Strategy

Teladoc Health CFO: The days of “five days in the office” are over

Mala Murthy has been CFO at Teladoc Health, a $3.7 billion remote-health provider, since 2019.
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Mala Murthy

· 4 min read

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Mala Murthy has been CFO at Teladoc Health, a $3.7 billion remote-health provider, since 2019. Prior to that, she spent seven years at American Express, rising to SVP and CFO of global commercial services, and before AmEx, she worked at PepsiCo for 17 years in various roles. She began her career at Sun Microsystems, after getting a master’s degree from the Yale School of Management and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Your company provides remote healthcare services, so you’re surely paying a lot of attention to policies around remote work and hybrid work, and other options. What is your reaction to the broader discussion about these different approaches?

It’s certainly been a journey for all of us. I think the days of “five days in the office” are over. Different companies have taken different strategies and different stances, from a return-to-work perspective. Some have said they’ll go completely virtual. Many I see, based on my conversations with other CFOs, are doing it as a hybrid. And I do think that hybrid is going to be the way it is likely going to be.

You emigrated to the US after getting your MBA. What do you think US companies should be doing to attract top international talent?

At the end of the day, I think all of us, from a talent perspective, look for where we can find the most competent people. What we are looking for is the combination of functional excellence and leadership. What is really heartening for me is if I look back to when I started my career versus now, I think the borders are so much more open today than it used to be several years ago.

So we, for example, at Teladoc Health, like many, many other companies, when we think about our labor strategy, we are increasingly thinking offshore. We are looking to attract talent overseas. Now there are certain positions based on regulatory needs, etc., where we have to hire onshore, but the borders are much, much more porous when it comes to attracting talent. I would say it’s almost like any time you think about hiring, we were thinking global, and where we can find really qualified people, whether it be from a functional perspective, or whether it be from a leadership perspective, and frankly, every company, I believe, is thinking that.

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What is your advice for financial professionals thinking of making that move from one industry to another, or worrying that they might not be able to make that kind of move?

The first advice I would give is being an expert in something, having a hip-pocket strength, as I call it. I spent 17 years at PepsiCo doing practically every finance job that one could do—not only finance, but strategy and M&A, as well. I was a functional subject matter expert in finance. No. 2, I learned to adapt to a very, very different culture from previous employers. I took my hip-pocket skills I developed at PepsiCo, and I formulated and leveraged them in AmEx’s culture.

Another piece of advice I would give is to go outside of your comfort zone. It’s OK to take informed risks because you learn a lot. It was an incredible experience for me to go relatively mid-career to a place like AmEx and work with people who had been in that space for decades and still be able to earn their respect. Then there’s being humble, about saying, “Hey, I don’t know this business. Help teach me. I’m willing to learn. I'm willing to roll up my sleeves.” And then, just adaptability, you know, growth mindset—having the grit, the persistence, the humility and the open-mindedness to say, “I’m going to enjoy this experience, and learn and grow from it.”

What’s your favorite hobby?

I love to run. It is my thinking time, my reflection time. I’m fortunate enough to live in New York City, a stone’s throw away from Central Park. It’s one of my favorite places to be, so whenever I can get out, I’ll go out and run a six- or seven-mile loop around the park. And it really does refresh me. It’s the time I think about the past week—not just about work, but also about what I have to do for my daughter, for my family, for my parents, etc. So it's my rejuvenation time.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.