Dhivya Suryadevara

Dhivya Suryadevara
EVP and CFO
General Motors Company

Last Updated: 09/14/2018

Executive Summary

Suryadevara is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at General Motors, a role which she assumed in September 2018. Most recently, she was Vice President of Corporate Finance at the company. Previously, she served as Vice President of Finance and Treasurer. Suryadevara joined General Motors in 2004 as Senior Financial Analyst of Treasurer’s Office. Since then she held various positions within the company in the Asset Management division like Investment Analyst, Manager of Fixed Income, Manager of Multi-Asset Investment Strategies, Director of Investment Strategy. She also served as Chief Investment Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Asset Management Division. Prior to General Motors she served as Associate Director of UBS Investment Bank. She also held various positions in Assurance & Business Advisory Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers. A native of Chennai, India, Suryadevara earned a BA degree from the University of Madras and went on to earn a MCom from the University of Madras. She also received her MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Personal Attributes and Interests

  • In 2002 she was a summer intern at The World Bank.
  • Suryadevara is married and has a daughter. She resides in New York.
  • She was one of the youngest Chief Investment Officers at General Motors Asset Management.
  • In 2015 she was nominated for Chief Investment Officer of the Year for the Investor Intelligence Awards by the Investor Intelligence Network.
  • According to a 2016 Automotive News article, "In 2012, Suryadevara was part of a small team that executed a unique transaction to slash about $29 billion from GM’s pension burden by shifting about some salaried retirees to a group annuity handled by Prudential Financial Inc. 'Nothing on that scale had been done before,' Suryadevara said. 'We didn’t really have a road map for how to structure and execute a deal like that.' She says it’s the complexity of those types of deals — and the auto industry in general — that steered her toward a career in the car business when many of her Harvard peers ended up in private equity, venture capital or entrepreneurial pursuits."
  • Suryadevara is a fitness fanatic.
  • She lives in New York with her husband and daughter.
  • According to an undated Real Simple article, "With two simultaneous jobs at General Motors, Dhivya Suryadevara over­sees funding for the automaker’s capital activities, banking relation­ships, and $80 billion pension plan. She com­mutes between New York City, where her home and family are, and Detroit." She told the publication:
    • "I grew up and spent most of my childhood in Chennai, in south India. My dad passed away when I was very young, so it was my mother, sisters, and me. My mom had to raise three children on her own, which is difficult to do anywhere, let alone in India. She wanted to make sure there were no corners cut when it came to our education and to prove that we could have the same resources as a two-parent household. Her high expectations made us want to do better, and we learned that nothing comes easy. You have to really work hard to get what you want."
    • "I went to college in India in the city where I grew up. I had a bachelor’s in com­merce, which is basically business. I wanted to get my M.B.A. from a top business program. I moved here when I was 22 to go to Harvard...I was very far from home, and there was definitely culture shock. At that time, Harvard Business School took people with a certain amount of work experience, and I had worked through undergrad but had come straight out of college...I didn’t have much money when I got here. My friends would take school trips, but that wasn’t an option for me. I was living on debt the whole time. Everything was funded with student loans that I had to pay back. In those circumstances, you’re under a different amount of pressure to find a job."
    • "I’m based in New York, and the team is in Detroit. My husband and [10-year-old] daughter are based in New York. Weekends, I’m there, and the weeks are dependent on what’s going on at any given time. I spend a lot of time going back and forth...It teaches you to be more efficient. When I’m in Detroit, I take more meetings and focus on work so that it’s easier for me to be with my family when I’m in New York. And I work while I travel. %u2028 I get hundreds of e-mails each day. I use my time on the plane to %u2028go through them."
    • "Exercise keeps me sane, especially boxing. It’s very therapeutic."
    • "We all spend way too much time in meetings. My meetings are on the shorter side. I encour­age different points of view. I like to ask, 'What are we missing?'"
    • "I tend to microman­age. As I’ve taken on more and more responsi­bil­ities, it has become more about where do I want to extricate myself and say others will do this versus me?"
    • "I don’t have a silver bullet for balance, but I try to make the most of every week, recog­niz­ing that there will be some weeks that are hard."

Current Focus

  • No exit plan for Holden: In August 2018, GM Holden confirmed it will up its investment in design and engineering by $28 million, News.com reported. Holden will now spend $120 million a year to boost its design and engineering workforce to develop cars of the future for General Motors globally. The additional investment pledged by GM will go toward research and development projects and the expansion of its Australian operations; a 30 per cent increase over Holden Australia’s current budget. “We need to support this brand in a huge way; know that the commitment is long term,” Mark Reuss, EVP and President, Global Product Group, said. (Holden) is part of who we are and always has been,” said Reuss. “Either we’re in the game or we’re not. It’s a fundamental part of our company … and this industry here, and we take that very seriously.” Reuss added, “(Australia) is not an easy place to do business but it’s a worthwhile place to do business. Frankly we’re worried here (but) we’re here to support it.” When asked about a possible switch to the Chevrolet badge, Reuss said General Motors is “very proud” of the Holden name and indicated a change is not even a consideration. Visiting Australia to make the announcement of 150 new engineers — taking the local design and engineering workforce to 500 —Reuss said Holden will play a key role in “leading edge” autonomous and electric cars and other future models. “Make no mistake, we’re moving to a driverless future — a future of safer roads and zero crashes,” said Reuss. “We can expect to see more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 50. Holden engineers will play a vital and key role for General Motors’ future vehicles.” Holden will also play a key role in developing autonomous vehicle tech that will eventually be able to avoid a crash. “The world-class vehicle engineering capability we have at Holden in Australia will play a significant role in GM delivering on its commitment to create a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” said Reuss. The 150 recruits will be a mix of both experienced and graduate engineers, who will be based in Melbourne but work with Detroit’s advanced vehicle development team. When asked why Holden was so important to General Motors, Reuss said, “There’s a lot of engineering talent in Australia … my experience with the people here is extraordinary”.
  • Explore Listing Shares of Cruise: General Motors is having early discussions internally and with banks about strategic options for its self-driving car unit Cruise Automation, Bloomberg reported in June 2018. The company is researching possibilities including a public offering of shares, listing a separate tracking stock to reflect its value, or spinning off the unit, people familiar with the matter said. The exploration shows how far Cruise has come since it was acquired two years ago as a 50-person firm. It’s now attracting capital, hiring by the hundreds and aiming to offer an app-based, ride-hailing service next year. The exploration also underscores that GM sees Cruise as a vital piece of the company’s future that could be fostered by raising its profile with investors. CEO Mary Barra sees it as a huge strategic asset and a source of future profits.
  • Profit Engine:  General Motors is counting on a profit boost from an unlikely source: its in-house lending arm, according to a June 2018 WSJ article. The rebuilt vehicle-finance unit, called GM Financial, has emerged as a budding profit driver, just as other parts of GM’s business have come under pressure. Vehicle sales are slowing and GM is turning to heavier discounts to maintain sales momentum in the U.S. and China, at a time when commodity costs are climbing. Executives at GM are telling investors that the lending arm will help keep the company’s 2018 operating income close to the record $12.8 billion it earned in each of the past two years. GM Financial’s expansion has contributed around $1 billion in additional profit in recent years from car sales that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, the company estimates. The unit nearly doubled first-quarter pretax profit to $443 million, the highest since GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. The company said it expects GM Financial’s full-year profit to grow significantly, from $1.2 billion in 2017—or about 10% of GM’s bottom line—and sees it hitting $1.6 billion within a few years. GM sees GM Financial as a core part of its plan to sustain profitability when auto sales stall or the economy dips, helping to support sales and finance inventory if other lenders pull back, President Dan Ammann said.  “At some point [a downturn] will happen,” Ammann said. “That’s when the real benefit will come to the fore.”
  • Viability Plan for GM Korea: In May 2018, GM Korea announced a robust business plan that is intended to return the company to profitability by 2019. This viability plan will be underpinned by a record $2.8 billion investment in two new global vehicle programs and a deep partnership among major shareholders, the workforce and the Korean government. Additionally, GM and the Korea Development Bank (KDB) have agreed on a balance sheet restructuring that will allow GM Korea to reduce its existing debt by approximately $2.8 billion. The company’s two major shareholders, KDB and General Motors, confirmed their full support of the viability plan by finalizing a breakthrough binding agreement that will help enable a profitable, long-term future for GM Korea. “GM is very excited about our future in Korea,” said Barry Engle, President of GM International. “Together with the KDB, the Korean Government, the labor union and our supplier partners, we have created all of the building blocks for executing a long-term viability plan that will be good for our people, good for our company and good for Korea.” Under the plan, GM will: Design, engineer and manufacture an all-new small SUV for Korea and export markets; Manufacture an all-new CUV-type vehicle for Korea and export markets; and Engineer and manufacture a small three-cylinder gasoline engine in Korea for next-generation global vehicles. Kaher Kazem, president and CEO of GM Korea, said GM’s record $2.8 billion foreign direct investment will sustain 200,000 Korean jobs directly and indirectly, including at local suppliers. “GM Korea now has the right fundamentals to grow a successful business in Korea for the long term,” said Kazem. “Our Chevrolet customers, employees, partners and community will all be part of this bright future. We will convey Chevrolet’s true value to domestic consumers again through the launch of new models and innovative customer care programs, in addition to large-scale customer-focused marketing and sales activities.” Separately, General Motors also agreed to set up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in South Korea, reported CNBC. GM will also buy more parts from South Korean suppliers for its overseas operations, boosting procurement from about 2 trillion won ($1.85 billion) a year at present. The new regional headquarters will oversee production, sales and technology development for Asia Pacific countries, which excludes China, but includes Australia, India and Thailand among others.
  • Leg-up in Driverless Race: In May 2018 General Motors said that SoftBank Vision Fund plans to invest $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, further boosting the company's efforts with autonomous vehicle technology, reported CNBC. GM also will make a $1.1 billion investment in GM Cruise once the deal has closed. The investment is "a big recognition and validation of the progress we've made over the last couple of years to get to this point," President Dan Ammann said in an interview. "But I also think it's a big recognition of the opportunity that lays ahead." The SoftBank Vision Fund investment will be made in two tranches. The first investment of $900 million will be made when the transaction closes, while the remaining $1.35 billion investment will come when Cruise's self-driving vehicles are ready for commercial deployment. The deal will result in the SoftBank Vision Fund owning a 19.6 percent equity stake in GM Cruise. GM said it expects it has the capital necessary to reach commercialization at scale beginning in 2019. Ammann reiterated that commitment and said, "we've continued to make a lot of progress and that continues to be our objective…More importantly, our ultimate decision to launch the technology fully driverless is really going to be gated by safety." He added, "We need to hit the right level of safety performance, and when we do that we will be ready to go."
  • Drop Monthly Sales Reports: General Motors will begin reporting U.S. sales at the end of each quarter instead of at the end of each month, reported CNBC in April 2018. "Reporting sales quarterly better aligns with our business, and the quality of information will make it easier to see how the business is performing," said Kurt McNeil, US VP, Sales Operations. The company said dropping monthly sales reports was driven by a number of factors, including the desire to stop the volatility that sometimes exaggerates monthly sales. GM said unusual weather, product launches or incentive campaigns can skew monthly numbers up or down. "Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market," said McNeil. GM will also no longer report monthly sales in China and Brazil. GM will provide monthly data to the U.S. Federal Reserve, industry associations and government agencies across the globe but that data is not made public.
  • Book Write-down as a Result of Tax Overhaul: General Motors will book a $7 billion write-down stemming from the tax-overhaul bill passed in December 2017, though executives said broader benefits of the tax changes could help the company as it aims to maintain profitability levels amid a slowdown in the U.S. car market, according to a January 2018 WSJ article. GM said that 2017 pretax earnings are likely to be “at the high end” of its previous forecast of $6 to $6.50 per share. In October, the company said it expected to finish in the middle of that range. GM said it expects similar results in 2018 amid continued strength in its two biggest regions—North America and China—and a recovery in smaller markets including South America. The company added that it expects “further earnings acceleration” in 2019. GM said it would take a $7 billion noncash write-down to reflect the loss in value of tax-deferred assets held on its balance sheet. GM said the value of those credits against future taxes declined because of the reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%. CFO Chuck Stevens said the noncash charge won’t affect the amount GM spends to pay taxes each year. He said the tax overhaul will boost consumers’ disposable income, helping to offset any increases in the low interest rates that have aided car sales for years. Continued stout demand for pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, which carry higher profit margins, has fueled the bulk of GM’s profit growth in recent years. The company’s performance in China, its largest market by sales, has remained resilient, with sales outpacing the broader industry. Some challenges in those parts of the business this year are likely to be offset by a rebound in areas that had been trouble spots, GM said. It expects improvement in overseas markets including South America, where GM has strong market share. Among the obstacles, GM expects pricing pressure to weigh on results in the U.S. and China in 2018. Production of its most important products, full-size pickup trucks and SUVs, also will be under pressure, GM said, as the changeover to an all-new truck platform will lead to some factory downtime, cutting output by about 70,000 trucks, or nearly 10%, compared with 2017. GM executives said strong demand for a line of revamped crossover wagons, a popular category, is likely to help offset the lost production. “We expect the headwinds and the tailwinds to roughly offset,” Stevens said. GM officials played down the threat of significant changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. During an investor conference, CEO Mary Barra said she believes there is an understanding among Trump administration officials that significant changes to the pact could have “negative consequences“ on U.S. jobs, and that “Nafta needs to be modified, not that we should walk away from it.” The company also said it is ramping up investment in autonomous-vehicle development as it prepares for a driverless-car service in undisclosed urban markets in 2019. GM said it would spend on average about $250 million a quarter in 2018, up from about the $150 million it had been spending in 2017.
  • Bet on U.S. Market: General Motors provided a clearer portrait of its future in 2017, revealing how big a bet it is placing on the continued strength of U.S. buyers, reported WSJ. The company's financial performance was dented by moves it is making to exit Europe and certain emerging markets. More than $1 billion in costs led to a 42% plunge in second-quarter earnings to $1.7 billion and overshadowed the underlying strength of its core North American operation. The company said the short-term pain is worth it, with CEO Mary Barra saying that selling its money-losing Opel unit and shuttering operations in India and South Africa "will allow us to deploy resources and capital to higher-return opportunities." Topping that list is a new line of hulking pickup trucks due in 2018 and the revitalization of Cadillac's premium product line. Barra, however, faces one of her thorniest challenges in more than three years at the helm. She needs to maintain production discipline and hold incentives in check, a job that is complicated by the company's drastic pullback from selling to rental-car fleets that have long been GM's biggest customer. GM's North America unit contributed nearly all of the company's $3.68 billion in operating profit in the second quarter, dwarfing the operating profit and equity income derived from its other key operations-China and the GM Financial lending arm. The company enters the second half of 2017 with excess inventory in North America, resulting from robust production schedules in the first six months of the year. Inventories ballooned amid slower-than-expected sales of passenger cars, which prompted GM to begin cutting production at several U.S. factories. Other plants will be temporarily idled in fall 2017 so that assembly lines can be prepared for new sport utilities, pickups and crossover wagons, the hottest models on dealer lots. CFO Chuck Stevens said the company will report weaker third-quarter earnings as a result of needed production cuts. He committed to whittling down excess stock by the end of 2017. Stevens said history is on the company's side. The strongest selling season for trucks is traditionally the second half of the year, a factor that could offset the negative impact of production cuts. "The North American business model is proving to be very resilient to some of the challenges that we're facing," Stevens said. GM should finish 2017 with 10% pretax operating margin and could hit that level again in 2018, he added.
  • Retreat from European Market: In August 2017 General Motors completed the sale of its European division to PSA Groupe, reported Detroit Free Press. GM's decision to sell Opel and Vauxhall brands is one of several moves the company has made to exit markets where it isn't making money or where it has a small market share. “We’ve taken another bold step in our ongoing work to transform GM,” said President Dan Ammann. “This transaction allows us to sharply focus our resources on higher-return opportunities as we expand our technical and business leadership in the future of mobility.” GM said it is still in the process of completing the sale of GM Financial’s European operations to Peugeot Groupe and BNP Paribas. The sale of that division is expected to close later in 2017. The sale includes all of Opel and Vauxhall’s automotive operations, including the brands, six assembly and five component-manufacturing plants, and an engineering center in Rüsselsheim, Germany. The move covers approximately 40,000 employees. "Our recent restructuring actions will allow us to deploy resources and capital to higher return opportunities, such as refreshing our profitable global SUV and U.S. full-size truck portfolios and our global emerging-market vehicle program," CEO Mary Barra said.
  • Layoff amid Downturn in Passenger Car Sales: General Motors will eliminate a shift at a sedan plant in Kansas City, laying off about 1,000 people as the company continues to shed thousands of factory jobs amid a sharp downturn in demand for passenger cars. GM notified workers that the factory’s third shift will be eliminated in late September 2017, reported the WSJ in June 2017. “Lower demand for passenger cars across the industry has caused us to adjust production of some models,” GM said. The company said it is launching a “record number” of crossover SUVs to retain customers who are defecting from sedans. The Kansas City factory makes just one model, the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan, a market segment that is shrinking rapidly as consumers flock to crossovers amid tame gas prices and many new entries from automakers. Back in May 2017, General Motors announced plans to cut one of its two shifts at the company's Warren Transmission plant, potentially affecting about half of the approximately 580 people who work there. GM over the past seven months has announced plans for more than 5,000 layoffs across a half-dozen U.S. factories in response to slow passenger-car demand. A GM spokesman said the actual number of workers out of a job is smaller because some have been able to transfer to other GM factories. Meanwhile, GM is in growth mode at factories that make pickup trucks and SUVs. Recently, the company said it would open a large supplier park near its plant in Arlington, Texas, to support its next generation of large SUVs. Employees at GM’s three U.S. pickup-truck factories also are working around the clock. GM executives have said the company will adjust production schedules to avoid overproducing vehicles, a practice that helped nudge the company into bankruptcy in 2009. GM has negotiated more flexible terms from the United Auto Workers union in recent years that make it less expensive to lay off workers than in past market downturns.
  • Redirect Funds to Corporate Giving: General Motors is eliminating its philanthropic organization as it redirects $30 million in annual donations to focus on global development and education in science, technology, engineering, and math, according to a 2017 Automotive News article.  The company is cutting the GM Foundation to centralize its charity contributions in hopes of stamping a greater global and social footprint, according to Tony Cervone, senior vice president of global communications. The actions, he said, will not reduce overall philanthropic spending. "Rather than be limited by only those that are restricted under foundation-type rules, GM can work with partners that it chooses to drive specific social change," Cervone said. The overhaul involves passing the foundation's duties to the GM Global Corporate Giving department, which will handle the company’s worldwide charity efforts and distribute money directly from the corporation. Previously, the money was given to the foundation and then distributed. The new process will focus dollars on areas with potential to make the most impact on communities, GM contends. The company said it's a priority to hone its charity efforts to align with its core values, such as: bettering vehicle safety, reducing accidents and injuries, increasing high school graduation rates and supporting global economic development in cities, especially those where GM has operations and employee presence. The redirected charity dollars won't come as a surprise to the organizations that depend on funding, Cervone said. "All partners have been involved in either modifying the focus of their programs or have been on a reasonable wind-down of funds if there isn't alignment," he said. "Unless there were very limited funds going to a specific entity, we have worked very hard to limit the financial impact on institutions." Cervone said GM will "remain fully transparent" in the process by which partners can solicit funds.

Key Challenges

  • Raise Prices to Offset Commodity Price Jump: General Motors said it's prepared to pass along a higher than expected jump in commodity costs, according to a July 2018 CNBC article. The pricier raw materials and unfavorable exchange rates in Brazil and Argentina will cost it $1 billion this year. "To the extent that we have opportunistic ability to pass along some [of the higher costs], we will," CFO Chuck Stevens said on a call with analysts. In an interview, Stevens blamed "market forces" for the rise in commodity prices, not the tariffs the Trump administration placed on steel and aluminum this year, specifically. GM buys most of its steel domestically. The company is able to offset some of the impact of higher costs by selling higher-priced vehicles this year, Stevens said. Consumers' growing taste for larger vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs has been a boon to GM because these models are more profitable than smaller ones. Other options going forward to handle higher costs include substituting materials, he added. Even though commodity prices have eased from recent highs, GM will still feel more of the impact in the second half of the year because it takes about three months for those high-priced commodities to work their way into the automaker's supply chain, said Stevens.
  • Warning on US Tariff Plan: General Motors warned that expansive US tariffs on imported vehicles being considered by the Trump administration could lead to “a smaller GM” and risks isolating US businesses from the global market, The Guardian reported in June 2018. In a letter to the US Commerce Department, GM said the tariffs could hike vehicle prices and reduce sales. Even if automakers opted not to pass on higher costs “this could still lead to less investment, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees. The carry-on effect of less investment and a smaller workforce could delay breakthrough technologies.”

Biographical Highlights

  • Born in 1980
  • A native Chennai, India, Suryadevara earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, Finance and Economics from the University of Madras (1996-2000) and went on to earn an M.Com in Business, Finance and Economics from the University of Madras (1999-2000).
  • She also received her MBA from the Harvard Business School (2001-2003).
  • Surayadevara completed her Associate Chartered Accountant program from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (1997-2000) and Chartered Financial Analyst program from CFA Institute (2004-2007).
  • Held position, Assurance & Business Advisory Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd (1997-2000)
  • Associate Director, UBS Investment Bank (2003-2004)
  • Suryadevara joined General Motors Corporation in 2004 and has since held the following positions:
    • Senior Financial Analyst, Treasurer’s Office (2004-2005)
    • Investment Analyst, Fixed Income, GM Asset Management (2006-2008)
    • Manager, Fixed Income, GM Asset Management (2008-2010)
    • Manager, Multi-Asset Investment Strategies, GM Asset Management (January 2010-October 2010)
    • Director, Investment Strategy, GM Asset Management (2010-2011)
    • Managing Director, Investment Strategy, GM Asset Management (2011-2012)
    • Managing Director, Investment Strategy and Fixed Income, GM Asset Management (January 2013-July 2013)
    • Chief Investment Officer, GM Asset Management (2013-2017)
    • CEO, GM Asset Management (2014-2017)
    • Member, Investment Policy Committee
    • Member, Board of Directors, GM Asset Management
    • VP, Finance and Treasurer (2015-2017)
    • VP, Corporate Finance (2017-2018)
    • EVP and CFO (2018-Present)
  • She was listed in the 40 Under 40 by Asset International Inc. in 2013.
  • She was named on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list in 2015.

Other Boards and Organizations

  • Member, Board of Directors, Girl Scout Council of Greater New York



Contact Information

300 Renaissance Ctr.
Detroit, MI, 48265-3000
United States

313-556-5000

dhivya.suryadevara@gm.com


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Personal Interests

  • Fitness