Jason Howard on DEI in Private Market Investing

Jason Howard

Managing Director, Co-Head of Private Equity Diverse Managers
GCM Grosvenor
Institutional investors are increasingly integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in their total portfolios, including private market asset classes. There are questions and misconceptions about investing with diverse managers and how to develop the approach to DEI. In advance of Private Markets Forum 2022, Jason Howard, Managing Director, Co-Head of Private Equity Diverse Managers, GCM Grosvenor, answers questions pertaining to DEI approach in private market investing.
Institutional CONNECT: How does investing with diverse managers fit into your firm’s approach to DEI?
Jason Howard : Our team’s focus on investing with diverse private equity managers is just one part of GCM Grosvenor’s broad-based approach to DEI. The firm is intentional about creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive firm, and a set of DEI principles guide our hiring practices and engagement with current employees. In addition, our efforts to advance DEI in the industry extend to partner organizations, diverse professional groups, and even to our clients. In particular, we believe that working with a diverse slate of vendors and subcontractors allows us to remain competitive by giving us access to the most creative and innovative ideas.
Institutional CONNECT: How are institutional investors conveying the message to asset managers about the need for diversity within private markets?

Jason Howard : They are sending a positive message with their allocations. Investors have done research and looked at their own portfolios and realized that, in general, diverse managers have performed just as well or better than the broader manager universe. Thus, investors are more are open to expanding their networks as they recognize that their existing channels have been too “closed” and they may have overlooked opportunities in the past.

LPs are also aware of the many studies indicating diverse teams make better decisions – and they are applying that research in their own firms and promoting it in others. As part of our investment decisions, we’re asking managers about diversity of their staff, DEI policies, and future plans. We monitor and get updates from managers about changes in these areas – we often use it as a way to engage with managers.

Institutional CONNECT: What are some common misconceptions about investing with diverse managers?

Jason Howard : First, there is a belief that investors must make concessions on returns when investing with diverse managers. In fact, many diverse managers have outperformed their non-diverse counterparts, as recent studies from industry organizations like NAIC and the Knight Foundation have shown.

In addition, some believe that the universe of diverse managers is a small one, but at GCM Grosvenor, we follow approximately 800 diverse managers in private equity alone. Many also believe that diverse managers are typically small and/or venture capital managers, but the median fund size of diverse managers with whom we invested in 2021 was over $800 million, and less than 10% of our commitments to diverse managers are in venture.

Some also believe that diverse managers are new to private equity. Again, not true. We talk to firms with professionals who have been in the industry for 10, 15, 20-plus years. In many cases they were high performers who left their previous firms to be entrepreneurs and launch their own funds.

Institutional CONNECT: Why should investing with diverse managers be a priority?

Jason Howard : If we’re being fiduciaries for clients and stakeholders, we must ensure we are seeking out best ideas, people, and opportunities, and not relying on existing networks (social, professional, and personal). And looking at the data and studies I mentioned, I believe it should certainly be a priority.
And we feel there’s a sense of urgency. At GCM Grosvenor, we use the term “early and helpful” when referring to diverse and other emerging managers. By being early, we can build strong strategic relationships with managers as they mature that can provide real benefits now and down the line. For example, being involved in a manager’s early-stage fundraising may provide us access to co-investments or secondary investments later, or we may achieve preferential economics.

But it is not a one-way street; we strive to provide managers with “non-investment” benefits as well. These include providing introductions to LPs, giving advice on operational and back-office processes like operational due diligence, and raising managers’ visibility through conferences. For example, GCM Grosvenor hosts Consortium, which brings together diverse and women managers with institutional investors and their consultants once a year. It is an efficient way of making connections and building relationships.

Jason Howard, Managing Director, Co-Head of Private Equity Diverse Managers, GCM Grosvenor, spoke at Private Markets Forum 2022, taking place on April 25 – 27 at Fairmont Château Laurier, Ottawa.
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Jason Howard

Managing Director, Co-Head of Private Equity Diverse Managers

GCM Grosvenor

Mr. Howard is co-head of the firm’s private equity diverse manager practice and also serves on the ESG Committee and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. He focuses on client portfolio management and private equity fund investments and co-investments. Prior to joining GCM Grosvenor, Mr. Howard was an Associate in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Howard was also a Manager of Deal Analysis at Walt Disney Pictures and Television and a consultant for Turner Broadcasting. He began his career in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Howard graduated with high honors from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University with his Bachelor of Business Administration. Mr. Howard currently serves as a member of the boards of the Salvation Army and Segerstrom Center for the Arts. He also serves on the Investment Committee of the Orange County Community Foundation.

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