After graduating from the University of Washington in 1992, Kristen became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an assurance manager at Arthur Andersen, LLP. Years into a business-focused world that encouraged long hours, Kristen found herself searching for more meaning in her work. She took a sabbatical and journeyed deep into the forest, completely alone, to meditate and fast for four days.
“When I found a place, I drew a 10-foot diameter circle around myself,” Kristen described. “And I sat in that circle for four days with just four gallons of water and a sleeping bag.” She only left the circle once a day to leave a rock on a log as a signal to her brother that she was alive.
“It was about finding myself, finding what drives me, my purpose, my sense of belonging,” Kristen said. “I began to assimilate my interest in the world and nature with the reality of being a corporate citizen. It doesn’t have to be either-or.”
Soon after leaving the accounting world, Kristen met her mentor, the late philanthropist and pension fund pioneer George Russell, who was the former chairman of the Frank Russell Company and owner of the Russell 2000 index. For more than two decades, she worked for his firm the Threshold Group, first joining as the Chief Financial Officer and earning her way to President in 2017.
“George inspired me to think that you could use wealth as a force for good in the world,” Kristen said. He taught her three key lessons that she uses in her work today, where a third of her clients are impact investors:
There is “no gray in integrity.” Russell taught her to “do everything as though your actions will end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.”
Utilize a “service mentality.” Even ultra-high-net-worth individuals serve someone; for example, on the board of a nonprofit organizations. Kristen says that “if you come from a service mentality, no matter your wealth, everyone is better served.”
Infuse joy into life and work.
Kristen’s interest in the nonprofit world and early introduction to The Nature Conservancy led her to meet Mike Stevens, state director of TNC in Washington, and she became a trustee in 2016. She stepped up to the role of chair from 2020 to 2022 before “passing the torch” to Maud Daudon. During her tenure, Kristen guided the board through the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the board engaged through years of virtual-only meetings. She helped develop TNC in Washington’s equity statement that centers social justice in conservation efforts.