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Rebecca Van Dyck

, Star Tribune

Inside Track: New Macalester trustee has big job at Facebook

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • November 3, 2012 - 8:53 PM

Rebecca Van Dyck, Facebook's head of consumer marketing and a Macalester College graduate, has been elected to the Mac board of trustees.

Van Dyck, a 1991 graduate and soccer player who still plays competitively, has a big task since joining Facebook in February.

To be sure, it's a lot higher-profile than her last job, as chief marketing officer of jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co.

Facebook has changed the online world. The No. 1 quote last week on Facebook was "I'm OK," from survivors of the Hurricane Sandy. The social media giant has helped empower citizens throughout the world to challenge tyrannical leaders.

But it's been a bust as a public company since it went public last spring amid executive and underwriter goofs. The stock trades at less than half its spring highs.

It will take strong operating and financial performance to please investors.

"Brand marketing didn't exist at Facebook before me," Van Dyck said the other day. "One of the first challenges is establish a brand voice and build a discipline around that. Right now Facebook has a relationship with users through its product. People use it every day. That's the most important thing. There's also the opportunity for us to do more things. It's a young company. And that's my task."

Van Dyck worked at Apple for several years, where she was senior director of worldwide marketing communications and advertising. Before that, she was the global account director for Nike at Wieden+Kennedy advertising for 12 years. At Mac, she majored in history and psychology and studied abroad at the University of Cairo.

"I'm really grateful for my time and experience at Macalester," Van Dyke said the other day. "I studied all the important things, including soccer ... I met my husband there. I do think Mac grads make the world a better place."

MORTGAGE LEVERAGE

Piper Jaffray Cos.' surging stock price has backed off since the securities underwriter and trader reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings in October. The earnings were jacked by a jump in mortgage-backed securities peddling that was double the level expected by analysts at Sandler O'Neill & Partners.

Piper, which also shuttered a Hong Kong office, was buoyed by improving investment banking results. Regardless, several analysts cooled on the stock.

It peaked at $29-plus per share last month. It started the year around $21.

Joel Jeffrey of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods noted that the consensus earnings estimate in the third quarter was beat "by an outsized gain on a trading strategy that is unlikely to repeat," a supposition more or less confirmed by CEO Andrew Duff during a recent conference call.

Piper has hired more fixed-income talent this year. But results can be notoriously volatile in that business. Piper's stock price has settled around $27 per share in recent days. Wall Street has a consensus target price of $31 over the next year.

SHORT TAKES

Kit Hadley, entrepreneurial director of the St. Paul Public Library, reports the launch of the Northstar Digital Literacy Project, a collaborative initiative that trains under-skilled job seekers through six training modules: basic computer use, World Wide Web, Windows 7, Microsoft Word, e-mail and other need-to-know programs. The assessments, developed by practitioners and piloted for effectiveness, are available in English and Spanish at the fourth-grade level, including audio instructions. The online assessments are free on the Internet. As each module is completed, a report is generated that demonstrates which skills an individual has mastered and which still need work. Minnesota organizations such as libraries, adult education centers and job training centers may become sponsors, allowing them to help test-takers and award a certificate of mastery to individuals successfully completing the battery of assessments.

"We see basic digital literacy as an economic growth issue," Hadley said. "A workforce fully able to use the broadband platform to participate in the global digital economy will be at a competitive advantage." More information: www.digitalliteracyassessment.org

Bloom Health, the technology firm that powers Medica's private health insurance exchange, has named Medica senior vice president Simeon Schindelman as CEO, effective Nov. 19. Schindelman succeeds Bloom Health founder Abir Sen, a several-time health company entrepreneur who said he would leave in December.

"In Simeon we have the right person who will ensure that Bloom continues to take advantage of the huge market opportunity ahead of us," Sen said.

Minneapolis-based Bloom Health has sold defined-contribution, employer-sponsored plans for 132 firms, representing 108,000 people.

The Nerdery of Bloomington, home to 429 Web designers, project managers, IT professionals and other nerds, plans to hire 100 more over the next 100 days.

The jobless rate is minuscule for Web professionals in the Twin Cities area. And business is strong at the Nerdery, which partners with client-marketers on interactive projects including websites, mobile and social media. Anyone referring a nerd they know will earn $100 if the referral snags an interview, and the bonus grows to $500 after their nerd has worked 90 days for the Nerdery. The Nerdery has hired 350 employees the past two years in the Twin Cities, Chicago and Kansas City.

"Even so, 100 Nerds in 100 days are ambitious numbers, but we're an ambitious company," said CEO Mike Derheim.

The Metropolitan Council has taken advantage of rock-bottom interest rates to refinance previously issued general obligation bonds three times this year. In total, this year's bond refinancing represents a net savings to taxpayers and wastewater ratepayers of $42 million (present value) over the life of the bonds. The savings for the October refinancing of transit capital and wastewater bonds alone was $15.9 million.

"This doesn't represent any new spending," said Jason Willett, finance director for the council's environmental services division. "It's comparable to refinancing your house. And we're not taking cash out of the deal."

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