It’s safe to say that when James (Jim) Clark graduated from SDSU with his B.S. in accounting in 1987, he could not have foreseen where his career would take him. From coast-to-coast, to Europe and, most recently, into an executive position in one of the top 10 companies on the Fortune 500 list, Jim’s career has been quite the journey.
Clark, a native of Concord, Calif., decided to attend SDSU because he understood it had a good business school and he liked the weather in San Diego. In addition, his step-mother’s brother, David Saalfeld (’78, management), had graduated from SDSU and spoke highly of the university.
Once he was at SDSU, he found it easy to choose his degree program, “I majored in accounting since I always liked math and I was really interested in pursuing a career in business,” he said. “I also knew that certified public accountants made a pretty good living and it was a respectable profession.”
Clark made the most of his time at SDSU. He served as president of SDSU’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter and maintained excellent grades, while also studying for the CPA exams. During his senior year, he was recruited by Deloitte (then Deloitte Haskins & Sells) and joined the firm’s San Francisco office in the audit department shortly after graduation.
After working at Deloitte’s San Francisco branch for over a decade, Clark accepted a position with the company in Stockholm, Sweden and became an audit partner shortly after his arrival. Despite the frigid winters, his time in Sweden turned into one of his best career moves. “Working in Stockholm, Sweden for 4 ½ years was the highlight of my career at Deloitte. It was a fantastic experience for me, my wife and our son,” he recalled. “We got to learn a new culture and really broaden our horizons. To this day, we love traveling in Europe.”
While Clark had initially planned on staying at the Stockholm office for 3 ½ years, a major business scandal in the U.S. changed his plans. In late 2001 and early 2002, the fall and dissolution of Enron Corporation and its auditor, Arthur Andersen, made international headlines. “When the worldwide Andersen network fell apart and their personnel in Sweden decided to work for Deloitte, I was asked to stay on for another year,” he said. “The firm asked me to assist with the integration of the former Andersen personnel and help them understand our policies and procedures. In order to serve the multinational clients that Andersen’s partners brought with them to Deloitte, I was heavily involved in re-establishing the multinational audit teams in order to serve these clients.”
After his assignment in Sweden was complete in 2004, Clark and his family returned to the U.S., but not to their native West Coast. He transferred to a position in the Boston office, which is where he stayed until 2009.
It was at this time Clark’s career changed significantly. After 22 years with Deloitte, a privately-held company, he was recruited to work at CVS Health (then CVS Caremark), a publicly-traded retail pharmacy and healthcare company which is the seventh largest company in the U.S. on the Fortune 500 listing. The only thing that didn’t change for Clark was his home address: the CVS headquarters is located in Woonsocket, R.I., not far from his home in a Boston suburb.
At CVS Health, Clark’s integration experience at Deloitte’s office in Stockholm came in handy as he was heavily involved in CVS’s acquisition and integration of Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers. When the deal is completed in November 2018, Clark will be promoted from the role of vice president – finance and accounting to the position of senior vice president – controller and chief accounting officer.
Clark’s flexibility and willingness to learn and adapt fostered his success and he urges today’s SDSU accounting students to prepare for their future before graduation so they are ready for whatever life has in store. “What you do today will help you build a good foundation for the future,” he noted. “Good grades generally lead to good jobs. If you want to be a CPA, get the exam behind you as quickly as you can before you get too busy with your job and before your family life places more and more demands on your time.”