Aristocrat’s Fernandez brings unique skills to president’s position

Howard Stutz has over 30 years of experience reporting on the gaming industry.

So much for settling into the job.

Aristocrat Technologies President of Americas Hector Fernandez was appointed to the position overseeing the gaming equipment provider’s operations in the U.S., Canada and Latin America just prior to the July 4th holiday.

In the past 100 days he’s visited 11 states to meet with slot floor operators and taken part in Aristocrat’s customers’ advisory forum, where he discussed operations with another 30-plus casino operators.

Now, this week’s Global Gaming Expo will bring thousands of gaming industry professionals to Aristocrat’s booth inside the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

The accelerated learning curve doesn’t concern Fernandez, 40, who was appointed CFO of the Americas division last November. “Right after I became CFO, I had the opportunity to visit customers quite a bit.”

It might seem like an unusual career path for what is, essentially, a gaming industry CEO: an MBA in finance and accounting from USC; a public accounting position with Deloitte; and finance positions such firms as Western Digital, Amgen, Cydcor and Procter & Gamble.

Fernandez said the biotech and digital sectors have many similarities to the gaming industry, where innovation and technological advancements are the overwhelming theme on the G2E tradeshow floor.

“You have to view Aristocrat as you would a technology company,” Fernandez said in an interview at the company’s Las Vegas headquarters. “Like a technology company, there is a long development cycle with lots of investment. But then, you have to commercialize the product. That really isn’t a stretch for me.”

Fernandez also brings to the position another skill set: he is a native of Guatemala, speaks fluent Spanish and has traveled widely. His perspective on the region is viewed as helping Aristocrat’s efforts to expand the company’s footprint in Latin America.

The company points out in his corporate biography that he oversees Aristocrat from the top of Canada to the tip of Chile.

“Business is done differently in that region,” Fernandez said of the area that includes Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. “I understand Latin America isn’t just about one country. It’s a combination of different countries with different complexities. The majority of my career has been in a global role. I understand a lot of the nuances in Latin America, and that’s one of the things we will focus on in our corporate strategy.”

Aristocrat Group CEO Trevor Croker said in a July statement that Fernandez had been “instrumental” in developing and supporting the company’s growth strategy for the Americas since his appointment as CFO.

Aristocrat is considered one of the three largest slot machine providers in the gaming industry, along with Scientific Games and International Game Technology. In December, the company consolidated its North American headquarters from five separate buildings spread across Las Vegas into an 180,000-square-foot facility on the 12-acre Summerlin campus.

Aristocrat is technically headquartered in Australia, where the company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. But Fernandez discussed the “fundamental shift” in operations that took place two-and-a-half years ago when the corporate CEO and CFO relocated to Las Vegas.

“The center of decision-making shifted to the U.S.,” Fernandez said. “We have a significant amount of autonomy, but the important factor is to make sure we are developing products for the customers at the local level.”

G2E planning was well underway when Fernandez moved into the president’s position. However, he said he added a “few little tweaks” to the company’s booth. Aristocrat plans to display updated versions of its popular games Mad Max: Fury Road and Game of Thrones – Winter is Here on new cabinets, as well as new game themes, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“For us, it’s about continued innovation and the portfolio we’ve developed over the last three-to-four years,” Fernandez said. “We want to dominate the premium market. It’s a lot less about one shot on goal. We want to have the broadest portfolio in the industry.”