Silicon Valley-based Palo Alto Networks, which sells security products designed to keep malicious software out of corporate networks, is making its presence felt in New Zealand after appointing former Prime Minister Sir John Key to its board.
The company has just doubled its local staff, and appointed its first country manager for New Zealand: Misti Landtroop.
Key, whose portfolio of directorships also include Air New Zealand and ANZ on both sides of the Tasman, was appointed to the Palo Alto board along with Lorraine Twohill, chief marketing officer at Google LLC.
In its 2018 report, Palo Alto Networks' lists stock awards to each director worth between US$320,000 ($475,000) and US$1 million ($1.5m).
The company has drawn attention for the relatively high compensation of its executives, relative to its size. Bloomberg ranked its chairman and CEO Nikesh Arora at number five on its list of the Highest Paid CEOs and Executives in 2018, behind only Tesla's Elon Musk, Tilray's Brendan Kenedy, Disney's Bob Iger and Apple's Tim Cook - despite his company's 2018 revenue (US$2.3b) being only a fraction of other in the top five, hot medical cannabis startup Tilray aside.
The bulk of Arora's US$130.7m remuneration was in stock awards and option awards.
The US company didn't hire the ex-PM for his computer smarts.
"Sir John will bring to the board extensive experience in foreign affairs, investment banking and finance," Arora said as Key was appointed.
But the former Prime Minister also does have somewhat of a grounding in security, however, by dint of his time as GCSB Minister - a stint that included the introduction of the Cortex programme to protect New Zealand from malicious software. At one point Key described the initiative as "Norton Anti-virus at a high level".
Palo Alto Networks also has a product called Cortex, which offers AI-based protection against online threats, but the shared name is a coincidence; the US company's "Coretex" was not released until February this year.
Landtroop said she could not name local Palo Alto Networks customers, citing confidentiality, but said her company's Wellington-based team has been "working with government for the past few years".
Budget 2019 set aside close to $100m under its "secure digital nation" initiative, which includes investments across Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) New Zealand, Government Chief Digital Officer, Cyber Security Strategy, the operation of RealMe and other digital initiatives.
Landtroop also sees pending 5G upgrades to mobile networks and an attendant growth in the "internet of things" complicating the security landscape. Ditto a revamp to the Privacy Act, currently making its way through Parliament, that will make it mandatory to disclose a data breach.
Palo Alto Networks is not a consumer-facing company (its firewalls can cost US$250,000 each) and lacks the profile of some of the Big Techs.
But it's still a substantial operation. Its NYSE-listed shares have taken a hammering lately, along with other techs, but it still has a market cap of just under US$20 billion ($30b) and it has around 10,000 staff worldwide.
Mark McLaughlin, the chief executive who took the fast-growing company public in 2012, recently stood down from the top job in favour of a customer-advocacy and government relations role.
McLaughlin recently said his company's strategy is to invest in its new security platform, for which it hopes other developers will write software — something akin to a Windows operating system but for security software.