NAIC cites growing interest in ‘Women in Alternatives’ initiative

A woman’s place is in the alternative investment industry, or that is how the saying should go if the team overseeing the expanded resource set at the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC) had their say.

Carmen Ortiz-McGhee (provided)

Led by Chief Operating Officer Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, the Women in Alternatives initiative at NAIC is focused on assisting women of color find their place in the industry, from undergraduate training all the way through senior executive-level career coaching.

NAIC is a well-known trade association of diverse and women-owned private equity firms and hedge funds that is comprised of 135 member firms representing over $250 billion of institutional assets under management. A growing number of its members are women heading their own firms.

Ortiz-McGhee joined NAIC in early 2019 from Aon, where she was a senior vice president and head of sales in the Mid-Atlantic region. She also served as a member of Aon’s Diversity & Inclusion Board. Prior to Aon, she was the vice president of business and investment development for a boutique real estate private equity firm with $1 billion in AUM.

During 2020, the NAIC reported 45 new members joined NAIC, while this year more than 30 firms have joined the organization. It signals, “a strong pipeline of new and growing diverse and women-led firms in the industry,” said Ortiz-McGhee.

“This means that, despite an uncertain market, diverse-owned vehicles are still being created,” said Ortiz-McGhee, summarizing the position of strength that many firms have coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic period.

Part of NAIC’s work entails organizing monthly roadshows and ensuring that institutional investors who have opted-in to their Managers in the Market report receive quarterly updates on NAIC members that are actively fundraising. NAIC hopes to see a growing number of firms employing women, and led by women. Currently, approximately one-third of NAIC members are funds in formation.

The Women in Alternatives initiative is in partnership with private equity trade association the American Investment Council and the Robert Toigo Foundation. Together they are taking a multi-tiered approach to tackling the lack of representation of diverse female professionals in alternatives.

The NAIC has formed several multi-year partnerships with industry-leading organizations, designed to promote diversity in the industry, including Goldman Sachs Asset Management, William Blair, EY, Lockton, TPG and Korn Ferry.

Meanwhile, this summer diverse young women were afforded internships at some of the most prestigious alternative investment firms in the industry through NAIC’s Paradigm Changers Internship program for graduate and undergraduate students, the embodiment of the Women in Alternatives “IN” programming. The host firms included Apollo Global Management, GCM Grosvenor, Neuberger Berman, IMB Partners, Palladium Equity Partners, TPG and many others.  These ‘Paradigm Changers’ came from colleges and universities across America, including Harvard University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, University of California Berkeley, Northwestern University and Duke University.

Ortiz-McGhee shares that the Paradigm Changers internship provides opportunities for participants to learn both hard and soft skills of careers in the alternative investments industry. She describes the efforts as steps in the right direction at both the university level and at the firm level. The initiative creates pathways for talented diverse women from non-traditional fields of study to explore and learn more about careers in the alternative investments industry, which they may not have known existed before. For some the program was life-altering, leading them to tailor their programs of study to facilitate a career in this space.

The Women in Alternatives initiative is funded by the American Investment Council, and NAIC member firms IMB Partners, Palladium Equity Partners and TPG. Additionally, Robert F. Smith’s Fund II Foundation provided educational and career development training to the inaugural Paradigm Changers cohort over the summer through its internX digital-learning platform.

But the work doesn’t stop there. With the comprehensive theme of “IN, UP and BEYOND,” the organization’s aim is to support the advancement of women at all stages of their careers from undergrad to mid-career to launching their own firms.

While the Paradigm Changers internship program focuses on increasing entry-level access to alternative investments, the “UP” segment focuses on helping women more effectively navigate the firm hierarchy. Monthly sessions focus on topics such as setting yourself up to rise through the ranks, developing critical leadership skills, and navigating firm politics. In addition to the training, participants are paired with mentors to provide guidance and counsel to help them advance their careers.

Lastly in “BEYOND”, executive level-career women are provided the tools to start their own firms. Programming for participants is delivered by female founders and other leading industry experts. Topics include fund administration, legal considerations, choosing the right partner, differentiating your strategy, deal negotiations, and overcoming challenges that women uniquely face when starting firms and raising capital.

The “BEYOND” portion of the program perhaps starts the cycle anew. Executives who complete the “BEYOND” program will be more empowered to build successful firms. With more women in decision-making roles, the industry will be better positioned to create opportunities for all women who have a passion to work toward building more than a career, but the life of an impactful executive who can, in turn, inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

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