Cognizant may replace CEO Francisco D’Souza with an outsider

New Delhi: Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. may have an outsider as chief executive for the first time, as the company’s board is considering at least one executive from a rival to succeed Francisco D’Souza, according to three people familiar with the matter. The Teaneck, New Jersey-based company, which started as a software services arm of Dun and Bradstreet Corp. in 1994 and two years later became an independent firm, is evaluating candidates both within and outside the company to succeed D’Souza, the people said on condition of anonymity.

D’Souza, 50, who in June was entrusted with the additional responsibility of vice-chairman of the company, has not set a date to step down. But a company official and two industry executives said he was expected to step down from his current role as CEO some time next year.

The Cognizant board’s decision to expand the search to include outside candidates is significant, as until now it was widely considered that Cognizant president Rajeev Mehta would succeed D’Souza.

One of the candidates that the 11-member board has discussed in the last few weeks is a senior executive from Accenture Plc, according to two of the three people cited before. Mint is withholding the name of the candidate to protect the person’s identity, as the executive is still with Accenture.

“The board is looking to have a smooth succession when Frank steps down. This could happen sometime next year,” said one of the two people cited before. For now, no decision has been reached by the board, said the three people.

Cognizant declined to respond to Mint’s questionnaire, including whether the company was looking at executives outside the firm as a potential successor to D’Souza.

He is the third CEO at Cognizant, after Wijeyaraj Kumar Mahadeva led the company from 1994 until 2003 and Lakshmi Narayanan who steered the company from 2004 until 2006.

Under D’Souza’s watch, the software services company has been consistently outperforming its peers to clock revenue of $14.81 billion in 2017 from just about $1.42 billion in 2006.

D’Souza is also an independent director on the board of General Electric Co.

For this reason, many experts believe D’Souza is one of the most successful CEOs in the history of the information technology (IT) outsourcing industry.

“Frank D’Souza has overseen the meteoric rise of Cognizant from a small provider to $15 billion in revenue, the second-largest IT services firm in India and one of the most respected globally, currently ranked 8 in the world for high-value IT services by HfS Research,” said Phil Fersht, chief executive of US-based HfS Research, an outsourcing research firm.

“It’s no surprise that he will be associated with many top jobs in the tech industry, considering his young age and reputation, especially when you consider the current flattening of growth of the sector. Cognizant should be mature and established enough to cope well with any leadership changes, should they arise,” he said.

source: livemint


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