Dhivya Suryadevara had a pretty big job already as CEO of GM Asset Management, overseeing General Motors’ roughly $80 billion in pension assets. But her bosses believed she could handle more.
In mid-2015, she added the title of treasurer and vice president of finance, reporting to GM CFO Chuck Stevens. In her new role, she essentially oversees GM’s balance sheet, including capital planning, capital market activities and worldwide banking, while still managing the pensions. It’s not a low-profile gig: GM CEO Mary Barra’s team has been extolling a newfound discipline on the use of shareholders’ money through GM’s capital-allocation framework, created by Stevens’ team in 2015 as a guide for how GM spends its capital.
Suryadevara, a native of India who moved to the U.S. to get her MBA from Harvard, says the treasurer job has given her a window into the operational side of the company at a fascinating time. GM is placing bets on ride sharing and autonomous driving through recent acquisitions and partnerships while also planning for the next, inevitable downturn in the sales cycle.
“With all of the innovation and disruption going on, we’re in a really good position to capitalize,” she said. “At treasury, it’s our responsibility to work closely with the business and say ‘How do we make the right decisions and deliver on our commitments?’”
Not that the pension side of the house has been a bore. In 2012, Suryadevara was part of a small team that executed a unique transaction to slash about $29 billion from GM’s pension burden by shifting about some salaried retirees to a group annuity handled by Prudential Financial Inc. “Nothing on that scale had been done before,” Suryadevara said. “We didn’t really have a road map for how to structure and execute a deal like that.”
She says it’s the complexity of those types of deals — and the auto industry in general — that steered her toward a career in the car business when many of her Harvard peers ended up in private equity, venture capital or entrepreneurial pursuits.
Suryadevara is a fitness fanatic. She lives in New York with her husband and 10-year-old daughter.
— Mike Colias