By Bianca S. Flowers
Alum and CFO Bill Scheffel returned to the University of Illinois for a daylong visit with students, faculty, and academic leaders in the College of Business.
Scheffel came to campus a couple of years ago as a guest speaker for a finance class. During this year’s visit, he met with some MBA fellows for lunch and sat in on a finance class where he critiqued student analyses and case study presentations on his company, Centene Corporation.
Centene, headquartered in St. Louis, is a Fortune 500 managed healthcare company on the New York Stock Exchange. It manages medical costs and risks for government-sponsored healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Scheffel graduated from the University of Illinois in 1975 with a BA in Accounting. He began his career at Arthur Andersen LLP, working as an auditor and certified public accountant. Scheffel then became partner at Anderson Young LLP, and joined Centene from Ernst & Young, where he was also partner. Centene was fairly young when Scheffel became part of the team in December 2003. He held several leadership positions prior to serving simultaneously as CFO, executive vice president, and treasurer.
“A lot of things you build upon over time. If you have an opportunity to experience a lot of things over the years, those help to mold you as you move forward,” said Scheffel. “Moving from public accounting into the private sector, you really can take advantage of what you learned when serving clients over a long period of time.”
In the early 2000s, the accounting industry underwent major upheaval in the wake of multiple high-profile accounting firm scandals. That’s when Scheffel decided to make the switch to the private sector. According to Scheffel, the managed care sector is booming. When transitioning to healthcare, he was certain it would be the perfect fit.
“There are certain industries that are very difficult to have a lot of growth. Their growth rate may be very low or even negative. When I looked at health, Centene in particular, I felt there was an opportunity to continue to expand their role in managed care. They were more aligned with my interests.”
Unlike larger commercial insurance companies that are competing with products in the global market, the managed care sector has driven revenue growth and job opportunities. Centene has just over 7,100 employees and is hiring close to 1,000 employees each year. Centene’s first-quarter earnings have positioned the company to deliver strong results well into next year.
“It’s hard to compare other companies to us because we have such a high growth rate. In 2013 we are predicting a 25% growth rate and 10 billion dollars in revenue, which will move us up on the Fortune 500 list.”
Scheffel says his career at Centene isn’t coming to a close anytime soon and credits the University of Illinois for making him the successful professional he is today.
“I certainly feel that the education I had gotten here was top-notch. It gave me a competitive advantage that prepared me well for what I wanted to do.”