Celebrating a Job Well Done in the World of Private Investing

A bunch of first-place ribbons lined up side-by-side.

Photo courtesy of Matt Northam at Flickr Creative Commons.

The world of private investing may seem stuffy on the surface, but just like any profession, it comes with its perks, including the glitzy world of awards for a job well done. These awards bring the community together to honor and support coworkers, competitors, and big time accomplishments. Some of the most notable awards are the Private Debt Investor Award (US), Investor All Stars (UK), and the US Investment Management Awards (US).

Private Debt Investor Awards

These awards honor the private investment companies that are at the forefront of the industry. PDI, an industry website and print publication, offers annual awards in more than 40 categories. Winners are determined by votes from industry professionals. You can’t nominate yourself or your own company, but you can nominate colleagues and partners.

This year the competition has been pretty fierce. Adamas Asset Management, Barings, KKR, and SSG Capital Management were all neck-and-neck for Asia Pacific Lender of the Year in early December. In the Global Newcomer of the Year category, Adams Street Partners, CPRDET Capital, Northleaf Capital, and Marc Lipschultz’s Owl Rock Capital Partners were all duking it out right up until voting closed at midnight on January 5.

Final results have yet to be announced.

Investor Allstars

For fifteen years, Investor Allstars has been known as the “Oscars” and the “Must Attend” event for European investors. More than 600 entrepreneurs and investors from both Europe and the US have attended the glamorous annual awards ceremony, taking place this year on September 27 at Westminster Bridge, Park Plaza, London.

These awards honor the successes of the broader European investment industry, as well as singling out CEOs who dare to take calculated risks to improve investments around the world. Awards include Venture Capital Fund of the Year, Growth Fund of the Year, Corporate Development Team of the Year, and Investor of the Year.

Investor Allstars also offers a supplementary award for Europe’s Allstar Company, which is voted on by attendees. The award honors Europe’s most valuable technology companies.

Nominations for these awards are currently open.

US Management Investment Awards

The 7th Annual US Investment Manager Awards ceremony took place on May 19, 2016 in New York City. The awards honor US institutional investors who implement innovative strategies, as well as the excellent performance of money managers in 39 asset classes.

The winners are determined by Institutional Investor Magazine’s editorial and research teams, which consult with eVestment’s research team before reaching their decision. They look for particularly impressive investment strategies based on performance over time, information ratio, standard deviation, and upside market capture. In addition, more than 1000 leading US pension plans, foundations, endowments, and other institutional investors are surveyed for their thoughts on the most impressive investors of the year.

Nominations for 2017 are now open.

Every industry likes to take a moment to honor their truly exceptional members, and private investors are no exception. These three awards are just some of the options for celebrating the clever—not to mention lucrative—business decisions being made every year.

Lighten Up; Wendy’s ‘Pepe’ Meme Was An Honest Mistake

A photo of a Wendy's sign.

Photo credit: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

On Wednesday, Wendy’s found itself in some serious trouble after posting a picture of Pepe the Frog on Twitter. It all started when a Twitter user by the name of MrRespek asked the company, “Got any memes?” Wendy’s replied with an image of Pepe the Frog dressed up as the Wendy’s mascot.

Little did Wendy’s know that Pepe was officially declared a symbol of hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL claims that because Pepe has been used in so many anti-Semitic and racist memes, the image itself represents bigotry.

I say give ‘em a break. Wendy’s wasn’t aware that it was a hate symbol and quite frankly, neither was I. It was an honest mistake. It was meant to be funny and lighthearted, not racist or offensive.

Amy Brown, Wendy’s social media manager, assured the public that the person who posted the meme was uninformed about its symbolic meaning.

“Our community manager was unaware of the recent political connotations associated with Pepe memes, and it has since been removed. Since this used to be purely an innocuous meme, he had this fan content saved from a year or two ago,” Brown stated.

The fast-food chain did the next best thing they could by deleting the meme immediately and then apologizing for it afterward. Trust me when I say that I would be the first person to lash out against a company that was being overtly racist or hateful. But that’s not the case, here.

Instead, we have a case of an honest mistake being made in a rather unforgiving realm: the Internet. People blew it way out of proportion and made it a much bigger deal than it was. The person who did this is already embarrassed enough as is, I really don’t find it necessary that we add to their humiliation.

68 Macy’s Stores Are Closing

A picture of a Macy's sign.

Photo credit: Osugi / Shutterstock

After experiencing disappointing holiday sales, Macy’s has decided to close 68 stores. As a result, nearly 4,000 employees will be laid off. But that’s not all. There are even more closures to come.

Macy’s has laid out a long-term plan to close 100 stores in the next couple of years. That means that even more people will lose their jobs. In the mean time, the 68 stores that will be closing almost immediately will have liquidation sales that begin on Monday, January 9. The sales are expected to last anywhere from 6-12 weeks.

Here is a list of stores that will be closing, listed first by state and then by specific locale:

California:

  • Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
  • Simi Valley Town Center, Simi Valley
  • Mission Valley Apparel, San Diego

Florida:

  • Lakeland Square, Lakeland
  • Oviedo Marketplace, Oviedo
  • Sarasota Square, Sarasota,
  • University Square, Tampa
  • CityPlace, West Palm Beach

Georgia:

  • Georgia Square, Athens

Idaho:

  • Nampa Gateway Center, Nampa

Illinois:

  • Alton Square, Alton
  • Eastland, Bloomington

Kentucky:

  • Greenwood, Bowling Green
  • Jefferson, Louisville

Louisiana:

  • Esplanade, Kenner

Maine:

  • Bangor, Bangor

Massachusetts:

  • Westgate, Brockton
  • Silver City Galleria, Taunton

Michigan:

  • Lakeview Square Mall, Battle Creek
  • Eastland Center, Harper Woods
  • Lansing, Lansing
  • Westland, Westland

Minnesota:

  • Minneapolis Downtown, Minneapolis

North Carolina:

  • Carolina Place, Pineville
  • Northgate, Durham

North Dakota:

  • Columbia, Grand Forks

New Jersey:

  • Moorestown, Moorestown
  • Voorhees Town Center, Voorhees
  • Preakness, Wayne

New Mexico:

  • Cottonwood, Albuquerque

Nevada:

  • Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas

New York:

  • Douglaston, Douglaston
  • Great Northern, Clay
  • Oakdale Mall, Johnson City
  • The Marketplace, Rochester

Ohio:

  • Eastland, Columbus
  • Sandusky, Sandusky
  • Fort Steuben, Steubenville
  • Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Dublin

Oklahoma:

  • Promenade, Tulsa

Pennsylvania:

  • Neshaminy, Bensalem
  • Shenango Valley, Hermitage
  • Beaver Valley, Monaca
  • Lycoming, Muncy
  • Plymouth Meeting, Plymouth Meeting
  • Washington Crown Center, Washington

Oregon:

  • Downtown Portland, Portland
  • Lacaster Mall, Salem

Texas:

  • Parkdale, Beaumont
  • Southwest Center, Dallas
  • Sunland Park, El Paso
  • Greenspoint, Houston
  • West Oaks Mall, Houston
  • Pasadena Town Square, Pasadena
  • Collin Creek, Plano
  • Broadway Square, Tyler

Utah:

  • Layton Hills, Layton
  • Cottonwood, Salt Lake City

Virginia:

  • Landmark, Alexandria
  • River Ridge, Lynchburg

Washington:

  • Three Rivers, Kelso
  • Everett, Everett

Wisconsin:

  • Oakwood Mall, Eau Claire
  • Valley View, La Crosse

Owl Rock, Others Vie for PDI Awards

An image of a first place ribbon.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The Private Debt Investor Awards are the only independent industry awards voted on and awarded to the industry. Last year, more than 90 private debt companies in 30 categories across three regions competed for recognition. This year, accolades include Lender of the Year, Law Firm of the Year, and many more.

The competition is tight in many of the categories. With 1,000 respondents so far casting votes in 40 different areas, one of the biggest battles is happening in Global Newcomer of the Year (entries include Marc Lipschultz’s Owl Rock Capital Partners, Bon French’s Adam Street Partners, Jakob Lindquist’s CORDET Direct Lending, and Jeff Pentland’s Northleaf Capital). The running is also close in Asia Pacific Lender of the Year, Fundraising of the Year, and Europe Law Firm of the Year.

So if you’re involved in the industry, there’s no question that your vote will count!

The annual awards are held by Private Debt Investor, a publication of record for the private credit market. Founded in London in 2001, Private Debt Investor is written for providers and users of debt for private assets. PDI covers institutions, funds, and transactions shaping the private debt market. The monthly magazine comes out 10 times a year and helps those in the industry look at both short and long-term trends and themes so they can better serve their clients.

Their website and publications also cover global news and research directly affecting the world’s private debt markets.

In addition to their reports, articles, books, and databases, Private Debt Investor hosts more than 50 conferences and forums all over the world. In 2017 they will host a conference in Germany and one in New York City.

PDI is overseen by its parent company, PEI, a global B2B information group focused on private equity, private real estate, private debt, infrastructure, and agri investing.

The 2016 PDI Awards are off to a great start, but there’s still time to get your vote in! The nomination form will be available until midnight PST on Thursday, January 7. Participants are encouraged but not required to vote in each category. Votes are only accepted from official company emails, and participants may not vote for themselves or their own firms.

American Express to Offer Substantial Parental Leave

A mother nursing her newborn child.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

American Express is upping their game by offering a substantial and still uncommon parental leave package to employees: 20 weeks full-paid time off.

Beginning in January 2017, American Express will be expanding its parental leave policy to both mothers and fathers to 20 weeks, as well as an additional six to eights weeks for women who require medical leave after giving birth. This expansion is substantial, as their current policy offers six weeks paid leave for the primary caregiver and two weeks for the secondary (which is usually the mother and father, respectively). The additional time for moms requiring medical leave is the same.

This offer is available to all full and part-time employees who have worked at American Express for at least one year.

“American Express remains deeply committed to our working families and an inclusive culture that supports all of our employees,” says Kevin Cox, Chief Human Resources Officer at American Express. “These significant enhancements to our benefits reflect a continued investment in the overall well-being of our employees and their families.”

American Express is just one of many companies making parental leave more appealing and generous to employees, thus making life significantly easier for everyone involved. Plus, American Express is going above and beyond with extended benefits. New parents will now be offered:

  • Free 24/7 access to board-certified lactation consultants
  • Up to $35,000 in reimbursement of adoption and surrogacy expenses (up to two times per employee)
  • A lifetime benefit of $35,000 (maximum) for reproductive and fertility treatments, under the company’s health plan
  • Free breast-milk shipping for nursing moms who have to travel for work
  • Access to a parent concierge who can help with any questions or concerns they may have about their benefits.

Backup daycare and flexible working arrangements are also being offered to new and expectant parents. It’s good to see the workforce finally become more friendly towards women and families.

It’s Not a Meltdown, You’re Just Passionate

Two men giving a presentation.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Thanks to centuries of conditioning, we tend to see displays of emotion in the workplace as a sign of instability and/or weakness. So if your PowerPoint goes awry because there is a technological malfunction, reacting to that with distress can snowball and ruin everything. But when you truly stop to think about it, it sounds like a perfectly normal reaction considering you likely put a lot of time and effort into that presentation. But, as you know, we’re all expected to be unemotional robots.

Of course, that’s nonsense, which we’re all consciously aware of. But our subconscious may not be aware of it, which is where our decisions originate from. But a team of researchers from Cornell University has an interesting piece of advice: in the above scenario, if you reframe your reaction to be based on your passion for the project, you stand a much better chance of being taken seriously. Study respondents who viewed a coworker or applicant as “passionate” instead of “emotional” were more likely to want to work with that person in the future.

It adds to our understanding of “cognitive reappraisal” which refers to our ability to change how we think about a situation. Mentally reframing anxiety as excitement, for example, can make it easier to give a presentation in the first place. In fact, cognitive reappraisal is a tool that therapists use with clients all the time, often to good effect. So it stands to reason that it could work in the workplace as well.

Now we’re not talking about wishful thinking here. We’re talking about thoughts rooted in optimism that are backed up by rational thought. The anxiety to excitement example is a good one, as being nervous before a presentation is pretty common, and that presentation’s success could very well rest on how confident you are.

Sears is Going Down Like the Titanic

A photo of the outside of a Sears store.

Photo credit: dcwcreations / Shutterstock

Today, Sears reported huge losses, causing many analysts to speculate that the company will be liquidating all stores within the coming year or so. Sears is no stranger to losses; the store’s revenue has been falling for quite some time now. But after losing $748 million this last quarter, it looks like stakeholders are finally ready to call it quits.

“In our view, it is now too late to turn this around,” wrote Neil Saunders, CEO of retail consulting firm Conlumino. “It is just not financially feasible to reverse it.”

Saunders further compared Sears to the Titanic, saying that the company looks “set to sink.” But Saunders’ pessimistic outlook didn’t stop Sears Chief Financial Officer Jason Hollar from trying to reassure investors.

“We understand the concerns related to our operating performance,” Hollar stated in a prerecorded conference call. “We have fallen short on our own timetable for achieving the profitability that we believe the company is capable of generating. With that said, the team remains fully committed to restoring profitability to our company and creating meaningful value.”

The situation has gotten so bad that there are now widespread rumors that the company will go bankrupt. But according to Hollar, the company still has plenty of assets to draw from, meaning that they will keep stores running for at least a little while longer.

“We believe that our liquidity needs will be satisfied through the foreseeable future using the levers available to us through our portfolio of assets,” Hollar stated.

But there is at least a little hope at the end of the tunnel. According to Hollar, several companies have expressed interest in either purchasing or licensing Sears’ in-house brands. Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard are just some of the brands that investors are looking into.

Sears also owns Kmart, which is rumored to be closing its doors as well. But despite widespread accusations, Sears CEO Edward Lampert said that, “there have never been any plans to close the Kmart format.”

Adapting in the Future Requires Adapting in the Present

A note pad with the word "adaptable" written on it. There is a laptop and a cell phone in the picture as well.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

There’s an published in Forbes about what we can expect from employees of the future, extrapolating from current technological trends. The general argument is that those employees will have to be flexible, in order to keep up with and use increasingly powerful technology like artificial intelligence systems.

But this isn’t science-fiction. The article isn’t about the future employees of a century from now; it’s about employees from the last few decades. The phrase “mid-to-late 21st century” gets used, and for some business owners, their companies might still be up and running by that time.

So are you flexible enough to adapt to the changing technology of the future? The article brings up Millennials and Generation Z, who are already pretty well versed at adapting to technology. They’re also going to be the people starting new businesses, which are almost certainly going to be better at adapting to new technology until the next generations come along and think Generation Z is old because they don’t have computers in their brains or whatever.

The point is, hiring employees who are flexible and/or ahead of the technology curve is valuable and, increasingly, necessary. But that alone might not be enough. These employees will need to be under the guidance of bosses who understand what’s going on, at least enough to give them the freedom to be flexible in the first place.

Employees can’t do their best work if their bosses don’t understand the basics of the tools they need, and therefore won’t give them those tools. These employees know they can probably go find a hipper, younger boss who can and will give them access to those tools. So it’s worth asking yourself if you, or your company, are flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing technology. If the answer is no, it’s time you learn how to be.

Big Biz Hits the Books

A close-up photo of a book.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that many a big name in business has either had a biography written about them or written their own autobiography. Here are some of the classics (and a few newer ones) to check out this holiday season.

Capital Instincts: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier, and Athlete by Richard L. Brandt

Wiley, February 2003

An avid sportsman and innovative businessman, Thomas Weisel has developed a reputation as a determined, competitive, and hugely successful name in the business world. He ran one of the biggest investment banks on the West Coast for 27 years and was instrumental in bolstering companies like Applied Materials, Siebel Systems, and Yahoo! in their journeys on Wall Street.

Brandt’s biography delves deeply into Weisel’s business acumen, not to mention his lifelong love of athletics (Weisel is the founder of Tailwind Sports, which manages the US Postal Service cycling team. He was also an Olympic-level speed skater and the chairman of the US Ski Foundation).

The title of the book’s first chapter says it best: “Never Underestimate Thom Weisel.”

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Scribner, April 2016

Nike founder Phil Knight built his business from a startup with a backing of all of $50 to an international superstar company annually raking in more than $30 billion. The Nike swoosh is one of the few icons instantly recognized all over the world.

In his own words, Knight tells the story of how he started Nike with one goal: to import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan, which he then sold out of the trunk of his Plymouth Valiant. At first, Nike didn’t look like much: In its first year, it only grossed $8,000. But thanks to perseverance and solid partnerships with Knight’s former coach Bill Bowerman, as well as the first ragtag group of Nike employees, Knight built a legendary company that survives and thrives today.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Simon & Schuster, October 2011

If you haven’t heard of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, you’ve probably been living under a rock. By finding the intersection of creativity, technology, and innovation, Jobs changed the way we think about user design and the possibilities inherent in everyday technology like computers, animation, phones, music, and digital publishing.

Author Walter Isaac put together this biography based on forty interviews with Jobs, as well as interviews with his family, friends, competitors, and colleagues. He doesn’t shy away from detailing Jobs’s intensely driven, sometimes brutal personality. But Isaac couches it in the context of the ups and downs of Jobs’s life and the legacy of innovation that he’s left behind.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Deckle Edge, March 2013

While not precisely an autobiography, Sheryl Sandberg’s book on women and leadership in business, based on her 2010 TEDTalk on the same theme, reveals a lot about her life and her approach to her work. As COO of Facebook, one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, Sandberg knows a thing or two about balancing work and home life—not to mention stepping into leadership roles.

Lean In combines research, hard data, and personal anecdotes to create a book urging women to take pride in their professional achievements and to break down gender-based barriers in the workplace.

Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty by Robert Lacey

Harper, June 2015

Lacey’s biography of the legendary Eileen Ford, whose Ford Modeling Agency practically created the concept of the superstar supermodel, looks at both the glamor and the tough work ethic behind one of the fashion world’s most famous entrepreneurs. Ford represented some of the biggest names in fashion—Rene Russo, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and more.

Drawing on four years of interviews with Ford and her associates (including her rivals), Lacey brings to light all of Ford’s determination, business acumen, and passionate personality.

“Ford’s status as a controversial, demanding figure isn’t ignored in Lacey’s portrait of one of the hardest working women in fashion,” wrote the New York Observer. “The juicy details of a tell-all are met with the nuance of a memoir in this portrait of the woman he recalls as the ‘matriarch of modeling.’”

Howard Schultz Steps Down as Starbucks CEO

A photo of the Starbucks logo.

Photo credit: jannoon028 / Shutterstock

Today, Starbucks announced that Howard Schultz is stepping down from his position as CEO. But Schultz isn’t completely leaving the company. The 63-year-old is taking on the role of executive chairman beginning on April 3, 2017.

Kevin Johnson, Chief Operating Officer at Starbucks, will replace Schultz as the new CEO.

“As I focus on Starbucks’ next wave of retail innovation, I am delighted that Kevin Johnson—our current president, COO, a seven-year board member and my partner in running every facet of Starbucks business over the last two years—has agreed to assume the duties of Starbucks chief executive officer. This move ideally positions Starbucks to continue profitably growing our core business around the world into the future,” Schultz stated.

But for as optimistic as Schultz seemed, investors weren’t buying it. Stocks fell by more than 3% following the announcement. Some are speculating that Schultz stepped down so he could pursue his political interests instead.

In an interview with CNN, Schultz stated, “Given the state of things in the country, there is a need to help those left behind.”

It’s still unclear exactly what Schultz was getting at. However, there are clues that suggest that Schultz might be making a run for POTUS come 2020.

For one, he is an outspoken Democrat and long-time backer of President Barack Obama. He even publicly endorsed presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. It’s more than possible that given the results of the election, Schultz will be gunning for the highest political office in the country.

If it were true, there are already hints as to what kind of campaign he would be running. In the past, Schultz has supported a higher minimum wage. He’s even offered his employees free college.

In the mean time, Schultz assured investors that he is confident in Johnson’s ability to take over as CEO. Schultz went as far as to say Johnson was “better prepared than I am” to be CEO.

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