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11-year Airbnb veteran on her new job: ‘Part of the CFO’s role is to steady the ship, no matter what the waters look like’

Courtesy of Airbnb

Good morning. Airbnb’s new finance chief has experience steeped in strategy.

Ellie Mertz, who took over as CFO on March 1, joined the short-term rental company in 2013 and has been integral in helping to revolutionize short-term stays. Cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky called her his "right hand for nearly 11 years" and said that “under her leadership, our company grew from adolescence to adulthood, with revenue growing over 100x.”

Mertz, who spent seven years at Netflix in a variety of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) roles before joining Airbnb, succeeded Dave Stephenson, who, after becoming CFO in 2019, has been promoted to a newly created role of chief business officer.

When Mertz first joined Airbnb in 2013, she was the head of global FP&A before being promoted to VP of finance. This CFO role is her first. At Airbnb, FP&A is now called Strategic Finance, Mertz explained, adding that managing budgets, instilling financial discipline, and creating accurate forecasts—are now just table stakes.

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"The real value comes with understanding our business partners’ functions, delivering them actionable insights into how things are working, the returns that we’re getting, and insights into business trends that allow them to make strategic decisions to positively impact the business,” she explained.

As finance chief, Mertz leads that strategy. “Part of the CFO's role is to steady the ship, no matter what the waters look like,” Mertz told me. And keeping the balance sheet steady is pivotal to ensure that you can "fight the next fight," she said.

Airbnb, which last year earned its first appearance on the Fortune 500 list, reported $2.22 billion in revenue for Q4 2023, up 17% year over year—and exceeding estimates. Its quarterly adjusted net income of $489 million was the most profitable fourth quarter ever.

And those figures didn't include thousands of people traveling for one of the year's biggest events in the U.S.: a total solar eclipse. On April 7, the night before the eclipse, with 25% of Airbnb’s total bookings along the path of totality, 90% had been reserved.

“The reason that Airbnb is so popular for these types of events," Mertz added, "is that we literally do have listings everywhere you might want to go."

By the end of 2023, Airbnb’s active listings exceeded 7.7 million—up 18% in Q4, year over year—and hosts earned more than a combined $57 billion last year.

And Mertz doesn't want to be left out. “I'm in the middle of decorating my guest house to list it,” she told me. “It’s not fully furnished yet, but I will be a host shortly.”

To read the rest of my full conversation with Mertz, including how her work at Netflix helped her succeed after moving over to Airbnb, please see the complete article here.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

María Soledad Davila Calero curated the Leaderboard and Overheard sections of today’s newsletter.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com