Benefitfocus

Benefitfocus is headquartered on Daniel Island. File/Wade Spees/Staff

Benefitfocus Inc. will lose its third finance chief in just over a year this spring, the company told investors Thursday.

Jeffrey Laborde, who joined the Daniel Island-based technology company as chief financial officer in September, says he will leave his post in April, at the end of its current quarter.

That will set off a search for the company's third CFO since finance chief Milt Alpern, who guided the company through its 2013 initial public offering, retired last March.

The announcement came on a conference call with analysts to discuss the employee benefits management company's fourth-quarter results. In brief remarks, CEO Shawn Jenkins credited Laborde's "meaningful impact on the business."

Both of the executives sought to assure investors that his decision to leave was a personal one. One analyst who follows Benefitfocus pointed out that Laborde will become the second CFO to depart "after only a very short stint.”

“Is there any more detail you can give us on this? Just because ... I'm sure it's going to make people question it a lot,” John DiFucci of Jefferies LLC said during the call.

Dennis Story, who was tapped as Alpern's replacement last summer, left less than a month after he started, citing "family reasons." In a statement issued at the time, Jenkins said Story needed to "return to Atlanta full-time to care for a loved one."

Jeffrey Laborde (copy)

Provided/File

Jeffrey Laborde is stepping down as chief financial officer of Benefitfocus Inc.

For his part, Laborde said he plans to return to a job at a privately held company in Atlanta, adding that his decision was driven by a weekly commute from Georgia and the demands of working at a publicly traded firm.

"It has been a difficult decision-making process for me," Laborde said on the conference call. "While striking the balance between personal and professional commitment is rarely easy, I believe the requirements of the high-growth public company environment - when coupled with my weekly commute from Atlanta - make a return to private equity a better match for me at this stage in my career."

The personnel change caught the attention of analysts who track the company, who made note of the turnover in research briefs published Friday.

Raymond James analysts wrote that they were confident in the company's ability to continue to grow, even as they warned that "we’re not encouraged by another CFO transition." RBC Capital Markets likewise sounded a note of caution.

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"While Mr. Laborde cited legitimate personal reasons for his decision, the lack of stability in the CFO role is frustrating," RBC analysts led by Ross MacMillan wrote.

Laborde came to the company from Atlanta-based Infor Inc., a business software company where he held the same role for about a year. He was also CFO at SumTotal Systems, a Florida human-resources tech company.

Before that, Laborde was a managing director of Goldman Sachs’ technology group in San Francisco. Goldman took Benefitfocus public several years ago and remains one of its biggest investors, with a roughly 20 percent stake.

Benefitfocus's stock sank Friday after the company's earnings release, and shares closed the day down 11.5 percent to $25.10. That marks the third-largest one-day decline by percentage since the company went public in September 2013.

The company said Thursday that it had moved closer to turning a profit in the fourth quarter compared to last year, posting $7.1 million in losses between October and December. Over the same period in 2015, it lost $12.5 million.

Meantime, Benefitfocus said revenue grew 15 percent to $62.6 million, driven by growing sales of its benefits-management software.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703 or on Twitter @thadmoore.

Thad Moore is a reporter on The Post and Courier’s Watchdog and Public Service team, a native of Columbia and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. His career at the newspaper started on the business desk in 2016.