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The CFO of recruiting firm True on what qualities Fortune 500 companies look for in execs

September 19, 2022, 10:58 AM UTC
True CFO and COO Kate Vanek / Courtesy of True

Good morning,

“Data is critical to everything we do as a firm, and a personal passion of mine is data efficacy,” says Kate Vanek, the newly appointed global chief operating officer (COO) and CFO at True, an executive-level recruiting and talent management firm.

True recruits executives for clients including Disney, Walmart, BlackRock, Coinbase, and Chewy, to name a few. I asked Vanek if there is a common thread for the qualities clients look for in executives—board members, C-suite, VPs—to meet the business’s and stakeholders’ demands in an uncertain economic environment.

“Agility, comfort with using a blend of data, common sense, empathy, and an infinite mindset in making decisions,” Vanek says.

True CFO and COO Kate Vanek / Courtesy of True

Headquartered in Haddonfield, N.J., and led by co-CEOs Brad Stadler and Joe Riggione, True, a private company, has 21 offices worldwide with about 900 employees. Based in London, Vanek joined True in April as the general manager of its Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Pacific businesses, which she will continue to manage. This month, she took on the role of COO and CFO. Vanek came to True from BlackRock, where she served as COO of global finance and CFO of EMEA.

In addition to recruiting executive talent for companies, True also offers insights for talent management. “Our data-centric approach helps us communicate across time zones and cultures,” Vanek says. “Thrive, our talent-management software, lets us share talent and compensation data with our global teams and provide clarity and guidance into the talent decisions our clients need to make,” she says. For example, hiring team members could use Thrive to prioritize candidates, share assessments and feedback, and send or receive activity notifications in real time.

In the role of COO and CFO, Vanek says she will have a team of data analysts reporting to her. “We establish our business strategy and processes then strategically build out our technology and data teams to deliver on those strategies,” she says. What data systems do you use internally? “We use several data intelligence platforms, including Salesforce and Domo. Those insights coupled with qualitative and quantitative insights from our clients, candidates, and employees help inform priorities across the business.”

In light of the current macro environment, I asked Vanek how she plans to use data to help grow the company. “One key data point for me is that there is so much market share for us to gain—particularly outside of the U.S.,” she says.

“Using market, plus our proprietary data, helps us identify white spaces in the market where we have the skills and experience to play, but just need to map out the right plan to execute,” she explains. “We are able to look at different data sets that educate us on funding rounds and trends to see where capital is flowing, which really helps us prioritize where to best focus.”

I also asked Vanek to share what clients are asking for in terms of services in this current talent market.

“Assessment—both pre- and post-hire—are constantly raised, particularly when there can be world-class coaching attached to it,” she says. “We see this demand across all of the asset classes we service—public to VC. Some of our largest PE and VC clients are also always keen for more in the way of dashboards to help manage their networks and agile talent bases, and that’s where we’re blessed to have an asset like Thrive in the portfolio.”

So, what prompted Vanek to move from asset management to talent management? “Ensuring people are on a career path to be their most successful and fulfilled selves has always fascinated me,” she says. True felt like a great match, and “knowing the care, thought, expertise and data-smarts we put into solving our clients’ talent needs is incredibly motivating and inspiring to me,” she says.

When she’s not planning data-driven strategy at work, Vanek is into fitness. “Movement is critical for my mental health,” she says. “So whether it’s a run on my Peloton tread, around Hyde Park, on the tennis court, or with my two little kids—I’m on the go as much as I can be so that I can bring my best self to everyone I spend time with personally and professionally.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

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