A Philippine-born Wal-Mart executive has been named the new executive vice president and chief finance officer of the world’s biggest food company, Nestle S.A.

Wan Ling Martello, an American citizen of Filipino-Chinese descent, is replacing Canadian Jim Singh, who retired after 35 years with Nestle.

The board of directors of the Switzerland-based conglomerate appointed Martello, currently Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of global e-commerce for emerging markets, effective April 1, 2012.

Described as a relatively unknown, Martello’s appointment reportedly took analysts by surprise.

But with Nestlé now deriving more than a third of its sales from emerging market countries, the company clearly sees Martello — who also speaks Mandarin, Fookien Chinese and Tagalog — as an asset to the team.
“We think the appointment makes sense,” Jon Cox, analyst at Kepler Capital Markets told Reuters.

“She comes from Nestle’s biggest customer, she has experience in e-commerce...emerging markets (key growth driver) and obviously brings a female multi-ethnic, emerging-market/Asian face to the world as Nestle’s representative.”

A certified public accountant, Martello, 53, has a bachelor of science degree in business administration and accountancy from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

She also has an MBA in management information systems from the University of Minnesota.

Martello, who is married, started her career at Kraft, where she spent 10 years in diverse financial roles, including audit, international reporting, financial systems, strategic planning and financial planning and analysis.

After that, she accepted the position of corporate controller for Borden Foods and then went on to lead a smaller but exciting company, NCH Marketing Services, a global provider of promotional management solutions, where she was the U.S. president.

In 2005, Wan Ling was hired by Wal-Mart International to be its CFO and, one year later, she was asked to take on strategy as an additional responsibility, playing an important role in shaping the strategic direction of Wal-Mart’s international business.

Wal-Mart is the world’s number one retailer, with $100 billion international revenue.

Martello won the 2008 Asian Women in Business (AWIB) Corporate Leadership Award in 2008 when she was still CFO for Wal-Mart.

According to the AWIB website, she and her family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines for better educational opportunities.

She, as did her four siblings, took advantage of those opportunities and went on to earn advanced degrees, it said.

Martello’s father was her role model and mentor, who “taught her self-reliance and clear thinking,”

Asked for advice to women climbing the corporate ladder, Martello said “you are the master of your own destiny...and never forget it is just as important to help others to succeed as well.”

“I am confident that Wan Ling will blend well into the Nestlé culture and that her strong experience in finance and the food and beverage business, both from the industry and retail angle, will allow her to further enhance the Nestlé model combining top-line growth with continuous margin improvement and an improved return on invested capital,” said Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke.


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