Long before veteran finance executive Bob Swan, BS ’83, was named chief financial officer of Intel, he was an undergraduate at the University at Buffalo School of Management, taking advantage of every opportunity to discover what he wanted from his future career.
“My experiences at UB, both inside and outside of the classroom, taught me that the sum of things can be greater than the parts,” says Swan, who was honored with the Industry Leadership award at last year’s School of Management Alumni Association awards banquet. “Academically, it wasn’t about learning accounting or marketing — it was about how all those programs come together to advance a business. On campus, it was about sharing ideas with people who weren’t like me to gain a more informed view of the world and how it operates.”
Swan became enamored with the interconnectivity of business disciplines and wanted a career in which he could bring those disparate areas together to help organizations prosper. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1983 and, looking to learn more, completed an MBA at Binghamton University in 1985.
After commencement, Swan joined General Electric and spent the next 15 years advancing through various senior finance roles, including divisional CFO for GE Transportation Systems, GE Healthcare Europe and GE Lighting.
“The expectation drilled into me early in my career at GE was that the role of finance is not about counting the beans — it’s about helping the beans grow,” says Swan. “Overall, finance has evolved this way as well. Now, finance professionals who help grow the beans and build a great business are much more highly regarded than those who just add up and report on the beans.”
For Swan, that shift in the industry has allowed him to take on a broad role within organizations and develop strong teams with the skills to support many areas of business.
As senior vice president of finance and CFO of eBay from 2006 to 2015, Swan helped the company’s revenue swell from $5 billion to more than $18 billion and oversaw the spinoff of PayPal into an independent company. He says one of his proudest accomplishments from his tenure at eBay, however, is the work he did to nurture future business leaders within his team.
“I’m proud to say that, from within the eBay system, we promoted more than 30 people out of the company to be CFOs of other businesses,” he says. “That’s a testament to the eBay leadership team and the role finance played in helping the business grow.”
Today, as CFO of Intel, Swan leads the company’s global finance organization, including finance, accounting and reporting, tax, treasury, internal audit and investor relations. He also oversees information technology and Intel’s Corporate Strategy Office.
“I joined Intel because it’s a company with a profound impact on the world and one that is undertaking a transformation from being at the heart of PCs to being at the heart of the cloud, the network and all kinds of devices,” he says. “While Intel positions itself for growth in new markets — like autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and more — finance will play a critical role in its transformation.”
Outside of work, Swan still enjoys watching and playing rugby, a sport that was critical to his leadership development as a School of Management student. He also serves on the board of the American Heart Association in Silicon Valley and spends as much time as possible with his kids.
Written by Matthew Biddle