How Darren Snellgrove Adds Value as a Modern CFO

Darren Snellgrove looks toward the future to help bring Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals into the new era of drug research and development

To Darren Snellgrove, innovation is everything. “Without innovation, we aren’t going to last very long,” says the CFO and senior vice president of finance of Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ Global R&D division, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (J&J). “If you look back at the history of medicine, the developments and innovation there are just incredible.”

Take the Band-Aid, for example—one of Johnson & Johnson’s founding glories. In the past one hundred years, J&J has overseen innovation ranging from the creation of the first adhesive bandage to 3-D printing and robotics-operated surgeries.

With pharmaceuticals as one of Johnson & Johnson’s largest sectors, Snellgrove’s current role, which supports pharmaceutical research and development, is focused on how Janssen can bring transformation and innovation to patients. To Snellgrove, it is vital to the success of the strategy to understand more than just the financial side of things—it’s important to integrate yourself in the industry to figure out where you can add value.

“Pharmaceutical products have a long development life cycle, so you have to be looking five to ten years ahead and asking, ‘Where is the industry headed?’ or ‘What are our competitors working on?’ You have to make sure you are investing in innovation that is going to be transformational at the time of launch,” he says. Snellgrove concedes that it is challenging yet valuable work.

At the moment, Snellgrove manages several different research and development portfolios for Johnson & Johnson in oncology, immunology, and depression therapies. More recently, J&J has launched a breakthrough treatment for depression, which is the first new mechanism of action in roughly thirty years. “We try to maintain a diverse portfolio of investments across several different areas and not get too overly concentrated in one area,” he explains.

Since stepping into his role, Snellgrove has concentrated on methodologies regarding value creation, capital allocation, and risk analysis to drive business for J&J. “The modern CFO wears many hats and has many responsibilities. But to me, none is more important than value creation. You have to understand how your organization creates value, and then I think the goal as CFO is to then work out how your organization can maximize on that,” he says.

“I’m here to help them perform at their best, to remove obstacles, to energize and inspire them.”

Once you understand what drives value, you can allocate capital appropriately to maximize value. It is important to think about your capital allocation across a variety of dimensions, including short-term and long-term as well as risk and return. “I think with all the demands on a modern CFO it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of focusing on value creation, but I do believe that is fundamentally our most important role.”

Snellgrove attributes his philosophies on strategy and leadership to a combination of Johnson & Johnson’s credo and admirable leaders he has worked under. “The credo talks about doing the right thing for patients, customers, employees, and communities. It’s pretty foundational, but it’s also inspiring as an individual because it is holistic. It starts with ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’ A lot of my leadership philosophy stems from this. I also try to be real and approachable and live into that every day,” says Snellgrove.

He also admits that some of his successes as a leader come down to having an excellent team. “I’m lucky that I have a great team. I try to leverage that team and always listen to their ideas. I have found that if you set ambitious goals and let people largely run with it, it’s amazing what they can do. They always deliver more than I think is possible,” he says.

Though his title denotes seniority, Snellgrove more so sees his role as support to his team. “I’m here to help them perform at their best, to remove obstacles, to energize and inspire them. I also think it’s important for me to take responsibility and take the heat if things don’t quite work out.”

More recently, Snellgrove has taken to setting up “coffee chats” with his team members to be able to listen to them one-on-one and discuss what’s on their minds. “I travel a lot for this job, and sometimes I feel like I can never give people enough time. These coffee chats, even if they’re thirty minutes long, give people the space to talk about anything, and I have found it to be really effective.”

He says, ”At Janssen we set the bar high and are looking to have a transformative impact on patients’ lives each and every day. As a finance team in support of that goal, we need strong leaders, diversity, and an inclusive approach, where people can feel they can bring their ideas forward.”

Life Sciences R&D organizations are under increasing pressure to deliver ground-breaking innovation and increase their overall productivity. Deloitte’s global life sciences R&D practice helps organizations transform their R&D models, harness the value of data and advanced technologies, and reshape innovation—all while elevating the patient experience. Learn more: