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Q & A with Anne Pombier, Recipient of "Women in Transactions" Award

 

Anne Pombier
Anne Pombier (center) stands among the M&A team, including (left to right) Tony Grego, Manager of Financial Reporting; Regina Klein, Senior Corporate Attorney; Katie Kennedy, Vice President of Corporate Finance; Mike Hilton, CEO and President of Nordson; Kevin Stepanek, Manager of Corporate Development; and Gina Beredo, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

 

Anne Pombier, Nordson's vice president of corporate development, was recognized recently with the prestigious Women in Transactions – Deal Maker of the Year award. Anne is only the second woman to be recognized with this award created by ACG Cleveland, Northeast Ohio's leading organization for merger and acquisition and corporate growth professionals.

During her tenure at Nordson, Anne has executed 30 transactions in mergers and acquisitions. Those deals range from as small as $0.5 million dollars to as large as $705 million. Our 2017 acquisition of Vention Medical Advanced Technologies, which is now part of Nordson Medical, was the largest acquisition in Nordson's history. ACG was particularly impressed with Anne's leadership of seven acquisitions in the past two years alone!

As Anne shared in the award video below, "(I am having) fun right now. I am in the position I want to be in. I'm heading up corporate development. I have great colleagues that I love to work with. We're doing a lot of deals that are really making a difference in the future of Nordson Corporation. I'm right where I want to be."

We spent time with Anne to celebrate her well-deserved recognition and to learn more about her journey to this award and the lessons learned along the way.

How did you discover a career in corporate development?

It happened by accident. I was working for TRW in financial planning and analysis. They were in the middle of assessing a large automotive acquisition, and they were looking for German speakers. I had never been involved in transactions, but I spoke German. From there, they kept putting me on different teams, and I worked my way up the food chain at TRW. That's where I got my base knowledge, and I leveraged it across subsequent positions.

What do you enjoy about corporate development?

I really love the variety of the responsibilities of the corporate development role. Every day is different, and it presents new opportunities and challenges – a lot of times unanticipatedopportunities and challenges that you must respond to quickly! I love that. It gives me the opportunity to collaborate with different people across all functions and business units and leverage the depth of knowledge that we have across the company.

In corporate development, you draw upon a wide range of skills and capabilities. Some of these skills are technical in nature. Others are about interpersonal capabilities, such as negotiating and project management skills. This role is a good combination of both the hard and soft skills that I like.

What advice would you give to someone who might want to build a career in corporate development?

Be open to new opportunities. This is where you may get your biggest surprise, and all of the sudden end up in a career you never thought of, but that you love. That's what happened to me.

What does this award mean to you?

Recognition of your achievements by your peers is just really a rewarding feeling. If I wasn't working for a company that viewed M&A as a strategic part of its growth, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in. Corporate development is not a one-person job. Having a CEO and Board of Directors that is not only supportive, but that has publicly indicated that M&A is one of our strategic growth paths, is very exciting. Nordson has an incredible deal team and transaction ecosystem. Over the past ten years that Mike Hilton and I have both been here, we've worked really hard to strengthen the M&A muscle at Nordson. Without our really talented team, we wouldn't have done the deals that we did to get the attention of the ACG.

The award is called 'Women in Transactions – Deal Maker of the Year.' How would you say that gender has influenced your career?

In general (it's always bad to generalize, right?) but in general, I do think women tend to approach the deal making part of the process by utilizing more of the softer skills. And that doesn't mean it's not strong, but it does mean that it can become a win-win environment. When I'm negotiating on behalf of the company, I'm trying to get Nordson the best deal possible, which means understanding what's important to the seller and to Nordson. I take the time to understand the seller's motivation and hot buttons. I then work with the deal team to determine, 'Can we do that? Is there a deal we can put together that's a win-win for everyone?'

I'm pretty even-keeled. The way I am in the office is the way I am at the negotiating table. There comes a time when you have to say enough is enough, put your foot down. It always tickles me, because I'm so even-keeled in negotiation that when I put my foot down and say 'no, I'm done. It's over." People can be really surprised.

When I first started in transactions, I was frequently the only woman at the table, and that was in a support role. The number of women at the table has changed over time, but slowly. Not as fast as I think anyone would like to see. Interestingly enough, Nordson has a very strong contingency of women on our internal deal team – a much higher percentage than is typical and as an organization that values diversity, we should be proud of that.

What advice would you give to a young female professional who aspires to a leadership role in the future?

Find your niche and become the expert. Research it, and then don't ask to join the table, take a seat at the table. And when you get that seat at the table, contribute…lean-in. With confidence, prove that you belong at the table.

Watch Anne's interview with ACG here. We're excited to see where Anne and her team take us next!