Rothman heads HPE Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of global enterprise technology vendor, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, or HPE.
HPEFS is no small business – “we operate in 50 countries and have US$13.25 billion on the balance sheet,” Rothman says.
This is made up of approximately one-third of HPE equipment, one-third of HP equipment, and one-third of “brand X,” by which HPEFS means the likes of IBM, Dell, Lenovo and others.
The business has 1800 staff and made up 12.5% of HPE’s total revenue and profitability last year. About 20% of these assets are within the Asia Pacific market.
"The classic lease is a proxy for ownership, whereas usage-based models have grown from a small percentage when we introduced it five years ago, to 2% in the second year, and is now 20% of what we do. The biggest change is customers are looking for agility and looking to pay for assets as they use them.”
That $13.25 billion is a lot of money, and that surely represents a lot of risks. Yet, Rothman is calm, saying “If we were not very skilled in evaluating, taking and managing asset risk, we’d be dead in the water or worse. However, we are skilled at evaluating and taking a risk. It’s the basis for our consumption model we offer the customer.
"We can’t have agility and flexibility without being able to move assets in and out. Our asset business has been solid and classically overachieved. We’re careful what we put in the books and our ability to manage assets successfully contributes overall to HPE’s profitability.”
Rothman is far from a novice at the game, and he’s shared his secrets in a book, “Out-executing the competition: growing a financial services company in any economy.”
“The book is essentially on growing and leading organisations and the basic idea is to have a set of principles, and to adhere rigorously to those principles, to use those as a foundation when you have to make an adjustment due to competitive pressure,” he explains.
Rothman attributes his success at HPEFS and earlier companies to his ability to create a culture based on the operating principles he’s adopted, and the ability to adhere rigorously to them and role model them. “People know who we are when they come to work for us,” he says.
Rothman’s number one principle is playing “gutsball.” This is a word he created, which he defines as the ability to set aside anxiety and apprehension and rise to the occasion, the ability to take a decision while acknowledging potential consequences but not fearing them.
Playing gutsball recognises there’s no such thing as perfect information. You won't always be in control of a decision-making timeline, so try to remember certain circumstances sometimes call for extraordinary actions and that the sun will always come up tomorrow.
Risks are necessary in business. Unprecedented events always happen, but if you take the time to do a worst-case scenario, update it periodically and construct a detailed recovery trajectory that can be implemented quickly, you position yourself and your company for the best possible recovery result.
It’s certainly worked for Rothman over his 44-year career.