NY Power Agency Names CRO; Bank CIO Joins Alvarez & Marsal

State Power Authority recruits Walmart's Parija; consulting firm adds Devin from Silicon Valley Bank

Thursday, August 13, 2015

By Ted Knutson and Jeffrey Kutler

Soubhagya Parija, a former Duke Energy Corp. risk manager who most recently oversaw global compliance risk strategy for retailing giant Walmart, has joined the New York Power Authority as senior vice president and chief risk officer.

The NYPA is the largest state-owned power supplier, operating 16 generating facilities and delivering a quarter of all electricity consumed in New York State over more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. The White Plains-based agency finances its operations through bond sales and its own revenues, and it stresses that more than 70% of the electricity comes from "clean renewable hydropower."

"Bringing Soubhagya on board is part of our continuing effort to bolster our internal controls and manage our strategic and business risks," NYPA president and CEO Gil Quiniones said in announcing the appointment. "We must ensure that while we carry out our mission to provide low-cost, reliable power to help fuel New York State's economy, we do so in a way that is transparent, follows established procedures and is subject to rigorous oversight."

In another recently announced people move, former Silicon Valley Bank chief information officer Beth Devin was named managing director of consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, with a focus on the West Coast (see details below).

Collaboration with Audit

According to NYPA's July 9 announcement, Parija, 52, is reporting to CEO Quiniones, while also working closely with Jennifer Faulkner, who joined NYPA in early 2015 as senior vice president of internal audit. Having previously overseen risk, compliance and control functions at Pfizer, Faulkner is responsible at NYPA for evaluations of the effectiveness of financial, information technology and operating controls.

"I will collaborate with all members of the executive management team as we embark on a path of strategically focused risk management," Parija said. "NYPA already has a strong management infrastructure in place, and I'm excited that we're pursuing a new approach, especially as the energy landscape shifts away from traditional power generation."

In an interview, Parija drew a contrast between the state-owned NYPA and publicly listed Duke Energy, the nation's biggest electric power holding company. At Duke from 2000 to 2006, Parija rose to director of enterprise risk management and portfolio analysis. He believes that he will be more free to focus on long-term strategizing than was possible at a company more beholden to the whims of Wall Street.

Soubhagya Parija, Chief Risk Officer, New York Power Authority

On the other hand, he pointed out, a public agency does not have the same kind of stock-price and earnings benchmarks that publicly-traded power suppliers do.

Capital Structure

But debt financing is common to all such enterprises. Parija said he is not worried about the prospects of rising interest rates because NYPA is not overly dependent on bonds. "We feel pretty comfortable with our capital structure," he said.

He added, just weeks into his tenure, that part of the learning curve involves becoming better informed about, and able to manage, the evolving relationship between power companies and their customers. Historically, it was a straightforward sale of electricity to end users. With the rise of solar panels on homes and businesses, transactions can also flow the other way, as customers will be selling power to the traditional producers.

NYPA also represents a contrast with Walmart International, where Parija spent two years leading compliance risk strategy across 26 countries. Between his Duke Energy and Walmart stints, Parija spent more than six years with Signet Jewelers as director of enterprise risk management - he developed the retailer's ERM program, which included regulatory compliance.

Earlier in his career, Parija worked at NTPC, India's largest utility. He has a master's degree in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and an MBA from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Beth Devin at A&M

Professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, continuing steady recruitment efforts across multiple practice areas, has augmented its technology expertise with the addition of veteran chief information officer Beth Devin as a San Francisco-based managing director.

Beth Devin, Managing Director, Alvarez & Marsal

Devin specializes in improving IT performance, digital solutions and platforms, cloud adoption and CIO advisory services. She was most recently CIO of Silicon Valley Bank, which is closely identified with the start-up and entrepreneurial communities in California and and other regions. At that bank, Devin led an IT transformation that supported product and geographical expansion and launched a digital, high-touch commercial banking service delivery program. She also was accountable for a technology investment portfolio and advocated for critical infrastructure stability and scalability.

"Many organizations face the question of how to start developing a digital strategy, and then once it's in place, how to respond and adjust more quickly," Devin stated. "Additionally, as companies struggle to be more nimble and innovative, they're also faced with increased regulatory controls which impact their business agility and ability to benefit from innovation. I look forward to helping A&M's clients address these challenges."

Before her two-year stint at Silicon Valley Bank, through spring this year, Devin was chief technology officer of Hearst Corp. start-up, online retailer and Safeway payments spin-off Blackhawk Network. She was also chief information officer of Charles Schwab Corp.'s retail brokerage, Schwab Bank and investment adviser. At Schwab, she led the "one customer" strategy and customer relationship management initiatives for the branch,, call center, interactive voice response and email channels.

With a bachelor's degree in computer science from San Francisco State University, Devin earlier in her career held technology positions at Turner Broadcasting Systems, Pacific Bell and Bechtel Petroleum.

"Beth brings a real passion and depth of experience for digital transformation to A&M," said Fred Mattson, also a managing director in San Francisco. "Her diverse experience and background will help our clients advance in areas such as cloud computing, mobile, SaaS [software as a service] and big data - areas that may not yet be mature but have already changed the landscape. Beth is equipped to help our clients across multiple industries partake in effective and game-changing IT transformation."

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