Hennessy Advisors's Kathryn Fahy wins North Bay CFO award

Kathryn Fahy of Hennessy Advisors Inc. in Novato wins one of North Bay Business Journal's CFO awards.

Professional background: Held positions of public accountant for Deloitte & Touche; senior internal auditor for Knight Ridder, Inc.

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in international economics with a minor in accounting from the University of California, Los Angeles. Also a certified public accountant.

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

A good financial leader finds the balance between management and operations. The essential role is to provide prudent financial guidance, but a GREAT financial leader allows for as much creativity and growth as possible under the lowest risk profile.

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

The investment management industry has changed markedly in recent years, especially with the greater flow of information to investors (through social media in particular). I believe this is contributing to the volatility we are seeing in the stock market. Tax reform - its current effects and, more importantly, its long-reaching implications - is also creating change in this industry and many others.

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

Our company's growth through acquisitions is a top priority. We are fortunate enough to be in the middle of our 10th fund acquisition, which will bring our total acquired funds to 30 if it is completed. I've been at Hennessy Advisors for 7 of the 10 acquisition processes, and although they are amazing opportunities, they are also challenging. Each and every one brings its own challenges, which leads to incredible learning experiences.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

Never stop learning. Take care of your team, and thoughtful mentorship is the key to taking care of your team.

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

Stay the course, and ignore the daily chatter.

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

It's hard to tell what will change, especially over the course of five years. Change is happening quickly, but I do foresee investors returning to more thoughtful research and trying to understand their investments more fully versus being concerned only with cost.

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

I wish I had studied longer abroad and tried harder to learn the language. I spent two months in Mexico to learn Spanish, but I didn't apply myself enough and leave as a fluent speaker like I had hoped. It would be an incredible skill to have.

What is your most memorable business experience?

My most memorable business experience was being part of the team at Deloitte that stepped in as consultants after the MCI WorldCom collapse. It was a dynamic and industry-changing event, and I was able to learn about it from the ground level.

What is your greatest business success?

My greatest business success has been being named the CFO of Hennessy Advisors, Inc. It was a culmination of many years of hard work and I'm excited to continue in a fantastic legacy set forth by my predecessor, Terry Nilsen.

What was your toughest business decision?

A tough business decision I had to make was changing vendors on what felt like something small, but turned out to be more far-reaching than I could have imagined. I believe I made the right choice at the end of the day, but it was a long time getting to that conclusion.

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

My friends would be surprised to find out how much I secretly love video games, especially FIFA and Madden. It's something I've learned to enjoy during downtime with my husband over the years

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