April 28, 2020 – Chief financial officers continue to be in high demand. Finding them is keeping many of the nation’s top recruitment operations busier than ever. In recent months, search firms of all varieties have placed CFOs at various companies, especially private equity-backed outfits.
Recently, Greenwich Harbor Partners placed David Zollenberg as the new CFO for Petplan, a Warburg Pincus portfolio company and provider of health insurance for pets. Managing directors Ted and Carrie Pryor led the assignment. With this hire, Petplan is looking to grow its direct-to-consumer pet health insurance business and accelerate growth.
Executive Recruiters & Talent Leaders Navigate Uncertain Times
Hunt Scanlon’s latest executive recruiting industry sector report will be available in 30 days. This will be the most important search industry sector report that Hunt Scanlon has ever produced! The nation’s top executive recruiters are resetting expectations in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic crisis. Many expect a significant pause in business, followed by a sharp rebound later this year. We talk to the experts, uncover the opportunities, pick the sectors and reveal how search firms and talent organizations are navigating and adapting in uncertain times. Healthcare, biotech, crisis response, supply chain & logistics and the vast private equity sector are all showing signs of strength – and a big need for talent.
Hear from top talent experts, including: Frederickson Partners; CBIZ CMF; Russell Reynolds Associates; Odgers Berndtson; Options Group; ZRG Partners; Wilton & Bain; Diversified Search; Caldwell; Hanold Associates; True Search; Slayton Search Partners; Coulter Partners; Cejka Search; Solomon Page; Acertitude; McDermott & Bull; Academic Search; Beecher Reagan; Bowdoin Group; Kingsley Gate Partners; Comhar Partners; ON Partners; Perrett Laver; CarterBaldwin; Stanton Chase; Buffkin/Baker; Major, Lindsay & Africa; WittKieffer; Klein Hersh; Furst Group; Invenias; PierceGray; LifeSci Partners & more!
“This was a nationwide search and we talked to everyone we thought was appropriate for the position,” said Mr. Pryor. “We were looking for a senior financial leader executive with deep, insurance company experience, true P&L responsibility and proven ability to be successful in an entrepreneurial environment.”
Mr. Zollenberg is an experienced private equity CFO with extensive insurance industry experience. Prior to joining Petplan, he was CFO and co-chief operating officer for Genesis Capital, a loan provider for the nation’s top professional developers of residential, multi-family and mixed-use real estate, founded by Oaktree Capital and sold to Goldman Sachs. Prior to Genesis Capital, Mr. Zollenberg was CFO and head of shared services for Farmers Distribution at Farmers Insurance, where he had had multiple progressive assignments in finance over eight years. Prior to that, he was with the Hanover Insurance Group.
Greenwich Harbor Partners’ principals have worked in industry as general managers and investors and have direct professional experience with the types of issues that face their clients. The firm’s client roster includes IBM Cloud Services, Media General, Marlin Equity Partners, DIRECTV, SpinMedia, ReelzChannel TV and Keurig Green Mountain, among others.
Ms. Pryor has over 20 years of senior executive search experience. She has recruited board directors, CEOs and their direct reports, as well as partners for private equity firms. In addition to her board seat with the New York Pops, she serves as an advisory board member for Constellation Ventures. A veteran of the internet space since the early ’90s, she has deep experience in digital media, entertainment and private equity.
Mr. Pryor focuses on senior-level assignments for general management, sales, marketing and digital transformation. He specializes in recruiting executives using his four years as CFO and CEO of a venture-backed start-up, 10 years at General Electric Capital and 20 years in international finance and investment banking. Mr. Pryor has served on public, private and non-profit boards and chaired the audit committee for the Boston Celtics. In executive recruiting, he has focused on business services, digital marketing, e-commerce, ad sales, place-based advertising, communications and customer service for growth companies and large national brands.
Recruiting CFOs for PE Companies
Executive search firm Caldwell recently conducted a survey on the CFO role to fine-tune its understanding of the skills and experiences that define success today for a CFO of a PE-backed portfolio company and, equally importantly, which attributes may sound appealing but are not essential. More than 300 private equity CFOs shared candid responses on their backgrounds and how they landed in their current role. The results provided a clearer picture of who sits in the CFO chair at many PE-backed portfolio companies, and the skills and credentials that are truly impactful in their leadership role.
When asked to describe their previous experience, 10 percent of the participants said, “I was a divisional CFO or No. 2 finance executive in a PE-backed company,” while 20 percent had the same status at a public company. Another 35 percent had been a CFO of a public or private company. And only 34 percent had been CFO of a PE-backed company. So just a third of the CFOs in the Caldwell survey had previously held a PE CFO role.
Among companies with less than $25 million in revenue, only 15 percent of the CFOs had prior experience as CFO of a PE-backed company, while 56 percent of the companies with greater than $500 million revenue hired a CFO with prior experience in a PE CFO role. In the three other revenue categories, the companies hired a CFO with prior PE CFO experience 40 percent of the time, or less. These findings would seem to indicate that hiring a CFO with prior PE CFO experience is a “nice to have,” but not a must-have credential for all companies, said the firm.
Caldwell also asked the CFOs: “What were the key factors in your hiring?” and asked them to check all relevant factors. Among the total population of participants, the No. 1 factor was industry experience, and the second factor was PE experience. Tied for third were a previous successful exit and a prior role as a stand-alone PE CFO.
Looking at the responses by company revenue size, private equity experience was the first or second response in all revenue categories. Likewise, industry experience was first or second in the four lower revenue categories. Among companies with greater than $500 million revenue, however, private equity experience was the top response, selected by 64 percent of the respondents, while a previous successful exit and experience as a stand-alone PE CFO were each chosen by 48 percent of respondents. Only in this largest revenue category did industry experience drop to the fourth answer, tied with public reporting experience. These responses would seem to reflect that among the largest companies, investors are more likely to be anticipating and hiring for an exit via a public offering.
By comparison, among companies with less than $25 million in revenue, public reporting experience was cited as a hiring factor only eight percent of the time, while a previous successful exit was cited by 17 percent of respondents. Across all revenue categories, the CFO had Big Four experience a quarter of the time, or less.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media