CFO leads diversity, economic development efforts
Virginia Business’ 2022 Virginia CFO of the Year award winners represent large and small businesses and large and small nonprofits.
Large business | Sal Mancuso, executive vice president and CFO
Altria Group Inc., Henrico County
A first-generation college graduate whose father immigrated to this country from Sicily, Italy, as a teenager, Sal Mancuso believes it’s important to listen to people at all levels of his nearly 6,000-employee company.
“It’s important for me to value and respect every person who works here,” says Mancuso, who started with tobacco products manufacturer Philip Morris USA more than 30 years ago as an entry-level accountant and is now executive vice president and chief financial officer for Altria Group Inc. The publicly traded Fortune 500 parent company of Philip Morris, Altria brings in more than $26 billion in annual revenue.
If Mancuso needs more information on facilities, he says, he seeks feedback from the people who oversee them. “They know the facilities better than me, so it’s important for me to listen to them,” he says.
That same humility applies to employees on his financial team. “I want my employees to push back on me if they disagree with me … and I give them a safe place to do that,” Mancuso says. “If they do that, I will make a better decision and be a better CFO.”
He is quick to give credit elsewhere and says his selection as the 2022 Virginia Large Business CFO of the Year is “a reflection on the finance and procurement organization here at Altria, and the company as a whole.”
Mancuso says he’s fortunate to be surrounded by highly skilled individuals. “I rarely am the smartest person in the room,” he says. “I know who to ask and who to listen to. Those relationships are important to me.”
Outside of his corporate financial duties, Mancuso has become a leader in advancing Altria’s social responsibility and diversity initiatives. The company’s stated goal to “lead the transition of adult smokers to a smoke-free future” is something he takes seriously. “Myself and other leaders, along with our tremendous employees, are very focused on that mission,” he says. Altria subsidiaries produce cigarettes and cigars as well as smokeless tobacco products and oral nicotine pouches.
Mancuso also has taken a lead role in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by sponsoring an employee resource group for Black employees. “For me, it’s been as rewarding as anything I’ve done in my career. … It provides our employees with a voice, and a way of impacting the business.” At the same time, he has analyzed pay equity for all employees.
“We believe that’s critical for our success,” Mancuso says. “It’s not just what we deliver, it’s how we deliver it.”
His focus on diversity as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals have sparked new initiatives at the Greater Richmond Partnership, for which Mancuso currently serves as board chairman.
“He has been a phenomenal leader,” says Jennifer Wakefield, president and CEO of the partnership, the main economic development organization for Richmond and its surrounding counties.
“ESG is obviously very important to Altria,” she says. “They have a great, diverse workforce … and a great story to tell when it comes to sustainability.”
Mancuso’s understanding of those corporate concerns has helped the partnership lure to the area companies like the Lego Group, with its focus on sustainability, and CoStar Group Inc., which puts a lot of emphasis on diversity, Wakefield says. Lego announced in June that it’s investing $1 billion to build a solar-powered toy manufacturing plant in Chesterfield County. CoStar moved its real estate research headquarters to downtown Richmond a few years ago and is embarking on a $460 million expansion of the campus.
While Mancuso looks outward to help the partnership, he’s also skilled at “internal analysis,” particularly when it comes to financial statements, Wakefield says. “We’re a nonprofit but that doesn’t mean that our numbers should be flat.”
Mancuso believes his varied work experiences at Philip Morris and Altria have helped him progress through his career. He has moved around the company in roles that include budgeting, financial planning, compliance, investor relations, procurement and auditing.
“We believe in broadening people through experiences,” Mancuso says. “It’s really worked out for me.”
Read more about Virginia Business’ 2022 CFO of the Year award winners: