If you were to say that Hennessy Funds has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Teresa Nilsen, it wouldn't be much of an exaggerration.
"Terry has been with me for almost 28 years, with overall responsibility for every facet of the business, from washing the dishes to overseeing and leading the 22 employees of the firm," says firm founder Neil J. Hennessy. "I would match Terry up against anyone, male or female, in this industry — she simply is the best and she understands all aspects of the mutual fund industry."
Nilsen joined Hennessy as a receptionist after graduating with an Economics degree from University of California, Davis.
Today she is the Novato, California-based firm's chief financial officer and chief operating officer, in addition to her role as executive vice president and treasurer for Hennessy's 14 mutual funds.
Nilsen helped build those funds from the very beginning, Hennessy notes.
"[We] started our first fund in 1996, our second in 1998, bought our first mutual fund company in 2000, went public in 2002, and acquired other mutual fund companies for a total of approximately $3 billion. We now have over 350,000 shareholders and $6.6 billion in AUM, so I guess it worked."
The admiration is mutual.
"I have had the distinct privilege to work for a company that employs many women in essential roles," Nilsen says. "Our general counsel, director of finance and our marketing director are all talented and incredible women. In fact, half of our 22 employees are women."
Aside from mentorship, Nilsen's community efforts include fundraising work for the Okizu Foundation's summer camp, which is free for child cancer patients.
After speaking to local high school students about the stock market and finance sector recently, Nilsen said she was amazed at the young women who reached out to her directly afterward to learn more about women in business.
"I admire every woman in business, not just in the asset management industry, who shares her time between the work she loves and the family she adores," Nilsen says.