In a set-up that may sound familiar to many in the industry, April Evans is the only woman among eight partners at mid-market firm Monitor Clipper Partners. Aside from one Korean-American, the remainder of the firm’s partners are white men.
Speaking to pfm from her office in Boston, she points to statistics that show women holding a tiny fraction of the top positions in private equity. There is no comprehensive data set, but in the UK, for example, the numbers are dire. A May report by lobby group British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and Level 20, a non-profit advocating for women in private equity, found 6 percent of senior investment team roles are held by women and women comprise just 29 percent of the private equity workforce. In the US, the Carlyle Group, which recently created the role of a chief diversity officer, says that women make up 23 percent of its senior positions in the US, compared with what it says is 9 percent for the industry average.
“I think that, just because of the way I operate, I see women in the industry at all levels. The data says the numbers haven’t moved very much,” Evans says.
Evans sits on the board of the Women’s Association of Venture and Equity, which has chapters across the country and brings women from private equity and venture capital to network with one another. The non-profit group, founded in 2003, also helps women learn from one another and encourages dialogue among members on how to develop professionally, she says. WAVE’s members range from junior new hires, analysts, associates – all the way up to women who have been in the industry for many years and hold senior positions, she says.
The association will hold its second annual career forum in New York City on November 6, and firms will be reaching out to students at colleges and universities who are considering a career in private equity and venture capital. The forum’s sponsors include some of the biggest names in private equity.
“Most cultural change requires buy-in at the top, because it’s the top that drives the cultural values of the organization,” Evans says.
Title: Partner, CFO
Previous Posts: Partner & CFO, Advanced Technology Ventures
Founding Partner, Squillace & Evans
Falcon Partners Management
Harvard Student Agencies
Education: Simmons University, MBA
Boston University, MTS and MSW
Duke University, BA
Board Roles: Women’s Association of Venture and Equity
Financial Executives Alliance
Evans’s start in private equity was serendipitous. In 1993, she founded her accounting firm, which did the financial statements for almost 70 funds every quarter. But as her partner fell ill, the firm was dissolved and she found herself hired by venture capital firm Advanced Technology Ventures, which was seeking a chief financial officer. After nine years, because of a cultural change at ATV she sought a new challenge in 2005. That was her move to private equity, at Monitor Clipper Partners, where the deals were more complicated, she says.
While Evans was at ATV, she became involved in the Kauffman Fellows Program, which helped provide on-the-ground experience to people who were interested in learning about or potentially working in venture capital and private equity. Half of the participants placed for one- or two-year stints in firms were women and/or minorities, she says.
“It really succeeded in providing a stream of really good talented people who were different than most venture capital or private equity folks you were seeing and dealing with. It was an absolutely terrific foundation for that, and I thoroughly loved being a part of it.”
Evans epitomizes two key attributes of the modern CFO: being plugged into a network of peers, and making smart use of outsourced expertise.
On the networking side, Evans says she gets support from members of the Association for Corporate Growth’s Private Equity Regulatory Task Force (ACG PERT), where she sits on the steering committee. PERT brings together CFOs, chief compliance officers and in-house legal counsel of mid-market private equity firms across the country.
“April Evans is a great organizer in our industry because she not only has deep knowledge of the business value of finance and operations, but also a keen care for and deep understanding of her colleagues, co-workers and the stakeholders in Monitor Clippers’ portfolio companies and funds. That combination makes her a sought-after addition to every campaign and a friend and mentor to many in our industry, including me,” says Joshua Cherry-Seto, a fellow PERT member and CFO at Blue Wolf Capital.
Evans also serves on the board of the Business Advisory Council at Simmons School of Business. She was a director in the Boston chapter of Private Equity CFO Association, a networking group.
On outsourcing, Evans says: “We live in a world where probably the greatest challenge is doing more with the same resources, doing more with the same number of people. What that means is finding efficiencies wherever you can in what you currently do, in order to be able to deploy people in a slightly different direction.”
Outsourcing to fit your size
Information technology is the most substantially outsourced function, as a firm Monitor’s size can’t justify a chief technology officer, Evans says. Monitor obtains the technological expertise it needs by hiring an in-house IT co-ordinator who ensures that the computers, the telephone system and so on are operating properly. That co-ordinator then works with the outsourced IT service provider which, Evans says, really provides the function of CTO. The IT co-ordinator, the service provider and Evans work together to evaluate the firm’s IT infrastructure.
“Where do we have weaknesses, where do we need to shore up our cybersecurity measures, which is obviously a big issue for all of us? Where are we vulnerable, and what do we need to do to address that vulnerability? How do we stay current with the latest trends and vulnerabilities? Outsourcing IT from my perspective is the smart thing for all of us to do when we are not large enough to command the expertise of the chief technology officer,” she says.
That focus on outsourcing expertise extends to legal work, where Monitor has no need for an in-house general counsel. A chief legal officer in a mid-sized firm would need to be a great generalist, tackling everything from negotiating credit agreements, purchase and sale documents for transactions to fund formation matters to real estate to human resources and employee issues.
“We prefer to go to law firms in specific areas where they are best in class because, again, we wouldn’t have enough work to support a full time in-house general counsel,” she says.
Aside from the in-house IT co-ordinator, six people in finance, accounting and tax work directly under Evans . Two staff in Luxembourg take care of Monitor’s non-US investments.
In understanding the complexities of the new US tax law, Evans turned to outside accountants for their interpretation on the reforms rather than to legal counsel. “My experience is the accounting firms were quicker and better to think about the impact of tax reform on our structuring than some of the law firms were,” says Evans, who has a background in accounting. “Accountants go into building models right away. They’ll build a model to get to the answer and do the evaluation.”