AWARD SPOTLIGHT: Paul Henry, Senior Advisor, Northleaf Capital Partners & Retired Partner, Birch Hill Equity Partners is the Winner of the 2022 Ted Anderson Community Leadership Award
Once three of his five kids were closer to their teenage years, Paul Henry started to look for ways to spend more of his time giving back to his community. The private equity professional wanted to work with a non-profit he could relate to as a parent, and that benefited people in his Greater Toronto Area.
“I also wanted to make a positive impact beyond just writing a cheque,” says Henry, a CPA who started his career at PwC and TD Capital Group before joining private equity firm Birch Hill Equity Partners at inception, until his retirement as a partner in 2019.
He landed on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST), a non-profit that focuses on mentoring young people in priority neighbourhoods. Henry felt his business and personal experience could be useful to the organization. It would also be an opportunity for him and his family to support youth disadvantaged by circumstance.
“I’ve had the blessings of a successful career and my kids, they want for nothing, so I wanted to do something not only to expose myself but also my kids to the challenges that many in our community face,” says Henry, whose kids today range in age from 27 to 19-year-old twins.
Since 2010, Henry has been a member of the BBBST board and served as its chair for 4.5 years, until January 2022. His peers say he helped transform BBBST into a more stable organization with stronger governance and experienced board members. He also led the organization through the early days of the pandemic and mentored his replacement, Mark Harrison.
“Paul has been a guiding light for BBBST,” says Tim Piggott, a partner at EY and BBBST board member, who also worked with Henry while Paul was at Birch Hill. “He took it from a position of challenge to a position of strength.”
Henry remains active in BBBST and his alma mater Mount Allison University – where he met his wife Jennifer of 32 years – alongside his current part-time work as a senior advisor at Northleaf Capital Partners.
The devotion to community work led Henry to receive the CVCA’s Ted Anderson Community Leadership Award, which recognizes the time and effort a CVCA member gives to a community organization or cause and their impact that helps contribute to a greater quality of life.
Piggott says Henry was always a “hands-on” leader and fully committed to BBBST, while also raising five kids and working at his private equity day job.
“He’s a leader who provides direction and also encourages and accepts input, which leads to a collaborative approach that’s very genuine,” Piggott says. “He’s created a safe environment for ideas to be discussed openly… Getting everyone’s opinion, I think, has led to great successes at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto.”
Henry was also nominated for the award by Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau, President, and Vice-Chancellor at Mount Allison University. Henry is currently a member of its Board of Regents and chairs both its Finance and Facilities committees. He is also involved in the university’s alumni mentorship program and has helped prepare fourth-year students for professional life after graduation.
“Paul is particularly adept at encouraging students to get out of their comfort zone and gives them opportunities to explore various careers in the world of finance and investments,” the nomination form states.
Henry was also instrumental in transforming Mount Alison University’s Athletic department by creating a volunteer fundraising team that solicited $2.5M in donations to create a state-of-the-art turf athletic field and a new stadium.
When it comes to charitable causes, Henry recommends people pick an organization close to their heart.
“I think if you don’t have a passion for something you volunteer for or a personal connection, your upfront energy will wane quickly,” he says.
Also, don’t overcommit, he says. “There’s nothing more frustrating to the staff of the non-profit when you’re constantly sending last-minute notices that you can’t come to a meeting or an event because it suggests it’s not a priority.”
Still, he believes business leaders should donate time and money to non-profits to help sustain the charitable sector and help others with fewer opportunities.
It’s also personally fulfilling, Henry says. “It has made me a better, more rounded person and given me a much better appreciation of how lucky I and my kids are. I think if you experience personal success, there’s an obligation to give back.”
Henry says he’s “incredibly honoured” to receive the Ted Anderson award from the CVCA. “It’s humbling to have peers that think you’ve done something out of the ordinary.”