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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 13, 2012, 6:30 am

CFO Recognition Awards 2012: Teresa Nilsen, Hennessy Advisors

Category: Acquisition — Finance

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    Chief financial officer, chief operating officer and executive vice president

    Teresa Nilsen

     

    Hennessy Advisors

    7250 Redwood Blvd., Ste. 200, Novato 94945, hennessyadvisors.com

    Employees: 12

    Professional background: 1989-present: Hennessy Advisors (Operations Manager to CFO); 1987-1989: McCullough, Andrews, & Cappiello (Financial Research Assistant)

    Education: B.A. in Economics, University of California, Davis

    Age: 46

    Comment about Teresa Nilsen: “First, Terry is much more than a “CFO” — She’s a trustworthy, honest and ethical ‘leader’ of people (kids and adults), along with being loads of fun to work with — and second, she’s not for hire!” —Neil Hennessy, president and CEO, Hennessy Advisors

    Questions for Ms. Nilsen:

    What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?

    A financial leader needs to deliver current operating results concisely and clearly, and to be a strategic partner to the CEO and other executives … all while building shareholder value. 

    What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?

    As you can imagine, the securities industry has change dramatically in the last four years.  We have seen steep declines in the stock market, scandals, and financial reform.  We believe the biggest changes may be still to come, but at our firm we truly put our shareholders first, and watching investors try to navigate the stock market the past few years has been difficult.

    Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?

    The decline in the domestic equity market in 2008 was a significant challenge for our company.  Consumer confidence hit all-time lows and we saw significant outflows from our mutual funds.  It was very difficult to convince investors to continue to believe in the fundamentals of the stock market in the midst of all the negative headlines and volatility.  We know there is long-term value in investing and we used the economic downturn as an opportunity for us to deliver a posotive viewpoint to our customers and to the media.

    What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

    I would advise young financial leaders to work hard, and work effectively. Be adaptable and creative, and always be willing to rise to new challenges. Continue to learn and develop your craft.  I also think that nothing is more valuable than your reputation; be honest and ethical in all that you do.

    What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?

    Managing cash in every economic environment is really important.  As we have seen credit tighten and margins dropping in every industry, there is no doubt in my mind that building cash should be a priority for every firm.  And – always keep your sense of humor.  

    How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

    I think regulatory oversight will continue to increase, and hopefully this does more to benefit investors than merely to burden investment managers.  

    What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it?

    I have learned from every decision, the good ones and the bad ones. The biggest lesson I have learned from the decisions I have made is the only true avenue to success is to take some risks, and I tend to be a bit risk averse. 

    What is your most memorable business experience?

    There have been many. We have piloted this firm from being privately held through a self-underwritten initial purchase offering. We’ve made many acquisitions over the years and those have been both memorable and energizing. Most recently (in June), we announced that we are acquiring a firm twice our size. 

    What is your greatest business success?

    Being a member of a strong executive team (with CEO Neil Hennessy and EVP Dan Steadman) that has charted the course of Hennessy Advisors, Inc.  It has been a tremendous business experience over the last 22 years and I look forward to what the future holds.

    What was your toughest business decision?

    I feel like every new decision replaces the last as my “toughest business decision.”  But truly, any decision that affects our employees always stands out as the most difficult one. 

    What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?

    I have always dreamed of being a sportscaster on ESPN.  If I hadn’t loved this career, I might’ve given that a shot.

    Most admired businessperson outside the company: That is a tough question.  I really admire my boss, Neil Hennessy, but since he’s off limits. I would have to say that I really do admire Carol Ann Bartz, former Chairman and CEO of Autodesk.  She put herself through college and was so very driven.  And I admire every woman in business who shares her time between the work she loves and a family she adores.

    Current reading: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar and The Art of Fielding — love to read two books at once.

    Most want to meet: Jerry West, Giada DeLaurentis and Jimmy Fallon

    Stress relievers: In no distinct order: riding the tandem bike with my husband, cooking outdoors, good wine, reading and being with my family. Sneaking in a matinee once in a while is great, too.

    Favorite activities outside of work: Camping, cycling, kayaking, gardening, time with friends, being near the ocean, a lake or a river. And any extra time I can spend with my children and husband is a bonus. I also love art, music and theater. I even love driving the kids to their year-round sports!

     Is there anything we may have missed that you would like to add?

    My success is absolutely the direct result of working with an amazing and talented team at Hennessy Advisors, Inc. Neil Hennessy is a fun and dedicated leader, and it is a privilege to work with these professionals. Our dedicated directors have provided years of wonderful guidance and support. 

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