Q&A with Michael Kusack, Director, Finance in Chicago, Illinois

Q&A with Michael Kusack, Director, Finance in Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Accounting can be a very cut and dry practice. Your debits have to equal your credits, balances need to reconcile, and there are certain rules you have to comply with in order to meet standards. But my position at Slate has afforded me the opportunity to be creative in building out the systems that help us do our job.

Tell us about your role at Slate Asset Management.

I’m a director on the Finance team in the Chicago office. I joined Slate about a year and half ago, just after we completed a $2.3 billion acquisition of a commercial lending platform and launched our first private debt strategy shortly thereafter, Slate Real Estate Capital, L.P. (SREC). I’m responsible for a wide range of finance and accounting functions for SREC, including financial reporting, maintaining all the general ledgers and trial balances, assisting with key financial metrics for investor deliverables, and treasury operations. I also get to collaborate closely with other groups across Slate, such as our asset management team, investments team, legal, tax and investor relations.

What drew you to Slate?

Before Slate, I spent six and a half years working in public accounting for the big four accounting firms. Most of my clients while at the big four were in asset management and private equity, so I had built up a lot of knowledge and experience in that space and wanted to make a move into the industry. Chicago is no stranger to private equity, but I found the dynamic at Slate to be really unique—a growing Chicago office, a growing team, and a new, growing debt platform. I was the first CPA hired in the Chicago office for the group and could play a leading role in building out the finance function for our debt platform from the ground up. The culture was also very appealing—throughout my interview process I found everyone I spoke to, inclusive of the firm’s Partners, to be approachable and I could see that it was a very collegial and collaborative environment.

What skills are most important in your role?

Taking initiative and putting yourself in the driver’s seat is very important. Creating the finance infrastructure for our debt platform requires innovation and collaboration among the team. Critical thinking skills and attention to detail are also incredibly important to ensure we are delivering the most accurate end product we can.

How do you typically start your day?

My fiancé and I are early risers. She is a teacher so she’s up early getting ready for work. I usually take Bruce, our 90-pound Bernedoodle, for his morning walk where I get myself in the right mindset for the day. I take the L-train downtown and usually go through my emails during my commute before arriving at the office around 8 a.m. Once I’m there I grab a coffee and sync up with my team before starting on my task list for the day.

How would you describe your team dynamic?

One of the first major projects I worked on was creating the financial reporting framework for our private debt fund, starting from nothing more than a loose template and examples to leverage from other funds. Our Senior Vice President flew down from Toronto to work on it with us in person. We all sat in a room and hammered out our ideas, discussed how we wanted it to look, and what we had to include to comply with reporting standards and regulatory requirements. At Slate, nobody is above the process. We very much work as a team, and if something needs to get done, we all come together regardless of title, seniority, or experience.

On my team, when we finish a project, we review the outcome together to discuss what we learned from the process, how to innovate it further, and how to capture efficiencies. Then we share those learnings with the broader finance team. The lines of communication are always open. Even though some of my key colleagues work in other offices, everyone feels accessible—we are constantly communicating through video calls, Teams messages, and other regular touch points.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I really love the people and the youthful environment. Everyone is highly motivated to get their job done, but we have fun at the same time.

Accounting can be a very cut and dry practice. Your debits have to equal your credits, balances need to reconcile, and there are certain rules you have to comply with in order to meet standards. But my position at Slate has afforded me the opportunity to be creative in building out the systems that help us do our job. From how we build out our work papers and deliverables to how we present information, there are lots of ways we can employ creativity to improve the end result and find efficiencies, and I really enjoy that. The ability to grow alongside the company is there for the taking for people who take the initiative.

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