Imperva Names Former Citrix Exec As New President, CEO

Imperva is bringing in a fresh set of eyes to lead the company, saying Thursday it has named former Citrix Systems executive Christopher Hylen as president and CEO.

The appointment is effective Aug. 15, the company said, adding Hylen has been named to the Imperva board of directors.

Hylen comes to the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based data and application security company from his position at Citrix, where he most recently served as CEO of Citrix GetGo. Prior to joining Citrix in 2013, Hylen served as senior vice president and general manager of Intuit Payment Solutions.

[Related: Gartner: 10 Biggest Cybersecurity Consulting Companies By Revenue]

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Hylen said in a statement about his appointment that he decided to join the company because of the increasing need for data and application security. He said this "provides tremendous opportunities for Imperva to continue to differentiate itself."

"I am excited to lead the company into its next phase of growth and believe we are well positioned to drive profitable growth and deliver lasting value for our employees, customers and shareholders," Hylen said in a statement.

Imperva stock dropped more than 5 percent on news of the appointment to $41.65.

Hylen replaces Anthony Bettencourt, who has been president and CEO since August 2014. Bettencourt will remain with Imperva as vice president of customer engagement, a new role for the company, as well as retain his role as chairman of the board of directors. Imperva credited Bettencourt with helping the company build out its data and application security portfolio, as well as expand the business geographically and financially. However, Bettencourt said in a statement that it was time for a change.

’After serving nearly 15 years as a CEO, including the last three at Imperva where we transformed the company, I have determined that it is time for me to step back from being the top executive,’ he said in the statement. ’It has been an enormous privilege to lead Imperva and I look forward to my new role, where I can focus on customer and corporate development initiatives to support our continued growth.’

Imperva has been plagued by challenges to its sales execution strategy, facing issues this year in the U.S. market and last year in Europe, according to the company's earnings reports.

Andrew Nowinski, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said Hylen's background in helping revamp and turn around the GetGo business could be key in helping Imperva turn around its own business. He said that sales execution experience will be key, even though Hylen doesn't have a background in the security industry.

'It's been kind of problematic," Piper Jaffray's Nowinski said, referring to Imperva's sales execution issues. "It hasn’t been a smooth ride for these guys. They do need someone to come in and get better operational discipline."

One Imperva partner, who did not want to be named, also said he hoped Hylen could help Imperva turn the corner. He said the company has a lot of work to do across the board.

’If he can turn [the company] around, he'll be worth his weight in gold,’ the partner said.

Nowinski said it isn't clear from conversations he's had with company management since the appointment if the channel will be a key focus for Hylen.

The Imperva channel business has seen significant turnover in recent months. Karl Soderlund, former vice president, worldwide channels and alliances, left the company in December, and Brian Feeney, former vice president of channel sales, left in July. Both executives are now at Palo Alto Networks, as vice president, Americas channels and director of national partner sales, respectively.

"The channel is also irritated or weak and that is something they need to fix. They need top-down changes here," Nowinski said. "I view it as positive: It can only get better from here."

Hylen also brings an acquisition background to Imperva. Imperva has been plagued by acquisition rumors, although they have slowed in recent months. The rumors had accelerated after Bettencourt's appointment as CEO, as he had led the previous two companies at which he was CEO through acquisitions, including Synopsis' 2014 acquisition of Coverity for $375 million and Proofpoint's 2012 acquisition of Next Page.