John Kita named CFO of the Year by the Milwaukee Business Journal


John KitaMilwaukee, Wis. —A. O. Smith Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, John Kita is being recognized by the Milwaukee Business Journal as their 2015 CFO of the Year in the Publicly Held Companies category.   

Kita is one of 14 winners in 7 categories who will be recognized at an awards ceremony and will also be profiled in the Milwaukee Business Journal’s print edition on Oct. 9.

Each year the Business Journal recognizes CFOs who play vital roles in the success of their businesses or organizations as well as make valuable contributions to their profession and communities. The awards program was implemented in 2008 to recognize the important work CFOs do in making southeast Wisconsin firms successful.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ajita Rajendra points out: “John is more than just a financial guy to the leadership team and me; he is a trusted advisor on all aspects of the business. He has good business instincts and can discuss, debate, and evaluate the full spectrum of business topics, including business strategies, operational plans, market/channel issues, HR strategies, legal items, and product engineering.”

Award winners are nominated by colleagues and friends based on their wide range of experience, commitment, character and value to their organizations. A judges’ panel comprised of financial professionals from the Milwaukee area selected this year’s winners after reviewing dozens of nominations in each category.

Kita has been with A. O. Smith for more than 25 years, during which he’s held a number of roles with increasing responsibility.

One of the most important responsibilities of a CFO is to work with other members of the leadership team to establish company strategy, financial goals,  operational plans, and to ensure the company’s performance meets management’s and shareholders’ expectations. During Kita’s time as CFO, A. O. Smith has experienced some of the best financial performance in its 141-year history.

In addition, Kita played a crucial role in three of the most transformative events in company history:  the 1997 divestiture of the legacy automotive business; the company’s entrance into the Chinese market in 1995; and the transformation of A. O. Smith as a water technology company in 2011. 

Shareholder outreach is another of Kita’s critical responsibilities as CFO.  Investors place a premium on meeting with management and discerning trust and honesty.

“We continually hear from the investment community that our CFO is open, honest, and balanced when answering questions or meeting with shareholders or analysts. We believe one reason for the expansion of our market capitalization from $1.4 billion to $6 billion over the last several years is driven by our ‘C-suite’s’ focus on honest and balanced communications with investors,” Rajendra continues.

As one of A. O. Smith’s most visible executives with shareholders and investors, Kita exemplifies the company’s commitment to high standards of integrity. 

In addition to his commitment to the company, Kita is also active in community service. He served for two years on the executive board of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s annual giving campaign. He’s also been an active member of Financial Executives International (FEI), a professional network with a local chapter in Milwaukee. More importantly, Kita has been a chairperson of the scholarship committee of the Milwaukee chapter of FEI. He has been personally responsible for the evaluation and selection of scholarship winners totaling more than $30,000 over the past decade.

Kita recently joined the Board of Directors of Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of corporations in the state of Wisconsin. He is a valuable member of the Board given his decades of involvement and oversight of A. O. Smith’s tax department.

Below is a complete list of the CFO of the Year award winners for 2015:

Publicly Held Companies

  • John Kita, A. O. Smith Corp., Milwaukee
  • Lisa Cieslak, GMR Marketing, New Berlin

Large Private Companies ($250 Million+)

  • Michael Carter, Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee

Medium Private Companies ($50 Million - $250 Million)

  • Brian Brenegan, Mortara Instrument Inc., Milwaukee
  • Tim Preuninger, Gehl Foods, Germantown

Small Private Companies (Less Than $50 Million)

  • Michael Franz, R&R Insurance Services Inc., Waukesha
  • Katrina Goetz, TLX Technologies LLC, Pewaukee
  • Jason Westhoff, Cousins Subs, Menomonee Falls

Nonprofit Organizations

  • Bill Gollmar, Meta House Inc., Milwaukee
  • Laurie Oryall, Next Door Foundation, Milwaukee
  • Ken Robertson, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
  • Mike Wamser, Wisconsin Humane Society, Milwaukee


  • Ryan O’Desky, Herzing University, Menomonee Falls

Professional Services

  • Tammy Hofstede, Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants (WICPA), Waukesha