Alumni Profile: Kristie Paskvan '97
Financial CFO Kristie Paskvan '97 looks beyond the numbers
Kristie Paskvan entered the Kellogg School's Executive
MBA Program in 1995, she had already achieved the level of
chief financial officer at Stein & Company, a real estate
developer responsible for projects that included Chicago's
AT&T Corporate Center and the Metcalfe Federal Building.
She also had gained experience in real estate portfolio management
and public accounting. So her return to school was marked
by the pressures of balancing life as a senior executive with
her responsibilities of completing homework and preparing
was challenging but really invigorating," she says, noting
that even as a seasoned professional, she took away deep lessons
from her finance classes while applying formal concepts to
many of the behavioral aspects she had observed during her
career. In addition, the Kellogg program's team-based learning
approach that exposed her to peers from a variety of industries.
"I got a full view of how people feel about their careers
and their companies."
interest in understanding how others relate to their professions
was a main motivator for her enrolling at Kellogg. In particular,
she was attracted by the school's Management and Organizations
curriculum and its emphasis on collaboration. "I was
at a point in my career where the qualitative aspects were
what I wanted to improve," Paskvan says. "If you're
going to lead, then you have to be able to listen and to learn.
The interpersonal dynamics are very important."
to those dynamics proved invaluable as Paskvan's graduation
approached. In 1997 Stein was acquired by Mesirow Financial,
the largest independent financial services firm in Chicago
with $32.2 billion of assets under management. Immediately
after coming aboard as a senior vice president, Paskvan was
handed responsibility for planning and analysis of the six
different businesses that comprise the company. Paskvan describes
that role — which involved overseeing the budgeting
of each division — as equivalent to "changing jobs"
each time a different unit was analyzed. Immersed in a new
learning environment, Paskvan thrived, earning her promotion
to CFO of Mesirow Financial in 1999. "I was very lucky
to be given the opportunity to lead the accounting and finance
team," she says, noting the importance of mentoring at
new role provided an ideal opportunity to bridge leadership
theory and practice, even as she oversaw the accounting and
finance areas for the company. In fact, Mesirow Financial's
main source of growth — mergers and acquisitions —
often extends beyond traditional due diligence. Paskvan estimates
that in the last 25 years the company has consummated over
50 deals, with acquisitions ranging from small teams of people
to entire businesses. Says Paskvan: "It's not always
about the numbers. Sometimes it's about the people [at the
firm we're targeting] and knowing what they're capable of
if they're given the support that our company can offer. We
have someone with us who was running his own business, and
who really brought to us the ability to provide currency management.
He was just a great fit." Now that team's currency management
expertise has grown to where the group is managing over $8
billion in institutional assets, Paskvan reports. Not only
was the team able to provide currency hedging to one of its
alternative strategy businesses, but the business leader no
longer had to focus on the administrative aspects of his business.
"Those areas are now taken care of for him so he can
focus on clients," she says.
assessing past performance and future potential is critical
to a successful acquisition, Paskvan believes that creating
the right environment and then leveraging talent is equally
like at Kellogg, when you're building teams you need to develop
a sense for who's good at what," she says. "Very
early on, you get an idea about shared values and whether
a person really wants to become part of Mesirow Financial
and can truly take advantage of the growth we can provide."