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NJBIZ CFO of the Year Awards 2014 winners announced

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The NJBIZ CFO of the Year awards program on Friday celebrated New Jersey's financial executives at all levels who contribute to the success of New Jersey's economic growth and stability.

The seven event winners were as follows (complete bios on the winners plus the list of the finalists in each category appear below):

Public Company
Richard Veldran, Dun & Bradstreet

Private Company (revenue up to $25 million)
Baldeep Dua, Kirusa Inc.

Private Company (revenue from $25 million to $50 million)
Paula Lazer, Becht Engineering Co. Inc.

Private Company (revenue over $50 million)
David Huber, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.J.

Small Nonprofit (50 or fewer employees)
Arlene Bernard, XCEL Federal Credit Union

Large Nonprofit (51 or more employees)
Warren Tranquada, New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Best Growth Manager
Janice Klostermeier, Emergency Medical Associates

WithumSmith+Brown PC served as the presenting sponsor.

Aon; CHASE Bank; Parker Ibrahim & Berg, Attorneys at Law; FEI; and Robert Half served as the major sponsors.

Cresa served as the supporting sponsor.

PUBLIC COMPANY – WINNER

Richard Veldran

Title: CFO
Company: Dun & Bradstreet
Location: Short Hills, Essex County

Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, Cornell University; MBA, Cornell University.
What is the best advice you received when starting your career? “You have to jump in the pool if you want to have an impact. When new challenges are offered, you have to jump in and not worry about whether you are out of your comfort zone. I learned this early in my career, taking four assignments in four different business units in four different cities in my first six years at P&G. I like the pace of change and the challenge of the learning curve, and have not slowed down since.”

The CFO of Dun & Bradstreet looked at the intersection of interest rates, the valuation of his company, and the company’s revenue potential going forward.

Richard Veldran liked what he saw, so he rolled out a plan to increase D&B’s value by moderately increasing its debt and buying back a significant portion of its shares. The plan worked.

“The average return on shares purchased under the program to date is in excess of 30 percent,” says Veldran. “And the program was a significant driver of D&B’s strong total shareholder return during 2013.”

But that wasn’t everything on Veldran’s plate. He also pioneered a global transformation of D&B’s finance function, which centralized back-office and transactional activities in the company’s New Jersey headquarters, resulting in stronger controls and a cost savings of about 10 percent.

Veldran has worked at D&B since 2003, becoming CFO in 2011. He began as CFO of the company’s North America operations. He had worked previously for Automatic Data Processing and Procter & Gamble.

A love of numbers and passion for problem-solving are what led him to the CFO’s desk. “For me, there was no greater or more exciting career than finance, a function that requires you to think analytically and strategically to solve business problems each and every day,” Veldran says.

Problems of a different sort occupy Veldran’s time out of the office. He focuses his community service on youth development and education. He has been a particularly enthusiastic supporter of the Development School for Youth, a program run by the New Yorkbased All Stars Project designed to introduce urban high school students to the worlds of finance, culture and communications. This summer, D&B hosted 15 interns from Newark, Veldran says.

PUBLIC COMPANY – FINALISTS

Mark Mishler
Title: Senior vice president, CFO, treasurer and secretary

Company: Breeze-Eastern Corporation
Location: Morristown, Morris County

Robert Saporito
Title: Executive vice president and CFO

Company: Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
Location: Parsippany, Morris County

Patrick Walker
Title: Executive vice president and CFO

Company: Student Transportation Inc.
Location: Wall, Monmouth County

PRIVATE COMPANY (revenue up to $25 million) – WINNER

Baldeep Dua

Title: CFO
Company: Kirusa Inc.
Location: New Providence, Union County

Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting and commerce, University of Delhi; MBA, University of Delhi.
If you could take only three items from your office after retirement, what would they be? “My whiteboard, a scarf given to me by a colleague, and a small painting by my daughter. The painting shows me at my office desk, smiling while working, and also shows me at home at the kitchen table, smiling with the kids. To them, I have been a cheerful leader at work and at home.”

As the deputy general manager of a mutual fund in India, Baldeep Dua was used to playing in major capital markets, managing vast sums of money and leading a large team of employees.

Then, in 2000, she met an American entrepreneur who was impressed by her work ethic and her passion for her career. He invited her to join his New Jersey-based telecommunications startup, Mformation Technologies.

“My role changed dramatically overnight,” Dua says. “I became a one-person team heading not only finance, but also HR and administration. I needed to singlehandedly develop new initiatives and take on old assignments. I rolled up my sleeves and got the job done.”

Nearly 15 years later, she is still getting the job done, now for Kirusa Inc., a social media and value-added services provider for the telecommunications industry. It partners with more than 35 carriers and 75 celebrities, and has more than 80 million mobile subscribers.

Dua has helped the company shore up its finances and invest in growth, not just in the U.S., but around the world. Recently, for example, she oversaw Kirusa’s acquisitions of Cooltok and Saya, mobile-messaging companies in India and Ghana, respectively.

Among the company’s other successes are its investments in Africa, a continent where other companies often struggle. In 2013, Kirusa opened subsidiaries in Ghana, Rwanda and Tanzania. It already had operations in Nigeria.

Dua joined Kirusa in 2008. She worked previously at consulting firm marketRx, both before and after its purchase by Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp.

At every stop in her career, Dua has seen the truth of an early mentor’s advice: that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get. “I repeat my mentor’s words to all teams I work with, and to my children,” she says.

PRIVATE COMPANY (revenue up to $25 million) – FINALISTS

Mark Callazzo
Title: CFO and CEO

Company: Alpha Funding Solutions
Location: Lakehurst, Ocean County

Neil Friedman
Title: CFO

Company: CheckPoint HR
Location: Edison, Middlesex County

Curtis Knazick
Title: Vice president of finance

Company: Marathon Data Systems
Location: Neptune, Monmouth County

Daniel Tower
Title: Executive vice president and CFO

Company: Regal Bank
Location: Livingston, Essex County

PRIVATE COMPANY (revenue from $25 million to $50 million) – WINNER