PayPal named Alex Chriss its next CEO, effective next month, as its long-time CEO Dan Schulman follows through on a plan for departure.
Chriss will join the San Jose, California-based digital payments pioneer on Sept. 27, including joining PayPal’s board, the company said in a press release Monday.
Chriss, 46, appears to have been at the software-maker Intuit for most of his career, according to his LinkedIn profile. After starting at the software company in mid-2004 as a manager, he climbed through several other manager positions to his current role, overseeing “an 8,000-person global organization that delivers QuickBooks to over 8 million customers and Mailchimp to 13 million total users around the world,” according to the profile.
Other than that, he previously worked in a sales and marketing role for Kronos Advanced Technology and led a media content company called CollegeWeb, apparently while he was at Tufts University earning a degree in economics. That company was acquired by Youthstream Media Networks, his profile showed.
“Chriss has the unanimous support of the Board and its CEO search committee following extensive engagement and evaluation across all of the key metrics that are critical to PayPal’s future success,” the press release said.
Schulman has served in the job for nearly a decade, becoming CEO-designee in 2014 and taking on the title formally, along with the president role, in July 2015. In February of this year, he said he would step down from the CEO post and join PayPal’s board.
The company said for the first time Monday that Schulman plans to leave PayPal’s board after the company’s annual meeting next May.
“While some may have a cautious view given Alex's experience in software as opposed to payments, we believe the appointment of an external candidate will come as a relief for others,” Wolfe Research analyst Darrin Peller said in a note Monday to clients. “Dan stepping down from the board next May may also be perceived as somewhat constructive, as it should give Alex the opportunity to run the business with independence.”
Peller said Wolfe’s software team sees Chriss as particularly strong with respect to execution, as demonstrated in his leadership of Intuit’s small- and mid-sized business segment. That strength showed up in Chriss’s oversight of Intuit’s integration of the email company Mailchimp after Intuit’s $12-billion purchase of that business in 2021, according to Wolfe.
“We see this as a key positive given a main concern from investors about (PayPal) is the company’s lackluster record with acquiring and integrating assets in recent years,” Peller’s note said.
The transition to a new CEO comes after pressure from investors mounted in recent months to name a successor to Schulman sooner rather than later. The change in the top post follows a tumultuous few years for the legacy payments player after it missed goals for expanding customer accounts and lost two chief financial officers.
In addition, the activist investor Elliott Investment Management made a $2 billion investment in PayPal last year and began pressing the company for improved returns. Since then, PayPal has shifted its strategic priorities and has cut employees and costs worldwide in an effort to stoke a more profitable business.
This year, Schulman has underscored three key areas of focus: PayPal’s branded checkout business; its software services for merchants; and its digital wallet development for consumers. Overall, the company has been angling to sell more higher-margin services, such as in-store merchant offerings, Schulman explained on the company’s recent second-quarter earnings call with analysts.
Nonetheless, the company’s lower-margin unbranded business segment, led by the Braintree unit, has been growing at a faster clip than its legacy checkout business, dragging down the overall profit margin. Improving those margins, while continuing to fuel growth, is likely to be a major focus of the next CEO, given key investor interest in driving that effort.