On Wednesday, Martha Vorlicek was honored as winner of the 2015 pfm Leadership Award at the PEI CFOs and COOs Forum in New York.
Vorlicek is best known as chief operating officer at Boston-based fund of funds HarbourVest, which since its inception in 1978 expanded into secondary purchases, and direct co-investments. Vorlicek, who joined the firm in 1992 when it consisted of 35 people, helped steward its expansion tenfold in headcount, including over 80 investment professionals spread across four continents.
She’s credited by her peers with helping make HarbourVest a pacesetter on tax and regulatory matters. Last May, Harbourvest became one of the first private equity firms to obtain authorization under the EU Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, a laborious exercise that other GPs looked to HarbourVest for guidance on.
Originally hired as a director of finance and administration, Vorlicek eventually rose through the ranks to become COO.
“During the early days, the finance team really had to be able to do everything, including accounting, human resources and IT work,” said Vorlicek in an interview with pfm discussing her career achievements.
Eventually Vorlicek and others saw the need for a forum where private equity finance and operational professionals could gather to share ideas and exchange best practices. “That was really the start of the Private Equity Chief Financial Officer Association [PECFOA].”
The PECFOA would eventually prove to be a vital resource and networking forum for private fund professionals wanting to stay current with tax, accounting, finance and operational trends. As the industry grew in size, it was forced to institutionalize, a feat (in part) made possible by CFOs and COOs sharing insights and advice at forums like the PECFOA.
Vorlicek says the PECFOA was able to accomplish this by entering into a relationship with Citizens Financial Group' Private Equity Banking Group as a corporate sponsor of the association.
“There were so many attempts prior to this to create a CFO association. It became clear to us that having the support of an institution to create a charter and board, who could provide administrative assistance to ensure that meetings were setup and that the chartered was followed.”
Today the PECFOA consists of over 850 private equity, venture capital and fund of funds CFOs in the New England, New York, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West Coast regions of the country, with chapter meeting on a quarterly basis.
Past pfm Leadership award winners include ex-Adams Street CFO William Hupp; The Riverside Company COO Pamela Hendrickson; Stephen Holmes and ex-Catterton CFO John Scerbo.