5 minutes with… Katja Baur
The latest instalment of our ‘5 minutes with…’ series; a brief catch-up with private equity operational professionals and service providers to learn about their work and views on current trends.
TDD: Can you give me a background of your career so far?
KB: I started my career in the audit financial services division of KPMG and specialised on the alternative investments sector after having obtained the CPA qualification. I came into the private equity space in 2010 when I was offered the CFO position at Alpha Associates, a Swiss-based fund of funds manager investing globally in private equity, private debt and infrastructure investments and - amongst others - managing a listed private equity investment company.
Due to the fact that I wanted to gain experience with a direct GP and be more involved on the deal side as well, I joined Evoco as director of finance and operations in 2016. Evoco is a niche private equity player focusing on direct secondary portfolio transactions in the SME sector in Europe, thereby pursuing an active ownership approach towards its portfolio companies.
TDD: How did the role at Montana come around?
KB: I had no previous relationship with the firm, the opportunity came across over my personal network.
TDD: What are the main areas of focus in your new role?
KB: The impressive growth of Montana in the last few years and especially the successful raising of Fund IV has given rise to the need to strengthen the team on the middle and back office side. So, my clear focus during the next few months will be on redefining and shaping our workflows to improve operational efficiency with regard to data processing, interaction with administrators and fund reporting with the overall goal to further increase the quality of the services delivered to our investors.
TDD: We hear that you are going to have a big involvement in the deal process. Would you say this is a growing part of the role for all CFOs?
KB: My involvement will focus on the deal execution phase thereby supporting the investment team on some of the structuring aspects. Yes, I believe this is a growing part of the role as nowadays there is an array of factors to be considered from a legal and tax perspective.
TDD: More broadly, how has the role changed in recent years?
KB: The consistent flow of capital into the asset class has led to an institutionalisation of the industry and increasing demands from investors with regard to a robust, transparent and more and more customised reporting. In addition, due diligence is not only focused on the investment team and track record anymore but also covers the operational processes behind the scenes. Especially in smaller environments, the CFO is also dealing with most or all aspects of the growing complexity of the regulatory environment. All this has led to the CFO moving away from traditional finance functions to a much more complex and important strategic role.
TDD: What is your outlook for the year ahead?
KB: I am looking forward to an intense year of working together with the Montana team on shaping the organisation for the growth path ahead.