2024 Speakers

Benjamin Bond

VP Strategy & Business Development, Simbe Robotics

Benjamin Bond is VP of Strategy & Business Development at Simbe, helping hone the company's strategic direction and drive the adoption of AI and robotics in retail. Recognized as a leading strategist, Bond has guided global retailers through complex transformation journeys during his tenure at top consultancies, including Kearney and Accenture. Bond believes that one of retailers' next critical evolutions will be unlocking untapped in-store data to drive operational excellence. 

Suneel Chirunomula

EVP, Head of Growth, Viewpost

After more than a decade leading B2B payment solutions and working capital strategies for American Express and C2FO, Suneel joined Viewpost to grow enterprise sales and accelerate channel partnerships. With a client-focused mindset, Suneel draws on a unique combination of card, B2B payments, and working capital experience that helps payment leaders solve problems, increase efficiency, and add value to their organizations.

Stanton Collins

Senior Manager, Payments Consultant, CMSPI

Stanton Collins, a Senior Manager in CMSPI’s Project Delivery team, is a trusted partner for merchants seeking efficiency improvements within complex supply chains. Tasked with managing relationships with strategic accounts, he delves deep into the dynamic payments landscape to identify avenues for streamlining cost structures and payment performance.

Drawing from his extensive experience across industries, Stanton leads diverse projects aimed at reducing expenses while deploying scalable growth opportunities for optimal performance. Through meticulous analysis and strategic implementation, Stanton empowers merchants to achieve sustainable cost savings and operational efficiency within their payment processes.

Rick Cruickshank

Managing Director, KPMG US

Rick Cruickshank is a Managing Director in KPMG’s Accounting Advisory Services group, focusing on mergers and acquisitions, technical accounting, and other strategic accounting and financial reporting initiatives of clients.  Rick’s focus in Consumer & Retail industries, servicing a variety of public and private companies.

James Dunne

Senior Manager | Business Consulting | Enterprise Risk, Ernst & Young

James is a Senior Manager in Ernst & Young’s Risk Consulting practice specializing in automation and finance transformation initiatives, bringing over a decade of expertise to the table. He began his career in external audit but currently focuses on internal audit consulting. In his controllership domain focus, James provides advisory services on compliance, helping clients design tailored solutions and automations that enhance both efficiency and effectiveness. James is also a Certified Chartered Accountant.

Sherif Fahmy

Vice President, Retail Sales-Martech East, Inmar

As an omnichannel strategist, practical innovator and leader, Sherif brings a balanced perspective on solving business problems with +20 years of agency-based innovation, commerce activation and retail media experience, coupled with time spent at CVS Health leading incentive / loyalty strategies with manufacturers. He's built and led scaled businesses that focus on commercial optimization, productivity and profitability. His versatile background across numerous channels and clients, and the pioneer of several retail-based companies/tools prove there’s a solution for every kind of problem.

Dr. Jackie Freiberg, Ph.D.

Speaker, Author, and Corporate Consultant

Jackie is dedicated to helping leaders create BEST places where the BEST people can do their BEST work to make the world BETTER.

According to a national survey, Jackie is recognized as one of the “Top 30 Best Minds on Leadership” and is one of the most sought-after female business speakers in the nation.   In addition to speaking, Jackie is an international bestselling author, business owner, entrepreneur, and a leadership and culture consultant to various executive teams nationwide. She teaches graduate classes part-time at the University of San Diego, School of Leadership & Education Sciences and she also writes and speaks on the SheEconomy, a $20 Trillion female strength to know. 

Brian George

President, Chairman and CEO, Alex Lee, Inc.

Brian George joined the Company in June 2005.  He received his undergraduate degree and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.  He is a CPA in the state of North Carolina.  His experience prior to joining the Company includes over 5 years in Accounting and Finance with companies such as Arthur Andersen, LLP, Donlen Corporation, and Bank of America. He served on the Audit Staff at Arthur Andersen, LLP and as a Staff Accountant at Donlen Corporation.  At Bank of America, he served as a Financial Analyst.  Since joining the Company as a Management Trainee, he has served as Lowes Foods Co-Manager and Store Manager.  He has also served as Manager Retail Development, and Vice President Sales at MDI.  He was named President of Alex Lee, Inc. in 2011, added CEO to his title in 2014 and became Chairman in 2018.

Andy S. Harig

Vice President, Tax, Trade, Sustainability & Policy Development, FMI

Andrew S. Harig currently serves as Vice President, Tax, Trade, Sustainability & Policy Development at FMI-The Food Industry Association. In this position, he is responsible for lobbying Congress and the Administration on behalf of FMI members, with a primary focus on agriculture, taxes, trade, sustainability, food waste, and pensions. Prior to joining FMI, Andy was an associate trade advisor and speechwriter for the Senate Finance Committee under its Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT).  From 1999-2001, he was the senior research associate for the Global Economic Policy Project at the New America Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think tank. Andy holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.


Jeff Hobert

Managing Consultant, the Stores Consulting Group

Jeff Hobert is a Managing Consultant with the Stores Consulting Group.  He has 20+ years of experience working as a consultant with retailers across the United States and Europe in implementing sales and store operational initiatives that have led to significant bottom-line results.  Prior to consulting, he has experience in retail operational management and training roles.  Jeff started his consulting career at Capgemini and has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management.‚Äč

Christian Johnson

Global Director of Payments Public Policy, CMSPI

Christian manages the company’s industry engagement and strategies on regulatory trends, finding creative and innovative ways to develop evidence-backed and data-driven narratives on some of the biggest issues in the payments industry. Christian works with stakeholders across the payments industry to promote competition and foster a more productive payments ecosystem, drawing on CMSPI’s market-leading data insights.

Patrick Kelly

Chief Data Intelligence Officer, PRGX

Prior to joining PRGX, Patrick was Senior Vice President of Product and Design at 84.51o, a retail data science and insights company. Patrick’s depth of knowledge in retail data analytics also comes from roles at SPINS, Label Insight and dunnhumby. Patrick holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Sciences from the University of Notre Dame. He also received a Master of Science, Analytics at the University of Chicago.

David P. Kohne

Managing Director, KPMG

David Kohne is a Managing Director with 16 years of professional experience, helping clients’ execute against their core IA and SOX needs, drive risk management improvement and advance core internal audit capabilities. David’s approach focuses on connecting the enterprise and IA agendas – across culture, people, technology and process – to create a more valuable and trusted IA function equipped to navigate the disruptive, financial, operational and compliance risk landscapes. David’s qualifications span a variety of risk-based solutions that include establishing, transforming and strategic sourcing the internal audit function; enterprise risk management; dynamic and continuous risk assessment; regulatory compliance and third-party risk; SOX (implementation, transformation and assistance services); corporate governance, IPO/SPAC readiness and integration; board governance and audit committee restructuring; and business transformation.

Sergey N. Kotelnikov

Partner, Corporate, Akerman LLP

Sergey Kotelnikov’s practice encompasses a wide range of complex commercial transactions with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, joint ventures, and recapitalizations. He regularly represents private equity firms and their portfolio companies in both buy and sell side transactions and all of the ancillary corporate matters, including negotiation of commercial contracts and add-on acquisitions. Sergey has represented clients from a broad spectrum of industries, including healthcare, automotive, wholesale grocery distribution, correctional facilities, veterinary services, information and telecommunication services, and banking.

Prior to joining Akerman, Sergey practiced in the Washington, D.C. office of an international law firm, where his practice focused on cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

Surya Kunju

Director of Strategic Sales, Google Cloud

Surya Kunju leads Google Cloud's Retail Media and Marketing Transformation practice for their top US Retail and CPG clients, leveraging his deep industry knowledge and proven track record from Accenture and SAP to help clients achieve business goals through Google Cloud's advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning capabilities.  His team of experts, combined with his passion for utilizing technology and innovative solutions, ensures clients are equipped with the cutting-edge tools needed for success in the competitive retail landscape.

Steve Markenson

Steve Markenson, Vice President, Research, FMI

In his role at FMI, Markenson oversees the research & insights practice. He leads the discovery process on the latest industry trends and operational insights that champion FMI as a credible voice of the food retail industry. Markenson is a market research executive with 30 years of progressive experience in his field. His diverse experience includes research design, information/data collection and analysis and strategic planning.

Markenson was formerly the president of WBA Research, a national market research firm founded in 1987, where he oversaw more than 30 full-time professionals, along with a part-time staff of more than 100 telephone interviewers, field interviewers and support staff. Earlier in his career, Markenson worked at Snyder Communications, where he directed all aspects of more than 90 annual market research studies and presented results to brand management, market research departments, advertising and promotion agencies.

David Mell

Managing Director, Rothschild & Co. Global Financial Advisory

David Mell is a Managing Director in the Global Financial Advisory Group based in New York, focused on the Retail, Connected Commerce and related Distribution sectors primarily in North America. Mr. Mell joined Rothschild in 2022. Previously, he worked at both RBC Capital Markets and Wells Fargo Securities covering similar sectors and was an investor at Coller Capital and MacAndrews & Forbes. Mr. Mell has over 20 years of experience, completing a full range of transactions from equity and debt financings, restructurings / recapitalizations, sell side advisory and buy side advisory as well as principal investing. Mr. Mell has completed over $45 bill ion in M&A transaction volume and has served as lead industry banker on debt and equity financings. In 2018, Mr. Mell was named an Emerging Leader by The M&A Advisor and won the Inaugural Progressive Grocer GenNext award.

Kariuki Samuel Ndegwa

Partner, Ernst & Young Global Limited

Samuel is a Partner in Ernst & Young’s Financial and Accounting Advisory Digital practice; he has an 18-year track record of crafting digital solutions across a variety of sectors. Presently, he spearheads an advisory group that advises finance departments on the optimal use of cutting-edge technologies to automate processes and make data-informed decisions. Samuel holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Houston and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

Jordan Novak

EVP, Enterprise Sales, Viewpost

Jordan is a strategic-minded, client-focused executive with more than a decade of B2B leadership, corporate development, sales, and marketing experience. He is a problem solver who loves sharing over a dozen years of enterprise-level experience in liquidity, supply chain, payments, and SaaS to help financial leaders solve problems, increase efficiency, and save money. Grab a coffee or a cocktail with Jordan, and you’ll quickly learn that while “Keep Austin Weird” describes where Jordan lives, “Keep it Real” is a much better slogan for how he works.

Karen Short

Managing Director, Equity Research

Karen Short has been an Equity Research Analyst for 25 years. She covers Food Retail and Hardlines/Broadline Retailers encompassing ~$1.5 trillion in market capitalization. She has been a senior Equity Research Analyst at Credit Suisse, BMO, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank. She is also an Advisor for Swiftly and Inner Immersion.

 She started her equity research career in 1999 at Lehman Brothers. Ms. Short has been ranked in the Institutional Investor All-America Research Team survey as either #1, #2 or #3 since 2014.  Prior to her career in equity research, Ms. Short spent five years in energy sales and trading in Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada. Ms. Short received her M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and a B.A. from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Ricky Volpe, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Cal Poly

Ricky Volpe received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis in 2010. He then spent four years working as an economist at the USDA Economic Research Service in Washington DC. There he researched a variety of topics, including food price formation, competitiveness in the food industry, and the healthiness of grocery purchases in the U.S. Ricky was also responsible for forecasting retail food price inflation at the national level. 

Now at Cal Poly, Ricky teaches courses on food retail and supply chain management, transportation and logistics, and data analysis. He also maintains an active research agenda using a variety of large data sets to study issues related to market structure, firm performance, food prices, consumers’ food choices, and health outcomes. He also works closely with industry leaders in food retailing, wholesaling, and distribution to facilitate collaboration on public-private partnerships, student internships, and scholarships. Ricky has also studied at the  University of Massachusetts, Amherst earning a M.S. Resource Economics and a B.S. Mathematics and Economics.