When it comes to focus, drive and determination, few execs exhibit those qualities as consistently and effectively as Comcast Cable EVP and CFO Cathy Avgiris. And while Avgiris ranks as one of the most knowledgeable finance execs in the business, it’s her well-rounded breadth of knowledge of every aspect of cable that pushed her over the top to make her Cablefax’s 2014 Financial Executive of the Year.
Avgiris doesn’t just live and breathe finance. She has always made sure to understand every aspect of the business from operations to product development to marketing. Her intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn every angle of cable over her 22 years at Comcast prompted the MSO to promote Avgiris last year to her current position (she just celebrated one year in the new job).
It’s not difficult to understand why Comcast chief Neil Smit puts so much faith in Avgiris’ abilities. “It’s understanding what are our growth drivers and what drives our business, and if you need to pull levers, which ones can you pull to keep fueling growth,” she says. “That’s what I love about being in the position I’m in. Trying to leverage that with my product experience and my operations experience has been really rewarding.”
Interestingly, Avgiris’ first year has been marked by Comcast’s bold proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable, a process that will draw considerably upon her organizational and strategic skills as she works on integration issues and gathers data for regulators whose approval will make or break the deal. While Avgiris wasn’t involved in the pre-deal negotiations (Comcast Corp. CFO Michael Angelakis handled that), she relishes the opportunity to contribute now. “I’m always up for a good challenge,” she says. “I do have responsibility for the integration planning, and that’s where we are now. It’s how do we make two great companies into one plus one equals five… From the product side, I’ve had lots of longstanding relationships with others in the industry, including at Time Warner Cable, so that’s been beneficial, and it’s great to reconnect with folks who I have worked with over the years.”
That product experience also helped Avgiris develop what may become one of Comcast’s most significant initiatives in years—namely, the creation of the Sales Portal Platform to streamline the sales process at all customer touch points. Avgiris first started developing the system before she took her current gig and while tasked with working with Verizon Wireless on the MSO’s earlier mobile partnership. That required integrating sales systems so that Verizon reps could effectively sell Comcast products.
It wasn’t long before she leveraged the system to work with other Comcast partners; Avgiris now foresees a time when it could form the backbone of Comcast’s entire customer relationship matrix—essentially creating a seamless system in which no customer needs to give any CSR or partner info twice or get mired in repetitive steps that slow down the sale. “And ultimately, that ends up being a better customer experience because it enables us to do business with the customer, and we connect our own dots rather than expecting our customers to connect our dots,” she says. “I think that’s going to end up being a key element of our continuing to improve our customer experience. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”
It’s that kind of initiative and outside-the-box thinking that has largely fueled Avgiris’ success. And for executives trying to reach her level, she gives this advice: “Being willing to move out of your comfort zone is really important and being able to learn about every aspect of the business you’re in makes you a more valuable person for the company that you work for… All of that has made me a better executive for the company because I understand what our products are and how they work.”
Avgiris was most recently EVP and GM of Communications
and Data Services for Comcast’s Xfinity Internet, Xfinity
Voice, and consumer wireless businesses.
Before joining Comcast in 1992, Avgiris spent 11 years in
finance, serving as Chief Financial Officer of Drexel Industries,
Inc. and as an audit manager with Deloitte & Touche.
In 2010, Avgiris won the NCTA’s Vanguard Award for Distinguished
Leadership for Cable Operations Management