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3Qs With... Nick Leopard

Nick Leopard, CEO and founder of Accordion Partners

In the midst of the economic downturn, Accordion Partners was founded on the premise of helping investment banks, private equity sponsors and corporate development teams navigate rough waters. Now coming up on its fourth year and moving into new headquarters in New York, the consulting firm has become a resource for many companies whenever they need an assist in investor relations, risk management or crisis situations. Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Accordion's Nick Leopard on just how finely tuned the shop has become.

How does Accordion's CFO Leadership Services help deal pros?

Accordion has built a strong reputation by helping execute critical finance-related initiatives at PE portfolio companies. We have worked as an extension of their portfolio operations groups focused on the office of the CFO and act as the supplemental arms and legs of their management teams. With the launch of CFO Leadership Services, we bring a full suite of services for professionalizing the finance function of portfolio companies, from providing an interim management solution to flanking an existing portfolio CFO with the tools to get through a period of change. Sponsors want a trusted partner that understands the pressures and expectations of PE ownership. Given our backgrounds, launching CFO Leadership services was a natural fit and evidenced by the success we've had to date.

What are the demands confronting CFOs of PE-backed businesses in 2013?

Private equity funds are putting more pressure on their management teams to undergo operational optimization endeavors given longer hold periods are expected to continue. With operational initiatives becoming a necessity, it's critical that sound corporate decisions are driven by complex situation analyses and detailed reporting. Let's face it, you rarely find a sponsor that doesn't benefit from new and different ways of cutting data. This helps propel their understanding of increased options that may be available to their portfolio. However, the deal team is sometimes too distracted by potential new investments to devote the proper time to drive this visibility. So you see a capability and capacity gap. Sponsors realize that by professionalizing the finance function and building the tools necessary for the internal team to use, they will then feel less pressure in making these critical decisions that ultimately drive enterprise value.

How did your time at Bear Stearns influence your career before you left in 2007?

Bear was a special place, filled with determined, smart people. You always knew where you stood. There was a level of unique grit at 383 Madison that was very motivating. That type of client-focused approach stuck with me. I was just on a marketing trip for our recently launched Dubai office. In the lobby of a well-known sovereign wealth fund, I ran into the former head of our Bear group and now COO of a boutique investment bank. The Bear alumni network apparently knows no boundaries, and I think all Bear alumni would agree that each would bend over backwards to forge new opportunities together.


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