Snap’s improved quarter can’t hide ‘a deeper, way bigger issue’

Leadership turnover was not the No. 1 issue for analysts on the earnings call. There are core business challenges that remain, including Snap’s competition against Facebook apps. And its list of competitors is growing, according to the company’s own filings.

Bank of America’s Justin Post wrote after the earnings that the improvement was an important step but still “far from a victory.” He added, “Our survey work suggests Snap still has high levels of churn, while we continue to think Instagram and Whataspp will be difficult to displace in international markets even with an improved app.”

Leadership didn’t come up on the call until the tenth analyst in the queue got a chance to pose a question.

Doug Anmuth, a J.P. Morgan internet analyst, cited management retention as one of the issues for caution over Snap’s future. He asked Spiegel about Snap’s recruiting and retention efforts given recent departures.

On the continuing CFO search, Spiegel said, “I think as we look forward to CFO roles, a critical role for us, I think we are really fortunate to have Lara in the interim role right now. She knows the company really well, has been with us for a long-time. So that really gives us the flexibility to take our time with the search and really get it right.” He added, “I think if we look at this, the development over the leadership team over the last year, it’s made a massive difference in the business and also for me personally because now I’m freed up to do the things I really love to do on the product side. So I think the teams really evolved and I think ready for the next stage of growth.”

Snap declined to comment to CNBC beyond Spiegel’s answers on the call.

Jefferies’ Thill wasn’t satisfied by the Snap CEO’s answer, and he pressed the question about turnover later on the call.

“I just want to go back to the developing team and culture, there have been a lot of changes. I’m just curious if you could comment on what percent of the change you think you’re through in the senior team?”

Spiegel replied, “On the senior team, we are really focused on the CFO role and also on the marketing role. So those are the two priorities for me. Most of the changes we made over the past year, year and half as we look sort of forward towards the business scaling, I’m really happy with the way the teams come together and the way they’re working together. So those are related to focus areas for us.”

While the stock has doubled from its 52-week low, even with the rally on Wednesday Snap shares remain far below its $17 per share IPO offering price, and below its stock market high of $26 on its first day of trading after its March 2017 IPO.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and director of the center for human resources at The Wharton School, wrote in an email that a revolving door on the leadership level could signal lack of agreement between people in power. However, the skills needed to turn a start-up company into a mid-sized company can be different, and some could simply outgrow their leaders.

In terms of Snap’s ability to recruit talent in the highest ranks of its company, Cappelli noted the company could have some advantages over competitors. “I think the benefit for any executive is being able to work on something that is new and emerging and also to be able to put your stamp on something, to show that what you did really mattered,” Capelli wrote.

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