Vindex will announce Wednesday that it has hired former Yum! Brands executive Keith Siegner as its new chief financial officer. Yum! Brands own such popular restaurant franchises as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, and has more than 50,000 franchisees in 150 countries and territories around the world.
Siegner spent nearly five years in multiple executive roles related to finance and M&A at Yum! Brands, nearly three years as executive director at UBS Investment Bank, and close to 13 years at Credit Suisse.
In his new role, Siegner will take the lead on the global finance operations for Vindex and its subsidiaries, which includes esports operations company Esports Engine and gaming venue network company Belong Gaming Arenas.
Vindex CEO Mike Sepso tells SBJ Esports/The Esports Observer that the rapid growth plans of the company called for someone who has some knowledge of the esports industry, that is up to the task of helping the company scale rapidly, and has the skill sets needed to interact with the public companies Vindex is trying to do business with.
“We ran a pretty exhaustive search, but luckily gaming and esports is a hot place these days, so a lot of people were interested,” Sepso said. “I think we were able to land the best person from my perspective and somebody who has a pretty solid personal interest in this space, who has a bit of exposure to it, and had a lot of applicable skill sets and experiences required to help to us handle what we’re facing.”
Sepso pointed out that a lot of execs from Fortune 500 companies like Siegner are making the jump to esports and gaming because it is a very exciting space with a lot of growth potential.
“Esports is at a scale that is attracting executives like Keith because it’s fun and maybe you get to play Call of Duty at work every once in a while, but it’s a very big business and it’s getting more mature more quickly and global,” he said.
Siegner said that he joined the company because he sees it as a “fun” sector, the team has “complementary skill sets” to his own talents, and because he wants to be a part of its growth.
“When Mike called and I got to talk to him (while it was exciting and fun to bring a business into the future) what was so exciting to me was that I might have an opportunity to join his team of highly collaborative, successful folks who had complementary skill sets and just be right in the growth area. For me, that’s really exciting.”
While Siegner was not comfortable talking about his role yet (he’s still getting acclimated and hasn’t been able to tell too many people about his new role), Sepso pointed out that Siegner will be instrumental in helping Vindex to rapidly roll out Belong Gaming locations in the U.S. and the U.K. when the time is right later this year. Right now he is meeting people and learning as much as he can about the sector before he starts making big decisions.
Siegner was quick to acknowledge that he is no expert on the esports industry, but does bring experience in working in a “multinational, large-cap consumer company” to the table. This is important for Vindex as it prepares to scale its esports operations like Belong and Esports Engine.
“I’ve watched a lot of businesses go from entrepreneurial growth to a need to transition to professionalized growth, growth at scale. And I’ve seen some do it and some really fail. What I liked about this in talking to Vindex was they kept the investment up, and put together a team so that they’re prepared for growth at scale to really exploit the opportunity. That was really impressive and important to me throughout this process, and that was a big part of what really got me over the hump.”
When asked if the relationships he made during his time with Yum! Brands and other companies will translate to future deals for Belong, Siegner said that he hopes that is the case, where such partnerships make sense for Vindex.
“I hope that my understanding of Yum!’s business, their understanding of their franchisees, the way they need to communicate with customers, and my ability to then explain how I think a relationship with Vindex could play a role in the acceleration of business can be an important part of their overall marketing strategy,” Siegner said. “I think the fact that I could see those factors and speak their language, hopefully, that would help.”
Finally, Sespo says that Siegner will be instrumental when Belong Gaming Arenas begin a rapid roll-out, hopefully sometime later in 2021. Vindex purchased Belong in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while this may have kept the company from rolling out plans sooner for physical and technology-connected competition centers, he says that the company has been working hard so that it is ready to execute its roll out in a rapid fashion.
“Our value proposition is a new model: connected locations that are for casual, amateur, and professional competition, but also community building centers that are all connected through a digital platform. So we’ve used the time wisely to invest in digital and people. I believe that now with the addition of Keith, the management team, the Belong unit, and what we’ve been able to build into the digital platform, that when we are ready to start opening, when the environment is safe and we feel good about it, we’re going to go fast.”