Terry Nilsen of Hennessy Advisors wins Women in Business Award

Terry M. Nilsen

Chief operating and financial officer

Hennessy Advisors, Inc.

7250 Redwood Blvd, Suite 200, Novato, 94947


Notable Quote: “My biggest challenge today is helping guide the company through far-reaching regulatory and industry changes that are transforming the face of our industry. Not a week goes by that I don't read an article that could have a significant impact on our company.”

Professional background: I began my career in the financial services industry in 1987 and helped build Hennessy Advisors, Inc. (the investment manager of Hennessy Funds) from its inception in 1989. Today, I serve as the general business manager and financial officer for Hennessy Advisors, Inc., and am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the firm. Education: BA in Economics from the University of California, Davis

Staff: 19

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am a Novato native, the youngest of seven children. I have been married for 25 years, and have three children: a sophomore in college, a junior in high-school and a sixth grader. I have worked alongside Neil Hennessy, founder of Hennessy Funds, since 1989. Together, we have grown Hennessy Advisors, Inc. (the publicly traded asset manager of Hennessy Funds) over 15 fold from $375 million at the end of its first fiscal year as a public company to over $6.5 billion under management today. Our business strategy has been a combination of growing organically and through strategic acquisitions.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share? I was named a “Top Woman in Asset Management” by Money Management Executive magazine in their May 8, 2017 issue. It was a great honor.

Any community involvement?

I believe community involvement is essential. I've been involved in many aspects of my community: coaching sports teams, participating in the PTA at my kids' schools, heading up fundraisers, and volunteering in classrooms. My husband and I have also become very involved in Okizu, one of Neil's favorite charities. Okizu is a summer camp for children with cancer and their families. Our involvement in Okizu has been both inspiring and life-changing. We help with an annual ‘shindig' hosted by Hennessy Advisors in order to raise money for the Okizu Preservation Fund to ensure funding for Okizu continues into the future.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

I am most proud of the team we've assembled at Hennessy Advisors. Our success as a business is directly attributable to each of them. And because of the incredible people I work with, I am able to balance a robust, rewarding professional life with a fulfilling family life, raising three great children with my husband Mitch. I couldn't have done it without the support I receive at the office and at home.

What is your biggest challenge today?

My biggest challenge today is helping guide the company through far-reaching regulatory and industry changes that are transforming the face of our industry. Not a week goes by that I don't read an article that could have a significant impact on our Company.

Words that best describe you: Committed, Compassionate, Driven, Grateful.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I never felt that there were obstacles to overcome, instead I felt there were opportunities presented. I found many like-minded professionals, both female and male, to collaborate with and learn from over the years. I have also made long-standing friendships with women in the industry, which is easy to do when you face similar issues of work-life balance and project management on a daily basis. Balancing family with a dynamic career is a challenge for working women (and men) in any industry and I am no exception.

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

I believe that every industry is faced with “disruptions.” It's how we can navigate through those disruptions every year, not just the next five that will define our success. We've remained successful by delivering solid products with integrity, and I am confident that if we continue to focus on our simple business strategy we can weather any challenges that come our way.

Who was your most important mentor?

It is certainly Neil Hennessy, CEO and founder of Hennessy Advisors. Neil has been a dedicated, committed CEO who truly leads by example. He continues to exhibit great vision and entrepreneurial foresight building this company, and he has also shown me how to select consummate professionals to work beside us on this journey. Neil has a great sense of humor that has helped us get through a few rough patches during the past 28 years.

I've also had an extremely important “life” mentor in my mother, Dorothy Mariani. Not only was she extremely intelligent, but she knew how to impart her wisdom on everyone around her, which is a true skill. The passion she had when she spoke about the history and natural beauty of Marin County and California gave me my zest for learning. It was infectious. She was also an incredible baker, and that skill lives on in my daughter Reese, who loves to bake, maybe even more than my mother did.

Terry M. Nilsen

Chief operating and financial officer

Hennessy Advisors, Inc.

7250 Redwood Blvd, Suite 200, Novato, 94947


What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

I would tell any young person entering my profession (not just women) that the most important part of the job is being engaged every day. Observe the world around you, listen carefully, ask good questions, and read. It is so important to read (newspapers, magazines, websites, and books) and be open to any new challenge that comes your way. There is nothing you can't accomplish as long as you are willing to put forth the effort. It is also important to meet people and make meaningful contacts through networking, conferences, and, most importantly, by participating in your own community.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Honestly there are too many to mention. I have sought (and continue to seek) advice from many people I've admired over the years.

Typical day at the office: There really is no typical day at the office when you work with the stock market. Every day is different, and it is not just about the ups and downs of the Dow Jones. There are new challenges, new successes, and new dialogues literally every day with a multitude of people. No two days are the same, which is part of what I love about my job. I do try to sneak in a workout at least three days a week to help keep me sane, too!

Best place to work outside of your office: My office is my preferred place to work. It is where I get my best ideas and where I'm most productive. I work from home or the road when I need to, but my best ‘work' is done at my desk

Current reading: Outside of industry-related and current events reading, I love a great mystery or thriller. It keeps my imagination fresh and my mind active.

Most want to meet: I would most like to meet Steve Kerr, and not just because of his immense success or the fact that I'm a lifelong Golden State Warriors fan. I'm most impressed by his cool demeanor and his grace under pressure. I think the world could use more Steve Kerrs. And I wouldn't mind courtside seats.

Social media you most use: I don't use social media very frequently. I let my kids update me on social happenings while I stick to newspapers and magazines.

Stress relievers: I have a lot of go-to stress relievers: a long bike ride, a tough hike, cooking a meal from scratch… sometimes a big cup of tea will do it! And if tea doesn't do the trick, a great glass of pinot noir should!

Favorite hobbies: Cooking, camping, biking, hiking, reading, and pretty much ANY activity with my family.

Is there something we didn't ask that you would like to add?: I am honored and humbled to receive this award. I also want to share in this honor with my incredible team of professionals that support every aspect of Hennessy Advisors. I work with a lot of amazing people, and I am grateful to count them as both work associates and good friends.

Show Comment

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette