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By the time Ann Marie Petach joined BlackRock as its CFO in 2008, she had already amassed deep finance know-how after more than two decades at Ford Motor Co. “Given the complexity of the international business model, [Ford] was just a great training ground,” Petach says. “What Ford does for people, and for me over a span of 23 years, is offer a very diverse set of experiences that really expand you as a global finance professional.”

Over the course of her career at Ford, Petach spent three years in Brazil working on a joint venture with Volkswagen and two years in Portugal working on a separate start-up joint venture. And once she was appointed Ford’s treasurer in 2004, Petach oversaw currency and commodity hedging, ran funding for Ford and its finance subsidiary, Ford Credit, and managed the company’s pension funds, which at the time had liabilities of $70 billion. “You get an intimate understanding of how the financial markets work, but you get it from an insider’s perspective,” she says.

Petach arrived at New York-based BlackRock, which had $3.56 trillion in assets at the end of 2010, as the investment management and risk advisory company embarked on an ambitious growth trajectory following its 2006 acquisition of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers. “I saw it as an opportunity to help build out a larger-company finance department from a smaller finance department,” she says.

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