NAIC Board Of Directors Spotlight

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Nokware Knight And Cheryl D. Fields

In the next several issues we will spotlight NAIC Board members to invite our readers to learn more about the NAIC leadership. In this edition, we’re pleased to introduce two of those new members, Rebecca Connolly, a partner with Fairview Capital Partners, and Carlos Signoret, founder and principal of Hispania Capital Partners.

Rebecca Connolly first learned of the NAIC seven years ago, as a new hire to Fairview Capital Partners.The Connecticut-based private equity shop was the first fund of funds in the country to focus specifically on the emerging domestic markets. Connolly currently serves as a partner. Previously, she served as a general partner at Everest Ventures and as private equity attorney for Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault LLP. An alumna of The College of Holy Cross she also holds a J.D. from Boston Law School.

Over the years, Connolly’s interactions with NAIC members have complemented her day to day work with emerging managers. The cooperative spirit is one aspect she enjoys most about working with NAIC members.

“I think it’s one of the few associations in the country where there’s true collaboration,” Connolly says.

Connolly points not only to the attitude of the membership as proof, but also the organization’s structural progress. She considers NAIC’s recent combination with the Marathon Club to be a step in the right direction because consolidation of the two groups eliminates what she sees as a lot of confusion in the marketplace about the two organizations. The recent re-instatement of 501(c)(3) status to NAIC’s Entrepreneurial Growth and Investment Institute (EGII) , should also make it easier for the newly combined entities to raise money for educational programs targeting women and minority entrepreneurs. It’s something of a perfect storm for Connolly, who has clear intentions about her contribution to the NAIC.

In the year ahead, Connolly is especially interested in increasing membership and raising capital for the NAIC. She believes her existing relationships with fund managers and partners of Fairview Capital should allow her to help get the word out to firms that are currently unaware that NAIC even exists.

Increasing access to capital is another key concern of Connolly’s. For years, limited access to capital has served as a roadblock for investment managers who focus on the emerging domestic market and the women- and minority-owned businesses in which they invest. Connolly sees her new-found position on the NAIC board as a larger platform from which to spread the shared mission of the NAIC and Fairview. She believes that, once adequately informed, smart capital will take advantage of all the unrealized opportunity in the emerging domestic market at large.

“One of our jobs, as a fund of funds, is to aggregate capital on [emerging managers’] behalf,” Connolly says, adding that it also is her responsibility to make a financial case for why EDM investment is smart investment. “[Investing] in funds with a focus on the developing urban markets and [in] entrepreneurs that are developing companies focused on this market is actually a really good investment, regardless of anybody’s gender or race.”

Carlos L. Signoret and his partners at Hispania Capital Partners have been members of NAIC since 2003. The young firm was closing on its first fund at that time, and the partners viewed joining the organization as a good way to continue expanding their network. Hispania has raised $216 million in committed institutional financing across two funds since then, and has completed 17 platform and add-on acquisition transactions in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Over the years, the partners’ relationships with other NAIC members have deepened and strengthened, as has their commitment to helping the organization shatter the barriers limiting opportunities for people of color and women in the investments industry. So when the opportunity to join the NAIC board arose, Signoret was enthusiastic about accepting the challenge.

“As a board member of NAIC, I will be able to help advance the organization’s primary focus of expanding access to capital to minority-focused and managed investment companies,” he says. “These investment companies are still in their development phase, relative to the rest of the industry, and require special support to help the managers build their investment teams and track record.”
Signoret has more than 20 years of leveraged finance and private equity transaction experience. He is especially skilled at leveraged finance with senior mezzanine and high-yield debt structures for middle market and large corporations. Before stepping out to launch Hispania, he was a principal at CM Equity Partners LP, where he completed seven transactions in four platform acquisitions employing more than $200 million in equity and debt capital. During an earlier stint at Chase Manhattan Bank, Signoret worked leveraged acquisitions and financing transactions with some of the leading buyout firms in North America. While at Chase, he also was responsible for closing and monitoring private equity transactions in later-stage equity investments. He holds a master’s in applied economics and corporate finance from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s in finance from the University of Puerto Rico.

“Diversity of the manager’s background is important because it provides a complementary vision that is useful when analyzing new investment trends and opportunities,” he says. “This is especially the case with the U.S. Hispanic market, which reflects positive demographic and purchasing power trends in the longterm “

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