Cognizant-Succession

Cognizant Pushes Digital Technology, European Expansion with New CEO

The announcement Tuesday that Cognizant has hired Brian Humphries to serve as its next CEO is a testament to the company’s ambitions to expand globally and grow its digital products. Humphries is currently the U.K.-based CEO for Vodafone Business, where he has worked for the past two and a half years. He will be replacing Francisco D’Souza, who is stepping down as Cognizant’s CEO after 12 years in the role.

Humphries’ hire is an indication of where Cognizant hopes its future lies. He has strong experience with digital technologies, since his work at Vodafone included both internet of things and cloud transformation projects. Cognizant said Humphries will remain based in the U.K., where he will help drive the company’s plans to expand its reach in the European and Asia-Pacific markets.

Cognizant brought in roughly 76 percent of its $16.1 billion in 2018 revenue from North America, where it has a strong presence in the market. If the company can replicate its success in other regions with Humphries at the helm, it would be taking advantage of a significant growth opportunity. The company will remain headquartered in Teaneck, New Jersey, and Humphries is expected to visit the home office frequently.

The biggest challenge in front of the new CEO is to ensure that Cognizant maintains its culture of customer centricity while driving continued excellence in delivery and innovation. At least at first, Humphries seems positioned to maintain the company’s current strategy, which has made it appealing to many of ISG’s enterprise clients. As with all leadership changes, there’s a risk with this appointment that Humphries might make some unknown future change that could cause Cognizant to lose its competitive edge — but it’s hard to make that prediction at this point.

In the short term, ISG doesn’t expect that Cognizant’s clients will see any disruption as a result of the transition. Humphries is expected to start in his new role on April 1, and D’Souza will stay on full time to assist with the changeover as Executive Vice Chairman until June 30. D’Souza will remain involved with Cognizant through his role as Vice Chairman of the board of directors after that.

Hiring someone from outside the company is an interesting move for Cognizant, since the company is a strong promoter of internal talent. Humphries was chosen after a long search process spearheaded by an external firm, as is the norm with leadership transitions at public companies. He brings a quarter-century of enterprise technology experience, with tenures prior to Vodafone at companies including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Compaq and Digital Equipment Company. He has worked across the globe, with roles in the U.S., South Africa, Switzerland and the U.K.

Humphries’ external perspective may provide additional insight that could drive further innovation and transformation, both for Cognizant and its clients. To be sure, the company’s existing base of employees, partners and customers gives Humphries a strong foundation on which to build.

About the author

Blair Hanley Frank is a technology analyst covering cloud computing, application development modernization, AI, and the modern workplace.