CFO Q&A: ‘Outsourcers need to know their work is being checked’

Six questions for Norwest Equity Partners’ CFO, Sandra Kim-Suk.

Sandra Kim-Suk is the new CFO of Norwest Equity Partners, a Minneapolis based middle market investment firm. Prior to joining the firm in April, Kim-Suk was the CFO, Americas, for L Catterton, where she spent five years.

The firm has also hired two partners in the firm’s Minneapolis office. NEP is currently investing NEP X, a $1.6 billion fund which began fundraising in 2015. We spoke with Kim-Suk about her new mandate as CFO, as well as her experiences dealing with outsourcing teams, and some of the perils of technology implementation.

What has been at the top of your agenda since arriving at NEP?

Given the evolution and maturity of private equity firms as an industry, there has been an increased focus on how to manage data. We are no different – we have fund data, portfolio company data and deal pipeline data. In the past, everyone had stored that information in Excel. Now that there’s an abundance of technology, it’s trying to figure out how to harness that information in a way that’s useful for the firm overall and consumable to our investors. There are a lot of great analyses that can be done, but trying to get to it is time-consuming and manual.

What do you have direct responsibility for?

Finance, accounting, technology. I also collaborate with our general counsel on compliance.

What parts of your firm do you outsource?

Currently, we do not outsource anything. With NEP, it’s important to understand what we have currently, before we go down the path of outsourcing. It may make sense in certain areas, but it’s one of those things where you don’t want to jump in too quickly until there is an understanding of what we have in place today.

What’s one piece of technology you feel you couldn’t do your job without?

Outlook, and my iPhone, are probably the most useful and both definitely something I can’t do my job without. Now, that being said, we are looking at other technological solutions to move the firm overall, so perhaps in some time my answer may change.

Were you ever a party to a big tech project that turned into a nightmare?

At previous firms I have been involved in technology projects which were challenging.  One of the things I’ve learned after having experienced a few implementations is that it sometimes pays to get the help upfront and get help implementing. Your in-house teams may not have the skillset and/or the time to undertake an implementation.

What’s the number one thing that outsourcers do that annoys you?

To really leverage the relationship with an outsource provider, you have to bring them into the fold of the team and have them understand and realize that their work is being checked and reviewed. Outsourcers who assume that they know everything and that you are there to rubber stamp things will ultimately lead to misses in controls and process. But back to something that annoys me about outsourcers: finding out that one of their team members who works on your account is leaving and then being surprised by an increase in time since they had to train a new person… that’s on the outsourcer.