Dec 10, 2019

Exploring Direct Investing Opportunities at the 2019 NAIC Private Equity & Hedge Fund Conference

By Cristian Molina Cornejo T’21

Before coming to Tuck, I worked at a startup where I led data science projects and infrastructure investment analysis focused on the energy sector. My time was largely spent evaluating portfolios of infrastructure investments and conducting due diligence in M&A transactions for private equity firms and utilities. I am particularly interested in the impact that the proliferation of distributed energy resources and renewable generation will have on electrical infrastructure—and the implications for capital allocators. These technologies have amazing implications in terms of reducing our need for fossil fuels. However, they impose fascinating issues for utilities and investors who are trying to manage risks. I wanted to use my time at Tuck to learn more about investing at different stages of companies and understand the types of opportunistic or strategic factors that can influence these decisions.

Due to the competitive nature of the direct investing space, it is important to have strong network and resources to help navigate the space. When I was deciding between MBA programs, I looked at the alumni network of the schools, prominence of learning centers, and availability of relevant coursework—Tuck is very strong across these dimensions. Since I started at Tuck, I have had multiple coffee chats, lunches, and conversations with investors and C-suite executives. Additionally, I had the opportunity to take an elective during the fall where I looked at cases in private equity and venture capital both from the limited partner and general partner’s point of view as well as analyzing “live deals” to estimate the appropriate price to be paid for an acquisition. The exposure to leaders in the field and the quality of learning have been invaluable to my career and personal growth.

Earlier this year, I was awarded a Young Professional Scholarship by the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC) to attend their Annual Private Equity & Hedge Fund Conference in Los Angeles. NAIC is the largest trade association of diverse and emerging PE and HFs, composed of 75 members and representing over $150 billion in AUM. The conference took place at UCLA’s Luskin Conference Center and had over 300 investment professionals, investment bankers, limited partners, and attorneys in attendance. As an MBA student who is exploring a career in direct investing, this conference was the perfect place to learn about trends in the industry, meet some of the leading and emerging players, and network with other diverse investors in the field.

The first day was primarily for the Young Professionals program and it included a lunch with the other emerging and the current investors. The lunch at the conference center was followed by a panel of PE investors from prominent firms, consultants, and investment bankers. Later that night, there was a networking reception at a hotel rooftop in Beverly Hills overlooking the city, which was a great experience with amazing views!

The second day was packed with back-to-back panels of investors and limited partners representing large institutional allocators. One of the fascinating comments I heard was that the estimated AUM for the capital allocators and investors in the room was around $3 trillion, which is amazing considering that this conference was elevating emerging and diverse managers. The day continued with rich discussions regarding standout performance of NAIC members—particularly their deal process, and how they enhanced the acquired companies to achieve outsized returns.

Overall, the conference was an amazing opportunity to hear about various strategies to achieve success across the deal lifecycle. My learnings from the event were invaluable and I would highly recommend attending NAIC’s annual conference for anyone interested in alternative assets.