The cooling mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market has not stopped Fitch Group from continuing to look to buy companies that will expand its market share or diversify its offerings, according to Tracey Perini, the firm’s newly minted CFO.
“We continue to look to diversify our business and are evaluating all opportunities that are presented to us, regardless of where we are with the market pressure,” Perini said in an interview Thursday. “As the world is entering into a less accommodating operating environment we need to continue to work on ways to grow our revenue and our bottom line.”
Perini, a 22-year Goldman Sachs veteran, joined Fitch in March. She is succeeding Ted Niedermayer, who was appointed president of Fitch Solutions in September, the company said. In an April statement, Fitch CEO Paul Taylor said Perini would play a “key role in ensuring that Fitch continues to grow its business.”
Previously Perini held a variety of finance and financial planning and analysis (FP&A) roles at Goldman where she was most recently head of FP&A transformation and COO of FP&A. She firmly believes a finance executive’s role extends well beyond providing historical numbers.
“A finance professional is not successful unless you feel like you’re part of the team,” she said. “You’re not just a recording function recording the numbers. You need to be part of the conversation when it’s about a new investment, a new initiative or a new product, and I want all of my finance team to be collaborating with all the different businesses within Fitch to assist them.”
Fitch is a ratings and data provider that has made acquisitions in recent years that have expanded its offerings, such as its 2018 purchase of Fulcrum Financial Data, a provider of leveraged finance and distressed debt analysis, and the 2021 purchase of the credit research firm CreditSights. Fitch is wholly owned by Hearst.
Avoiding “too much, too soon”
One of Perini’s priorities as she takes the finance helm is to make sure that her finance team provides the financial metrics and analysis that enable the company’s leadership to make decisions on where to invest — whether that be in acquisitions, data, technology or people, she said.
When it comes to acquisitions, Perini said she has a team that evaluates potential targets and presents good opportunities to the parent company. If the deal goes through finance also works to integrate the new purchase, she said.
Fitch’s continued push for growth comes as the previously red hot deal-making environment slumped early this year under pressure in part from volatile equity markets, with the total value of global M&A falling 23% to $1 trillion in the first quarter from the year-earlier period, according to Refinitiv.
Separately, some signs of cooling on the labor front could assist Fitch, which like many companies has been struggling to attract and retain talent. So far Perini has been working closely with human resources to attract talent but has recently seen fewer workers departing. “The attrition numbers are starting to level out,” she said.
Looking ahead Perini plans to build on the Fitch finance team’s already strong foundations. For example, she was impressed with how efficiently her controller team recently finished the May close of its books. She said she doesn’t think it’s possible to get any faster but does believe over time there’s room for further transformation.
“There’s always things we could improve on and that goes to leveraging more technology and data and having things in one place rather than in five, six different systems,” she said, adding that it’s also important not to move too quickly. “You have to prioritize and make sure you’re not changing too much, too soon, too quickly.”