The mobile, but loyal executive

Feb 26, 2018
Kieran Conroy FCA is Head of Hedge Fund Services with CITCO, a leading fund administrator and alternative asset services provider with $900 billion in assets under management. Here, he discusses his long and varied career with his employer of 24 years.

Kieran Conroy’s career path will be familiar to many of those who found themselves leaving school in Ireland in the 1980s. “I ended up in Chartered Accountancy as a result of a careers fair where I met with people from one of the major accountancy firms,” he recalls. “Accountancy was a steady and secure job back then and that was most important. I also knew people who were doing okay on the back of a B.Comm qualification.”

Kieran completed his B.Comm in UCD in 1988 and went through the so-called ‘milk round’ with the different firms. “I eventually went to Stokes Kennedy Crowley (SKC, now KPMG) and they put me through the Diploma in Professional Accountancy in UCD. That effectively meant that I had only one exam to complete in my three years of articles – namely the Final Admitting Examination. While with KPMG, I worked primarily in audit covering a broad array of industries and I also had the opportunity to complete some engagements with the management consulting group.”

At that point, Kieran decided to move on and KPMG facilitated interviews for him with a number of organisations in different sectors and geographies. One of them was CITCO, then quite a niche hedge fund administration company based in the Caribbean. “When I thought about it, I said why not,” he notes. “Planes go both ways. They were looking for people in Ireland as they were interested in opening an office there at the time. I was interviewed in Amsterdam for a day by a number of people and I went to work for them on the island of Curaçao, 40 miles off the cost of Venezuela, in 1994.”
Kieran’s role involved general hedge fund administration, fund accounting and net asset value calculation for clients. “Curaçao was our largest location at the time,” he says. “Our other main locations were Amsterdam, Toronto and the British Virgin Islands.” 

In 1998, Kieran became responsible for the Curaçao fund administration office. He remained there until 2001 when he was asked to return to Ireland to take responsibility for the recently established Irish operation, which then employed 35 people. By the time he left in 2007, the Irish operation had grown to become the largest hedge fund administrator in Europe with 500 staff split between Dublin and Cork.

In 2007, Kieran took on a new opportunity in Canada where he now has responsibility for the hedge fund services group and is part of the senior leadership team. “I have had multiple roles in multiple locations with CITCO,” he says. “A partner in SKC told me that the day you stop learning is the day you should leave. I haven’t stopped learning since I joined more than 20 years ago. I have been fortunate to work with and learn from some amazing colleagues during that period and I have had a very fulfilling career. A modicum of ability is always helpful, but a little bit of luck is a welcome bonus.”

The Chartered Accountancy qualification has played a major role in that career. “There are some things that really stand out when you think it through,” says Conroy. “The accounting firms offer you such a breadth of experience. It gives you access to senior leaders in both your employer’s firm and your client firms. The firms were at the leading edge of professional training at the time – 30 years ago – in terms of both technical training as well as presentation and softer skills. That training, as well as the audit discipline, gave you the confidence and ability to ask the right questions throughout your career.”

These disciplines would form the bedrock of a successful career. “The Chartered Accountant training teaches you to break challenges down into constituent parts. It translates into the business world that, ultimately, cash is king. I’ve got to be able at some stage to turn everything into cash. That’s how I’ve always looked at any challenge presented.”

Looking ahead, he is happy with life in Toronto. “We’re very happy in Toronto raising a young family. Our son, who says he’s Irish, is a formidable ice-hockey player. Our daughter is born and raised Canadian. We’re happy to stay here and see what life brings next.”

Kieran Conroy FCA is the Head of Hedge Fund Services in CITCO.