Fired Microsoft CIO Finds a New Job. . . and Fast

Just three weeks after Microsoft announced that it had canned its CIO Stuart Scott for "violating company policies," Scott appears to have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of controversy. Today he started a new job, as a COO no less, with Taylor, Bean Whitaker. The privately held mortgage lender announced before the American Thanksgiving holiday last week that it had hired Scott as its new COO. Scott has not relocated from his home in Bellevue, Washington, to Ocala, Florida, where Taylor, Bean Whitaker is based.

Scott has rapidly rebounded after his very public ouster at Microsoft. Three executive recruiters CIO.com interviewed for our article on recovering from high-profile terminations said they believed Scott would land on his feet after the Microsoft controversy. They just didn't think it would happen so quickly.

"This had to be in play before [Scott left Microsoft]," says Reynold Lewke, a recruiter with executive search firm Egon Zehnder International. "A search takes a minimum of six to nine weeks if it goes perfectly."

Though Lewke doesn't have firsthand knowledge of Taylor, Bean Whitaker's recruitment of Scott, he is familiar with such processes and their duration. "I think it would have been in process before then, and [Taylor, Bean executives] felt comfortable continuing with the process [after Scott was terminated]," he adds. "Whoever was making the decisions didn't feel that the announcement from Microsoft was enough to dissuade them [from hiring him]."

Executives at Taylor, Bean Whitaker could not be reached for comment, but Lee Farkas, the chairman of the company who noted Scott's "impressive" credentials in the press release announcing the new COO's hire, is clearly excited to have a brand-name executive on board: "Having someone of his calibre join us further solidifies our ability to deliver innovative technology solutions."

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Industry Switches Are Possible

Scott's move to the mortgage lending industry and his appointment to the COO post may seem unusual given that he's never previously been a COO nor does he have any financial services industry experience, but recruiters say it's not unprecedented.

Lewke notes that another GE alum, Greg Carmichael, made a similar industry switch in 2004. Carmichael joined Fifth Third Bancorp as its EVP of IT and operations after working for industrial manufacturer Emerson Electric as its CIO and for GE's engines and power systems businesses. He had no prior financial services industry experience. Carmichael was promoted to COO of Fifth Third in 2006.

Recruiters also note that the degree to which the mortgage industry relies on technology to approve and process loans made Scott and his technology expertise a good fit for Taylor, Bean Whitaker.

"The efficiency and competitiveness of mortgage companies can be driven through the technology solutions they have," says Sam Gordon, director of Harvey Nash Executive Search's CIO practice. "In a mortgage company, especially one that's trying to step up its technology capabilities, then [industry experience is] less important."

Indeed, the press release Taylor, Bean Whitaker issued stated that "Mr. Scott's vast technology experience with Microsoft Corporation and General Electric made him an obvious choice."

Scott's pedigree and track record aided in his speedy recovery, but not all CIOs who get fired are so fortunate.

"For every Stuart Scott there will be someone else who has a public dismissal that doesn't bounce back so quickly," says Gordon.

A Good Sign for Scott and for CIOs

Egon Zehnder's Lewke says Scott's move gives him the experience and flexibility to continue on the business operations trajectory, which may eventually lead to a CEO post, or to move back into a CIO role at a large company. If Scott decides to go back to the CIO role, Lewke says he'll have more credibility because he'll have been "on the other side."

Gordon says Taylor, Bean Whitaker's appointment of a longtime technology executive into an operations position gives credibility to the CIO role. "That the firm has chosen somebody with such a strong technology background to be COO is a great thing for the CIO market in general," he says.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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