My Board Journey: Mike Van Handel
By Eve Tahmincioglu

Retired CFO of ManpowerGroup. Director of ICF, BMO Financial Corporation, and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra

What attracted you to ICF?

ICF came about through a recruiting firm, Spencer Stuart. I had relationship with them. They reached out to me, and asked if I’d be interested in pursuing it.

From time to time I get reach-outs from recruiting firms that know I’m available to join boards. They are connections I made through my business contacts. I want to make sure I bring value to a company, and find synergies with my background, but at the end of the day it comes down to the quality of the company and management, and leadership at the board level. For ICF, I interviewed with CEO and chairman as well as the lead director and two other committee chairs. I felt very comfortable with the group and knew I could work well with them and collaborate with them.

How did you become an executive sought after for board positions?

There are a couple of advantages to my background: international exposure, my nearly 20 years of operational CFO experience, and my mergers and acquisition experience. Tech boards are also looking for members with some experience in the technology area. While I’m not an IT expert, I did have IT reporting to me to for some time.

What advice would you give someone looking to get on a board?

Networking and letting people know that board service is an area of interest. You may be working side by side with other executives and other board members and they don’t know you are available and looking for board positions. And, oftentimes, that’s the most helpful referral. Board members hear about opportunities through their work assignments. As CFO at ManpowerGroup I wasn’t on the board, but I was in board meetings on a consistent basis and that helps you become familiar with board governance.

What was your first job?

Out of college, I was working at Arthur Andersen, starting in on the audit side. I was with them for seven years, with a mix of public company clients in a broad range of industries. One of those clients was ManpowerGroup, and I joined them in the internal audit group and that gave me a good grounding on how business works, and I was able to travel the world.

ManpowerGroup is located in 80 countries, and over my three years, I traveled to more than 25 countries where we have operations and financial systems. It can be tough if you have a young family.

How did you balance work and life?

My first child came after my second year so we didn’t have children for most of that time. My wife was also in the financial world, but she started working from home to care for our daughter, who has special needs. I was very fortunate that my wife Judy was able to take on more of that responsibility and support Kristen, my daughter, and support me in my role. I was an active father, but it didn’t require significantly more on my part. Judy picked up more of burden.

Did you always want to be in finance?

In high school I took this evaluation test and mathematics was strong for me so it pointed me to accounting. As I got into college at Marquette University, I started exploring business, and started exploring accounting and finance. I enjoyed it and it resulted in me deciding it was a good path for me.

Were there tough career decisions you made that were pivotal for your career?

Every successful career needs a bit of luck. It’s hard work. I look at one decision I made before I went to Manpower. I was offered a job as a CFO at a small manufacturing company. It sounded like a good title but I decided to go to Manpower in the internal audit group instead. It was a good decision.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing corporate governance today?

The two front and center are cybersecurity and the political environment. But the things that I think about, really, are on the strategic planning side. We’re in a low growth environment, so how are companies finding growth? They are doing what they can to find organic growth. Does it make sense to supplement that with M&A and how do you do that, what’s the risk appetite? Boards have to be sure they’re finding growth opportunities, but they also have to make sure they’re not taking on too much risk, or moving outside of core competencies.

What do you do aside from governance?

I still am actively involved, very passionate about Best Buddies, a charity that matches typical high school students with students with special needs. It gives them a friend and they also get help with employment opportunities. The reason I became involved was through my daughter Kristen who has Williams Syndrome. She was involved in our local chapter in high school. She had good leadership opportunities and speaking opportunities. It’s a fantastic program and helped her develop. I got involved in the organization’s bicycling fundraiser. I hadn’t been a cyclist up to that point. I formed a team nine years ago at age 48, and the side benefit for me is now at 58 I’m an avid cyclist and in the best shape of my life. We’ve raised $850,000 so far and I’m hoping to get to $1 million this year when we ride in September. My daughter is doing quite well now at age 26. She lives in an independent apartment community for adults with disabilities. She has her own apartment and kitchen, and is living on her own.

My Board Journey is an ongoing feature profiling top corporate board directors and their journeys to the board room. If you would like to submit a candidate for the section please email Eve Tahmincioglu:



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