By Mike Colias 

General Motors Co. Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara will leave the auto maker for online commerce firm Stripe Inc., a surprising departure for one of the auto maker's fastest-rising stars.

GM confirmed Tuesday that Ms. Suryadevara was leaving the company for an undisclosed opportunity outside the auto industry. San Francisco-based Stripe confirmed Ms. Suryadevara's hiring.

John Stapleton, GM's chief financial officer for North America, was named acting global finance chief while the company conducts a search, GM said.

Ms. Suryadevara has been one of the highest-profile executives in the auto industry, a sector long dominated by men. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, the first woman to lead a major car company, has assembled an executive team and board lauded for female representation, including six of its 11 directors.

Ms. Suryadevara's resignation marks the second big executive change in Detroit during the past week. Last week, Ford Motor Co. elevated its operations chief, Jim Farley, to be its new chief executive, succeeding Jim Hackett, who is set to retire Oct. 1.

Her departure comes as GM tries to regain its footing following the pandemic-related shutdown of its factories this spring, which resulted in the company burning through $9 billion in cash during the second quarter and sent executives scrambling to borrow money. Ms. Suryadevara led efforts to add more than $20 billion to the balance sheet from fresh debt to weather the crisis.

GM shares rose about 3.5% in morning trading Tuesday, to $29.07.

Ms. Suryadevara will become CFO at Stripe, which provides software to help companies process online payments. The startup was valued at $35 billion following an investment round in September.

Stripe said Ms. Suryadevara will help the company as it expands its global operations. The 2,800-employee company has brought its payments-processing service to 15 new countries in the past year, it said.

Ms. Suryadevara became GM;s CFO in 2018, at age 39, after rising through GM's finance ranks. The India native spent nearly her entire career at GM, joining the treasurer's office in New York in 2005.

One of Ms. Barra's trusted lieutenants, Ms. Suryadevara has overseen a cost-cutting push since taking over the top finance job, relying on the technique known as zero-based budgeting, which requires managers to start a budget from zero and justify every expense. She took a lead role in a restructuring of GM's U.S. operations initiated in late 2018 that included closing several factories and laying off thousands of salaried employees, people familiar with the matter have said. The plant closures drew harsh criticism from President Trump and lawmakers from both parties.

Ms. Suryadevara garnered a reputation among equity analysts for transparency. In May, when the pandemic's toll on the auto industry had yet to come into focus, she told analysts the company could lose between $7 billion and $9 billion in cash during the second quarter.

"You're knocking the cover off the ball on transparency, which is especially appreciated during times like this," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told Ms. Suryadevara.

GM's efforts to cut costs and plow into growth areas like electric and autonomous cars have failed to lift its stock price. Shares have doubled since the early days of the pandemic but remain below the $33 IPO price when shares listed in 2010, a year after its government-led bankruptcy.

During her time as CFO, Ms. Suryadevara has emphasized the need for GM to boost free cash flow, believing sluggish cash generation was partly the reason for GM's languishing stock price, people familiar with her thinking have said.

"Free cash flow is a really important metric across any business," Ms. Suryadevara said in an interview last year. "It's a language everyone can speak. It's a language that investors, rating agencies and analysts understand."

Only 90 CFO positions at companies in the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 were held by women in 2020, a slight increase from 88 in 2019, according to the Crist|Kolder Volatility Report, which tracks recruitment trends in corporate leadership.

In her previous job as head of corporate finance, Ms. Suryadevara helped lead the sale of GM's European business in 2017, and was heavily involved in the acquisition of driverless-car startup Cruise Automation in 2016 for about $1 billion. Cruise last year was valued at about $19 billion.

Mr. Stapleton has been with GM since 1990 and has served as CFO of North America since 2014. The region fuels the bulk of GM's global profit.

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 11, 2020 12:34 ET (16:34 GMT)

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