I started my career in Finance in the late 1990s where there weren’t and still aren’t enough women. One way to encourage change is to chart the way, so in 2008, I took the leap and founded my own investment firm, and despite it being a challenging year for most in the market, we won numerous industry accolades. Because women too can do great in Finance!
I was fortunate to start my career at a firm committed to fostering a work environment that values diverse backgrounds and perspectives: Goldman Sachs. In my early days at the firm in the late 1990s, I officed a few feet from a partner of the firm, Karen Cook, a mother of 6 children who has since become Co-Chairman of the firm’s Europe investment banking division, and last year, 23% of new partners at Goldman Sachs were women – the highest proportion ever for the firm. This encouraging trend, however, should not let us lose sight of the fact that women representation in the finance industry is still too low across the board, including in investment management where women represent less than 10% of all U.S. fund managers and run only about 2% of industry’s assets.
After leaving Goldman Sachs to pursue an MBA in the US and holding senior investment roles at two leading investment firms, TPG Axon and Renaissance Technologies, I was ready to take the leap and started my investment firm. I would come to find out that the main roadblock in women representation among fund managers was not performance-driven (studies have shown that funds run by women have solid performance) but about reaching the threshold of assets under management required by institutional investors – a challenge for anyone launching a fund, but especially for women managers. While the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath made for a challenging market environment, I was proud that our firm not only survived but did well and honored to be nominated in 2010 a “Rising Star” by Institutional Investor magazine. I was also very proud, many years later, to see Genevieve Kahr, whom I brought to TPG Axon as a young graduate, join the ranks of women portfolio managers, and in just 10 years, after becoming another fund’s first pre-launch hire and helping it grow from <$50 million to $2 billion in assets over the following 6 years, also take the leap and start a fund which surpassed the $250 million mark.
Whether it was macroeconomics, sector analysis, company valuation, pitfalls of mergers synergies including the need to anticipate “dis-synergies”, the skills taught by the financial sector cut across all industries and my experiences in this sector have been invaluable for my other entrepreneurial efforts.
Laetitia Garriott on access to capital for woman-owned businesses at the 2011 New York Forum