UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


MBA alum Brent Callinicos on building Google's treasury


Note: Brent Callinicos joined Uber as chief financial officer in 2013.

The economy collapsed within a year after Google had hired Brent Callinicos (BSBA ’87, MBA ’89) to build a world-class treasury. But four years later, the amount of cash he manages has tripled, and the number of employees in the treasury has increased sevenfold. The onsite trading room he created to manage Google’s portfolio was profiled in Businessweek.

“What’s probably helped me most in my career that I got from being at UNC Kenan-Flagler in particular was a validation of what I really wanted to do and what I was passionate about from the drill-down courses that we had. I found that the deeper I dug into the finance curriculum, the more I liked it.”

Before joining Google, Callinicos became one of the youngest people named as a vice president at Microsoft, where he was the company’s treasurer for four years.  He also worked at Walt Disney and in various financial capacities at Procter & Gamble.

Right after joining Google, Callinicos sat down with CEO Eric Schmidt to discuss the role.

“He told me, ‘You know what a world class treasury looks like – go build one.’ It felt like going back in time a little bit. It was a company where everyone was excited about what they were doing. It wasn’t management anymore; it was change. It was a blank sheet of paper Don’t manage – change. If you have the opportunity to have a blank sheet of paper, take it.”

Knowing that businesses adapt or die, he built his team at Google with “people who can switch gears really quickly,” he said. “The more adaptive people are, the more creative they are.”

Google’s innovative culture leads to a plethora of new products. All are tied to finite expectations, and each is measured. The company encourages critical feedback and change.

“I don’t want anybody to think that because I created something we shouldn’t change it,” he said. “If we haven’t changed something in 12 months, why? The best idea holds.”

Google’s innovative culture leads to a plethora of new products - they released more than 500 product improvements to search alone last year – but all of those were tied to finite expectations, and each is measured.

“Google is a math company,” he adds. “Most people have some kind of math background. It is part of the DNA of Google to measure everything.”

ROI matters at the company, Callinicos emphasizes. When he gets approval to spend money on new initiatives, “I am signing up for a better bottom line.”