Balance, timing and the ability to keep up with his commitments are the traits Steven Bender ’78 says keeps him afloat in the business world.
The chief financial officer and senior vice president at Westlake Chemical Corp., positions he has held since 2007 and 2008, began with a bachelor’s in business administration and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He previously held positions at KBR and Halliburton.
“Balance and timing are critical in business decisions,” Westlake Chemical Senior Vice President and CFO Steve Bender ’78 told students. (view more photos)
Bender began his talk with Mays students pursuing careers in business by stating, “I feel like a pingpong,” explaining that his job took him to six major cities in three weeks.
Bender told the students about Westlake Chemical, which was founded by a Taiwanese family many years ago, then went public in 2004. The company’s core business is manufacturing olefins and vinyls, two types of plastic. “When you go to the grocery store and buy shrink-wrapped items, there’s a 60 percent chance it’s from our company,” said, adding that in 2011, Westlake Chemical was worth $3.6 billion.
Bender then discussed his main duties as the senior vice president and CFO.
“My job involves a strategic development challenge. I have to balance leverage, cost advantage, and growth profitability.” He explained that most of his time is spent developing growth strategies. “It’s all about scale. I want the company to grow but I also want to cut costs.”
Bender focused much of his lecture on his current project — the purchase of a rival company.
He explained: “Right now we’re trying to acquire Georgia Gulf, the only buyable player of five companies similar to ours. The acquisition of the company would allow us to strengthen our vinyls business, giving us balance.”
Throughout the lecture, Bender repeatedly stated, “Balance and timing are critical in business decisions.”
Westlake went public in January about wanting to purchase Georgia Gulf. “Since then, their stock price has driven up tremendously. They are feeling the pressure to sell now.”