Cathy Smith, former Target Corp. chief financial officer, brings three decades of financial-management experience to her new role as CFO at health insurance startup Bright Health.
Bright Health’s virtually integrated health care model, connecting consumers to personalized care teams and combining care and coverage, helped draw Smith to the Minneapolis-based company. The company will reach 34 markets serving 200,000 members in 13 states with this month’s announcement of the planned acquisition of a California health care system.
In December, Bright Health announced raising $635 million, bringing its total equity financing to more than $1 billion. It offers individual, family and Medicare Advantage health plans.
“Bright Health is seeing tremendous growth and is at this really interesting inflection point where they need to build for scale,” Smith said in an interview. “My goal and focus is how do I help the team create a durable and sustainable model to continue that national growth. I am absolutely convinced every single day that that’s going to be a doable goal.”
Smith joined Bright Health in early January, a year after Target announced her retirement after four years at the retail giant. She oversees Bright Health’s financial reporting and its legal, human-services and accounting departments.
“Cathy has distinguished herself as a financial leader capable of delivering results with a ‘relentless focus on the consumer’ and she will play a crucial role in this next stage of our growth,” Mike Mikan, Bright Health vice chairman and president, said in a statement.
Smith previously was executive vice president and CFO at Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy-benefits manager, and was CFO at consumer-oriented companies including Walmart and GameStop. She earned an MBA from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
Q: What is Bright Health’s growth potential?
A: One thing [CEO] Bob Sheehy and Mike both said early on is growth is not going to be our problem. I’m convinced they’re exactly right. What will come next is a focus on execution and scaling our business to ensure continued success as we grow and diversify.
Q: What’s a challenge to that growth?
A: The biggest challenge and opportunity is going to be focus and prioritization. We’ve seen time and time again that with a company’s growth comes many changes, and with changes come opportunities to pursue new lines of business, and we’ve continued to see that here at Bright. So it’s important that we maintain focus and prioritize the business that creates the most value for the shareholders.
Q: How does your consumer focus apply here?
A: At the end of every health care transaction is a person. If you keep that person, that patient or that consumer in mind with the care providers and keep those two constituents at the center of every decision, I absolutely am confident we’ll make a winning and differentiated business. I don’t know that anyone else is doing exactly that and integrating it with all of the health insurance background and that the Bright team has.
Q: What led you to pursue a career as a CFO?
A: I like business and have always said I think it’s the best seat in the house because you get to see the entire business. You get to have a very strategic and influential role. I’m fascinated by drivers of business, human motivators and the ability to impact them. I like being fact- and data-based, so that logically drove me into business and probably more of the CFO role.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.