Global private equity power player Advent International leans into culture as a platform for growth and accomplishment
As one of the largest and most experienced global equity investors, Advent International is in the business of helping companies flourish and grow. Founded in 1984, the Boston-based firm has invested $64 billion in private equity investments across 41 countries within their verticals: business and financial services, healthcare, industrial, retail, consumer and leisure, and technology.
The firm is built on a cultural foundation deeply rooted in trust, diversity, equity, and inclusion. For Advent, that approach is key to healthy growth, opening a rich flow of creative ideas and fruitful collective decision-making across more than 390 global investments.
Global CISO Christine Nagy is responsible for the ongoing development and implementation of Advent’s advanced information security program, which is designed to protect the enterprise’s communications systems and assets from internal and external threats.
The CISO role is usually associated with cyber incident and response, but Nagy’s role at Advent covers so much more: Responding to DSAR’s (data subject access request), providing assistance to the cyber teams at Advent’s portfolio companies, disaster recovery, and most importantly, anything to enable and support the business.
Advent’s vibrant cultural foundation was a big driver in her 2015 decision to join the firm. “Advent is a firm that's committed to advocating and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion both within and throughout our organization,” she told BOSS. “Being a half-Asian female, I've always been a strong advocate of DEI initiatives.”
As such, Nagy is on the company’s advanced DEI committee and its Women's Inclusion Network, which focuses on broadening an inclusive community for women in IT. Advent is partnering with Harvard Business School on the Advent Leadership Academy, which has, as part of its mission to improve the way business is done, a mandate to improve the level of diversity across their portfolio.
Her early career aspirations didn’t include a leadership role in corporate information security. Although she had a master’s in molecular genetics, she decided to pursue a career in IT. “Not every company needs killer geneticists, so I made the transition to IT,” she quipped. At the time, she was working for a biotech startup where she’d initially been hired to screen for a potential schizophrenia gene.
She was able to balance genetics with IT under the same roof, taking on the network administrator role along with her research. To learn more, Nagy taught Cisco classes on weekends to fully immerse herself in the world of IT. “You can't get complacent,” she said. “You always have to be challenging yourself to learn more, grow more, find more ways to add value.”
Nagy stressed that drive, perseverance, and aptitude are a must when climbing the executive leadership ladder. “It helps to be in an organization where you feel you’re supported and you can be successful,” she said.
Ready for everything
To succeed, firms must stay on the leading edge of progress, a feat that requires the kind of exceptional flexibility that Advent leverages to ensure enduring success. When it comes to change management — a constant in the advisory profession — Nagy sees open communication as the way forward.
“You have to communicate the purpose in your strategy from the top down so that everyone sees the big picture, the goal, what we're all working toward,” she emphasized. Once there’s a grasp on the broad project, individual contributions are woven into overall business objectives to give team members an understanding of how their work fits into it, as well as providing a clear sense of purpose.
“Finally, you really have to encourage peer to peer collaboration, as opposed to competition,” she noted. Getting all the team members to work in sync is the way to drive great outcomes. “We either all win together or we lose together.”
That approach extends not just to their employees and portfolio companies, but to their vast vendor ecosystem as well. Because Advent has an extremely collaborative culture and environment, they seek partners that take a similar approach. Equally important is the creation of long-term partnerships that are built on trust and mutual respect.
“I'm really passionate about making a difference to the organizations I've worked for, and I would want anyone that I work with to share that same level of commitment and enthusiasm,” Nagy said, emphasizing that imbuing humility, kindness, and empathy into every interaction is central to making those differences.
Whether choosing partners, team members, or client companies, Nagy asserted that being nimble and ready to switch gears and respond to changing priorities in the blink of an eye is essential, particularly when dealing with the technological and social complexity of this day and age. Call it the curse of living in interesting times, particularly in the cyber world.
“It's so dynamic and it's changing so quickly,” Nagy said. The breakneck speed of change also requires the ability and willingness to shatter norms and think beyond the box. “A lot of times you see things that you’ve never seen before. You really have to be able to think creatively because you can't follow.”
At Advent, success is a continual transformative journey. Nagy credits the open culture that they foster as a fulcrum for their success. “It's important to encourage an open dialogue and share ideas between people across borders and at all levels of the firm because that empowers your colleagues. It gives them room to grow professionally, and it gives them the opportunity to challenge conventional thinking if they know they're in a safe space,” she said.
“As leaders, we have to encourage our colleagues to embrace change and focus on continuous improvement just to meet the ongoing needs of their role and their responsibilities,” she concluded. “The potential to initiate and be successful in transformative changes resides in an organization’s people. Having a good culture will support them so they can be successful in their roles.”
Founded in 1984, Advent International is one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors.
The firm has invested $64 billion in over 390 private equity investments across 41 countries, and as of Dec. 31, 2021, had $88 billion in assets under management.
With 15 offices in 12 countries, Advent has established a globally integrated team of over 255 private equity investment professionals across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
The firm focuses on investments in five core sectors, including business and financial services; health care; industrial; retail, consumer and leisure; and technology.
For over 35 years, Advent has been dedicated to international investing and remains committed to partnering with management teams to deliver sustained revenue and earnings growth for its portfolio companies.
800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199-8069