Royal Dutch/Shell Group is one of the most complex companies in the world, with hundreds of subsidiaries in 145 countries. But no one has ever accused chief financial officer Judith G. Boynton of being out of her depth. Within weeks of joining the Anglo-Dutch oil producer as chief financial officer in June 2001, insiders report, she quickly became a vocal participant at meetings with board members and investors.
Boynton has made her mark at Royal Dutch/Shell by spearheading the group's efficiency and restructuring drive, which aims to lop 3% a year off costs. She has also overseen key acquisitions, including the purchase of Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. and Britain's Enterprise Oil PLC.
A U.S. citizen who was brought up in Connecticut, Boynton studied mathematics and economics at Wellesley College before earning an MBA in finance at the University of Chicago. She cut her professional teeth in the treasury department of Amoco, where she worked for 20 years before leaving to become CFO of Polaroid in 1998. She wasn't always so nose-to-the-grindstone. She confesses that in high school, "I also was a cheerleader." Her hobbies now are more sedate: fishing and gardening.
The past two years have been rough for Royal Dutch/Shell, largely because of gyrating equity markets and volatility in the oil market. But the group had a bumper first quarter this year. Profits surged 96% from the year before and return on equity topped 19.3%, compared with 15.2% in the same quarter a year ago. To be sure, most oil companies have done well this year. But Royal Dutch/Shell has done better than most. Boynton's contribution to the company's success must be particularly galling for archrival BP PLC. After all, Boynton parted ways with Amoco just after BP acquired the company in 1998.