Dana Laidhold, Highly Commended, Woman of the Year
During the last decade, Dana Laidhold has built a treasury function from scratch and her management of a now mature, best-in-class treasury department, active role in the treasury community and commitment to mentoring others in the workplace receives Highly Commended recognition as a Woman of the Year in the world of treasury.
Photo of Dana Laidhold, The Carlyle Group.
Vice President and Treasurer
Dana Laidhold is the Treasurer of The Carlyle Group (CG). Prior to joining The Carlyle Group in 2003, Mrs. Laidhold was a Division Controller for US Airways, Inc. Before that, she was an auditor with Pricewaterhouse Coopers. She is a CPA, received her MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and her undergraduate degree from the Pennsylvania State University.
Over the last decade, Dana Laidhold has built a treasury function from scratch – a substantial task which has included setting up cash management and investment policies and platforms, establishing a centralised foreign exchange (FX) function and issuing public debt and serving as part of a team to issue public equity.
Dana manages a now mature, best-in-class treasury department, takes an active role in the treasury community (speaking at industry events and contributing to conversations regarding best practice, for instance), and is committed to mentoring others in the workplace. She also heads up an internal employee resource group for working parents. Dana was nominated for this award by an industry peer in admiration of the work she has accomplished and receives Treasury Today’s Highly Commended Winner recognition as Woman of the Year.
When Dana was appointed to her current role in 2005, Carlyle Group did not have a dedicated treasury function; she was the company’s first treasurer. “When I first started, it was just me – so treasury spent five or six years in build mode,” says Dana.
She had sole responsibility for the overhaul of the company’s cash management and banking programme which included: fee analysis and negotiations, partner selection, implementation of key banking services including Bank Administration Institute file transfer automation, remote deposit, fraud controls, and controlled disbursements accounts. In addition, she designed and implemented a cash investments programme.
Describing the transformation, Dana says: “It helped that I had a vision for treasury, so really it was a question of prioritising some of the most pressing needs of the business. As such, the first thing I did was to establish and formalise all the policies and procedures around cash management, as well as adding a lot of bells and whistles to the existing cash flow forecasting function. A lot more granularity was added in order to collect more data and we also added analytics so we could be much smarter with that data,” she recalls.
As expected with such a comprehensive treasury building activity, many initial projects ran side by side. During this time, Dana developed, documented and implemented SOX compliance policies and procedures for all core treasury functions (bank account management, investments, liquidity, debt and FX). The company also began to engage in capital markets activities, including public debt and public equity issuances. “When I took over, we had one legacy term loan at the firm level – but today we have a full spectrum of capital markets activities under the umbrella,” says Dana.
“Dana and her treasury team have materially impacted Carlyle’s approach to financial management. She has brought a heightened level of sophistication to cash management, hedging, forecasting and balance sheet management. She has developed extensive external and internal relationships, adding real depth to her ability to lead this important firm’s capability."
Glenn Youngkin, President and Chief Operating Officer, The Carlyle Group.
Today, “Dana has developed a strong young team to support her and she includes them in all key activities,” explains Curt Buser, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer, The Carlyle Group. The nine-strong treasury group comprises two pillars. The first is cash management and banking services, which includes managing Carlyle Group’s cash accounts, banking services procured and related reporting as well as managing the bank relationships and analysing counterparty risk. Dana and her team are responsible for the day to day management of $1- $2bn of multicurrency cash across a complicated network of bank accounts and global banking partners.
The second pillar of Carlyle Group’s treasury is liquidity and capital markets, which owns the cash forecast and oversees the investment of excess cash balances – as well as overseeing credit facilities and foreign exchange management. The treasury team has customised the company’s ERP system to operate as a treasury workstation and Dana is beginning to look at how treasury can be turned into a profit centre via automation and cost cutting, as well as by positioning the cash management platform to benefit from future interest rate increases.
As Carlyle has grown as a global company, FX has become a more meaningful part of the business too. Indeed, in 2011 the team began to formalise the company’s FX function. “We spent a lot of time studying the market, partnering with our accounting and FP&A teams to understand the cash flows of the business and where the natural hedges are,” says Dana.
Through gaining a greater understanding of the FX market and the types of hedging products available, “in the past several years, Dana’s team has become an advisor across the firm on FX matters,” explains Buser. The FX function is now continually producing good recommendations to company fund heads and senior leadership.
Moreover, the business and banking environment has become increasingly complex since Dana started at Carlyle Group and it falls under her responsibility to lead the sometimes lengthy process of preparing regulatory filings – Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) and TIC-B, for instance. Another ongoing priority is the management of the company’s relationship with external organisations. As Buser explains, “Dana is responsible for managing the firm’s relationship with the credit agencies and oversees our firm’s credit agreements and our bonds.” This means Dana leads a global team of Carlyle Group’s most senior professionals to obtain private credit ratings from S&P and Fitch, as well as being responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the company’s rating and the key banking relationships.
Describing her greatest personal achievement as balancing her career whilst also dedicating herself to her family, Carlyle Group’s Principal and Treasurer strives to enjoy the work-life balance that so often seems elusive for people in the industry. This has been achievable due to Carlyle’s support for working parents and in large part to Dana’s collaborative approach to leadership – she encourages her staff to take an ownership stake in the success and failure of the department.
Her emphasis on creating a team-oriented mentality has also seen Dana take a proactive approach to helping other new parents navigate challenges in the workplace. “Carlyle was a lot smaller when I first started, and there weren’t a lot of women in leadership roles with children,” she explains. As times are changing, Dana is dedicated to advising others with the similar struggles of balancing an increasingly busy home and work life. “I’ve taken on my own role and if I see a woman who is pregnant I’ll take her to lunch and talk to her about what it’s like to come back to work. I’ve also spent a lot of time mentoring other women as they come back to the office.”
And what advice does she give them? “I often talk about how, by adopting a flexible approach, you can take advantage of the 24 hour clock to help you be a high achiever while balancing work and home.”
Of course when, in early 2014, Carlyle began a formal mentoring programme, Dana participated straight away. The company has also set up several employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide workshops and networking opportunities. “I’ve been on the advisory council for our women’s ERG and I’m the co-head of our working parents ERG,” says Dana.
She doesn’t only pass on her expertise on mastering a successful balancing act. Dana is actively involved with the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) and has spoken at a number of different roundtables and conferences on various aspects of treasury. “In 2005, when I became treasurer, I barely knew what treasury was,” she admits. “So to build a department that is best in class and sets an example, so that I can go into the marketplace and help other people overcome their own challenges – I’m really proud of that.”
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