Google’s $400 Billion Trusted Advisor Superstar: Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer

Photo Credit: Refracted Moments(TM)

Spoken and written words STILL have a powerful and influential impact in a world increasingly driven by computer code, big data, and mathematical algorithms.

Ruth Porat, Google’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), demonstrated during her June 16th investor relations conference call with Wall Street analysts why communicating with purpose, managing expectations, and showing “I’m actively listening” are still (and will continue to be) the hallmark skills of a successful 21st Century Trusted Advisor.

When Your Audience Trusts You, How Much Money Is That Worth?

In Ruth Porat’s Case (and Google’s), $400+ Billion in Market Capitalization. The most important employee at Google IS NOT the computer science engineer working at Google X’s latest moonshot project. Google’s most important employee is Ruth Porat.

Here’s The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) Alistair Barr quote regarding Porat’s influence and performance during her first Google Earnings Conference Call:

Porat’s performance helped push Google shares to a record in after-hours trading Thursday, valuing the company over $400 billion for the first time.

According to Allstair, Google’s stock price surged $65 billion in market value in Friday’s July 17th trading. So is Ruth Porat the $65 Billion Trusted Advisor or $400 Billion Trusted Advisor?

I’m going with $400 Billion because it makes for a better headline.

Porat’s Former Wall Street Analysts Peers on Why They Trust Her

A Monster Opening. If Google’s July 16th Earnings Conference Call was analogous to a Hollywood summer blockbuster movie opening, it’s safe to say the critical reviews are glowing. From Alistair Barr’s WSJ article, On First Conference Call, Google’s New CFO Is a Hit:

“I would rate her a solid 9 or 9.5” out of 10, said Neil Doshi, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA. “She gave a lot more qualitative and directional information than her predecessors and she seems to be more in-tune with the investor community.”
“The stock clearly reacted positively to CFO Porat’s remark that the possibility of capital return is in the company’s thinking,” said Daniel Salmon, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Respect Your Audience Because Your Spoken and Written Words Matter. The words financial analysts carefully listened for during Google’s earnings report according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal included but weren’t limited to:

  • Prioritize
  • Prioritization
  • Discipline
  • Focus
  • Continued Growth
  • Capital Return

Build Trust by Listening to Understand and Seeking to Be Understood. Google notoriously maintained an antagonistic relationship with Wall Street. Porat is transforming that past relationship by:

  • Showing she wants to provide Wall Street analysts more information and transparency
  • Building trust by developing a framework to share information behind Google’s decision making

These quotes from both the Alistair Barr (WSJ) and Conor Dougherty (The New York Times) articles provide clues on how Ruth Porat will build and reinforce trust with the Wall Street community:

(From Dougherty’s Article) Analysts are starving for specifics about what exactly is driving this and what it means about Google’s core search business and growing areas like YouTube. During the call, one analyst asked if more specific disclosures would be coming in the months and years ahead. Ms. Porat did not make any commitments, but said: “I am trying to create a framework that helps you understand where we’re going.”
(From Barr’s Article) She also said Google will try to give investors more details about its businesses. Google’s stinginess with information is a common compliant on Wall Street. “I’m trying to understand how best to provide more insight into the drivers of the business and beyond what is currently provided,” she said.

Communicate as a Representative of Trusted Communities. Before joining Google, Ruth Porat served as one of Morgan Stanley’s Co-Heads of Technology Investment Banking. She is a Stanford University alumnus and serves as Vice Chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

Ruth Porat IS Silicon Valley. And, her words and actions showed why on July 16th.

A Personal Note as a Dad to Two Young Daughters

What Is Not Stated Is Just As Powerful As What Is Spoken (or Written). Conor Dougherty’s New York Times article shared a very telling quote (and sentiment) about Ruth Porat, Google, and Silicon Valley:

“She confirmed that they are more open to focusing on expense controls, more open to providing new disclosures and more open to potentially returning cash,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Securities. “Those are the three things people wanted, and she came through.”

So I’m Going To Say It (and Write It). There is a fourth thing people want. And, it extends beyond Silicon Valley’s self-anointed “we’re here to change the world” statements:

Women of all ages (but especially young, professional women) need to see someone of Ruth Porat’s caliber and status kicking ass and taking names at the highest levels of Silicon Valley senior executive management.

As a Dad to two young daughters, I’m betting on people like Ruth Porat and Marissa Mayer (every day of the week and twice on Sunday).

Your Turn

Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you. I’m here to read, listen, and learn from YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Comments are open. So let’er rip!

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Originally published at on July 21, 2015.