Fil-Am Woman Is EVP, CFO Of World’s Biggest Food Company

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Starting April 1, a Philippine-born female American will be breaking the glass ceiling of sorts when she takes over the helm of the world’s biggest food company as its executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Wan Ling Martello will take over as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Nestle S.A.(NESN), the world’s biggest food company, at its headquarters in Veyvey, Switzerland.

Ms. Martello, 53, succeeds Jim Singh, who retired at 65 years old after working for 35 years in Nestle and had held the position as CFO since 2008.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Ms. Martello left as executive vice president of global e-commerce and emerging markets of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the global leader in revenues/profit and number of employees at 2.1-million.

According to a press release posted on Nestle’s website, Ms. Martello, a U.S. Citizen of Chinese and Philippine origin, is a Certified Public Accountant with MBA from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accountancy from the University of the Philippines.

Ms. Martello has a vast knowledge of the finance and has solid experience in the food and beverage business as well as retail segment.

She formerly worked with Kraft Foods (1985-1995) in finance and business administration as well as with Borden Foods Corporation (1995-1998) as Corporate Controller.


From 1998-2005 she was with NCH Marketing Services Inc., a former subsidiary of Nielsen, as Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and then President USA. From 2005-2011, Ms. Martello gained in-depth knowledge of the retail and e-commerce business at Walmart where she was Senior Vice President, Chief Finance Officer & Strategy, Walmart International and then Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Global eCommerce, Emerging Markets.
Besides her financial background, Wan Ling also has extensive insight of the consumer and branded goods category and is perfectly prepared to assume this crucial role in the company.

Ms. Martello will join a board whose 12 other executives have long experience in working at Nestle. She will only be the second person from outside the Swiss company to take the CFO post in less than a decade. Paul Polman, a former Procter & Gamble Co. executive and now head of Unilever, ran Nestle’s finances from 2006 until early 2008.

According to Bloomberg News, Andrew Wood, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York, told investors, “For a company of too many ‘insiders’ at senior level positions, this external perspective and experience could prove to be very useful at Nestle.”


With a market value of about 164.4 billion francs (US$184 billion), Nestle is Europe’s second-most valuable company after Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Martello’s fluency in speaking Mandarin and Fookien aside from her native Filipino language of Tagalog and English could boost Nestle’s goal of expanding its business in Asia. The company, which agreed to its biggest Chinese acquisition with a bid for candy maker Hsu Fu Chi International Ltd. in July, has set a target of getting 45 percent of revenue from developing countries by 2020, compared with about a third now. Unilever earns about half of its revenue from this region.

None of Nestle’s executive-board members lists Chinese among their language skills in their profiles. She will also be Nestle’s highest ranking female executive.

The new CFO may also improve ties between Nestle and Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer and one of the Swiss manufacturer’s largest customers, according to analysts at MF Global.


Thomas Russo, who manages about $4-billion, including Nestle shares, as a partner at Garner Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said, Ms. Martello “comes with a celebrated resume and has the required exposure to this business as both a supplier and a customer.”

By tradition, Nestle usually promotes insiders as the average term of employment of Nestle executive board members is 28 years, according to Patrick Hasenboehler, an analyst at Bank Sarasin & Cie. in Zurich.

Consumer-goods companies are promoting people with emerging-market backgrounds as countries such as China and India fuel their sales growth. Rakesh Kapoor became chief executive officer of Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (RB/) this month, capping a career at the U.K. household-products manufacturer that started in his native India in 1987. (

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