Walmart adds Square exec to board

Posted: February 9, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Sarah Friar, the Chief Financial Officer of Square, Inc., is now a member of the Walmart board of directors.

Sarah Friar, the Chief Financial Officer of Square, Inc., is now a member of the Walmart board of directors.

Walmart Inc. has added more technology expertise to its board of directors as part of its ongoing mission to compete online with e-commerce giant Amazon.com.

The Bentonville retailer said Sarah Friar, the chief financial officer of digital-payment firm Square Inc., will serve as an independent director on the company's board. Friar's addition gives Walmart a 12-member board. It had been operating with 11 members since last June's shareholders meeting.

"We're pleased to welcome Sarah to the Walmart board and know that Walmart will benefit from her fresh perspective and skillset, which includes strong expertise in finance, operations, strategy and knowledge of technology," Greg Penner, Walmart's board chairman, said in a statement.

Friar, 45, joins a board that includes two other independent directors with extensive tech backgrounds: Instagram co-founder and chief executive officer Kevin Systrom and former Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer.

Friar has been Square's financial chief since July 2012 and was previously the senior vice president of finance and strategy at Salesforce.com Inc. Previously, Friar held numerous positions at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and also sits on the boards of Slack, a business communications platform, and software analytics company New Relic Inc.

Brian Yarbrough, a retail analyst with Edward Jones, believes Friar's addition makes sense because of Walmart's ongoing investments in technology and its online business.

The retailer has acquired e-commerce sites like Jet.com and Bonobos, has partnered with companies like Google, IBM and China's JD.com, and continues to add new technology to its stores like the cashier-free Scan & Go, voice shopping through Google Home devices, and curbside grocery pickup.

On Thursday, Walmart also announced an update to its mobile app -- called Store Assistant -- intended to make in-store shopping more convenient. Among the new features, customers who build a digital shopping list within the app will be able to find out how much they have to pay before even leaving for the store. Once in the store, shoppers will have access to store maps, see where products are, and cross off the items after they're collected.

"They've made it very clear they're all in on online and e-commerce," Yarbrough said. "So it's not surprising that they would be bringing more people on board that would have the technology background."

Friar's addition is the latest change to Walmart's board.

In 2016, Walmart trimmed its board from 15 to 12 members in efforts to become more nimble and efficient. Last year, the board dropped to 11 members after Linda Wolf retired and Pamela Craig did not stand for re-election when it was determined she was no longer an independent member because her brother-in-law was promoted to executive officer with a Walmart supplier.

Walmart said last spring that the company would continue to explore whether it should return to 12 members. A spokesman said Thursday that Friar's addition is the only change to the board.

Friar received a prorated award of 536 shares of Walmart stock as part of her compensation, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange filing. She'll also receive a prorated portion of the $90,000 annual retainer that is paid to nonmanagement directors.

"From raising wages to leading important sustainability initiatives, Walmart is one of the few businesses able to effect meaningful, positive change on a global scale," Friar said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the team to continue building a company and a culture worthy of this responsibility."

Business on 02/09/2018