expertise, puts us in a unique position to help America do more with less at this critical time in our economic history.
As a relatively new organization at Siemens, what financial leadership will you need to provide Siemens Government Technologies to match the historic growth of your parent company?
As a member of the executive team, I will be driving the business agenda hand and hand with CEO Judy Marks. As a finance leader, I am interested in improving results and making sure that the numbers tell our story, accurately and in a timely manner.
Our goal is profitable growth. We will achieve that by keeping the organization focused on executing our strategic priorities, goals and commitments. Siemens is demonstrating its commitment to the federal market by investing significant dollars to internally grow the business.
As the financial leader, I will work to protect the investment and to generate a strong return. I have a great team, a great CEO and a great board to help me do that.
What is the importance of infrastructure in your business strategy, and how do you expect your experience in manufacturing to help you select investments?
It’s hugely important because the federal government faces the same critical infrastructure issues that challenge cities and private enterprise. For example, infrastructure requirements for a city are similar to the needs of a military installation.
My manufacturing background comes into play in applying the same creativity used by manufacturers in the past few decades to government applications. For years we have seen manufacturers become extremely productive in order to compete in the global marketplace. Siemens has a particularly outstanding track record of helping manufacturers become more efficient and productive. Now we need to apply these same capabilities to solve challenges in the government space.
The disrepair of America’s infrastructure is reaching a critical state; many government agencies don’t have the funds needed to fix it. One lesson learned from manufacturing is that Siemens can offer facility and infrastructure upgrade solutions that significantly decrease the operating costs of those installations. An example is a performance contracting agreement which is a long-term agreement where Siemens has over 20 years of experience.
Siemens serves as a prime contractor on energy savings performance contracts with the Energy Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and as a product, solution and services provider across all of our offerings. With Siemens paying the up-front cost of the capital upgrades and then getting reimbursed over time, out of the reduction in costs, it’s a win-win.
What are you most excited about in your new role and what will some of your first priorities be?
The two things that excite me the most are the team Siemens has put together to serve the federal market and that we will be helping our government customers perform their missions to better serve our nation’s citizens. Whether it be in improving energy efficiency in federal buildings or helping our military become more energy independent, it is a privilege to have this opportunity.
From the chairman of our board, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal to our CEO, to each and every member of the Siemens Government Technologies team, I am proud to be a leader of this organization.
My first priorities will be listening and learning from our team. They have a lot to teach me, and hopefully I can bring some quick value to the organization. I am also looking forward to having my wife and two sons join me in the area. As a native Virginian, I am looking forward to being a little closer to my roots.