Wan Ling Martello: Leading the Giants

A FEW weeks ago, the Board of Directors of Nestlé S.A, the largest food company in the world, appointed Filipino American Wan Ling Martello to succeed Jim Singh when he retires on March 31, 2012 as Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Nestlé.

The appointment of Wan Ling Martello, a company outsider, took some analysts by surprise. But those who know Ms. Martello and her proven track record of accomplishments in the business world were not.

For over 20 years, Ms.Martello has been playing a leading role in some of the world’s biggest companies.

Since 2005, she has been a key leader at Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retail chain. Currently Executive Vice President of Global e-Commerce, Martello manages one of Wal-Mart’s fastest-growing business segments — Emerging Markets (EM).

“We think the appointment makes sense,” said Jon Cox, analyst at Kepler Capital Markets. “She comes from Nestle’s biggest customer, she has experience in e-commerce … emerging markets (key growth driver) and obviously brings a female multi-ethnic, emerging-market/Asian face to the world as Nestle’s representative.”

Ms. Martello’s impressive experience with multi-cultural markets is certainly a factor in her appointment as EVP/CFO of Nestlé. With the Swiss company now deriving more than a third of its sales from EM countries and looking to expand in these markets like China, Nestlé clearly sees Ms. Martello as an asset to the team. She speaks Mandarin and Hokkien Chinese/Fookien, aside from Filipino/Tagalog and English.

Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé, said: “I am confident that Wan Ling will blend well into the Nestlé culture and that her strong experience in finance and the food and beverage business, both from the industry and retail angle, will allow her to further enhance the Nestlé model combining top-line growth with continuous margin improvement and an improved return on invested capital.”

Born in the Philippines in 1958, Wan Ling belongs to a Chinese-Filipino family. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Accountancy, and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.

Her family immigrated to the US for better educational opportunities. Together with her four siblings, Wan Ling took advantage of those opportunities and went on to earn advanced degrees. She earned her MBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Minnesota.

She started her professional career at Kraft in 1985 where she spent ten years in diverse financial roles including audit, international reporting, financial systems, strategic planning and financial planning and analysis. She became Kraft’s Director of Finance, Operations before she moved on in 1995 to join Borden Foods Corporation where she was the Corporate Controller and Director of Finance, Grocery Products Division.

From 1998-2005, Wan Ling was with NCH Marketing Services Inc., a former subsidiary of Nielsen and the premier coupon processing and promotion information management company in the US and worldwide. She was Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and then President.

From 2005-2011, Wan Ling gained in-depth knowledge of the retail and e-commerce business at Walmart where she was Senior Vice President, Chief Finance Officer & Strategy, Walmart International and then Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Global eCommerce, Emerging Markets.

Wan Ling is an active Board Member in the Committee of 100, a national organization of Chinese American leaders. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum.

In 2008, she was honored by the Asian Women in Business (AWIB) with a Corporate Leadership Award. According to the AWIB website, Ms. Martello looks up to her father as her role model and mentor, who “taught her self-reliance and clear thinking”, skills she has applied well in her life.

Women climbing the corporate find lots of obstacles and challenges. Wan Ling’s advice to these women is, “you are the master of your own destiny … and never forget it is just as important to help others to succeed as well”.

And as many of her past and present associates can attest, Wan Ling definitely follows her own advice as she has mentored them with a belief that to be a truly successful leader, you need to help others succeed.


(LA Weekend Oct 15-18, 2011 Sec A pg.10)

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