Catching up with Gretchen Perkins; diving into payment processing with Angela Zhang

Buyouts talks to leading women in private equity.

Good morning, dealmakers. MK Flynn here, with today’s Wire.

This morning on PE Hub, we’re featuring a Q&A with Gretchen Perkins as part of our series of interviews with high-profile private equity professionals.

Perkins sets the standard for deal sourcing in the private equity industry. She was one of the first dealmakers to professionalize the role of business development in PE.

After more than a decade at Huron Capital in Detroit, Perkins moved to Florida to help launch Avance Investment Management (which has offices in Miami and New York). The firm was founded by David Perez, Luis Zaldivar and Erik Scott, who all worked together previously at Palladium Equity Partners. Avance recently celebrated its first anniversary, and the firm is one of a dozen emerging managers that we’re keeping an eye on at PE Hub and Buyouts.

It’s been a busy first year for Avance. The firm invested in three platform companies last year: a personal care ingredients products distribution business (Wholesale Supplies Plus), an insurance brokerage business focused on the Hispanic population (UniVista Insurance), and a construction equipment leasing business (Synergy Infrastructure Holdings).

Here are some excerpts from my interview with Perkins:

What inspired the move from Huron in Detroit to Avance in Miami?
“I moved for personal reasons. It was fall of 2020, and my significant other in Florida and I decided “Life is short. Let’s stop wasting precious time living apart.” I reached out to a friend of mine at a Miami PE firm and asked him to keep me in mind if he saw any opportunities in the area. I was very lucky to be introduced to my new firm by him. (Thanks Dave Gershman at Trivest!)”

After working for a large established firm like Huron for 14 years, what’s the appeal of Avance, a firm that’s just starting out?
“The opportunity to be a part of something brand new in our industry really appealed to me. I was excited to be able to help our young firm establish our unique culture, contribute to creating our go-to-market strategy, and to help recruit more diverse talent to our firm. It has been very rejuvenating to be wearing a lot of hats as we build this firm! And of course, the opportunity to bring to bear my years of relationship building and contacts with my new partners has been extremely rewarding.”

Why did you choose to join Avance?
“I already mentioned the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of a new firm, but the firm values, investment strategy, track record of my founders, and the mandate to build a truly diverse team are the fundamental reasons I joined this firm. My colleagues and Avance founders David Perez, Luis Zaldivar and Erik Scott have created the unique framework for the different kind of PE firm that we are building. Our diversity of experiences and relationships are our collective superpower, in my opinion! I encourage you to see the team page on our website. We are proud to say that 75 percent of our employees are diverse by gender or ethnicity. Again – this is very intentional.”

Check out the full interview.

Women’s History Month. Earlier this week, PE Hub and Buyouts announced our Women in private equity: The class of 2022, and throughout the month, we’ll be featuring dealmakers from the special report in the Wire.

Today, let’s take a look at Angela Zhang, director, GI Partners.

Developing deep knowledge in the fast-growing subsector of payment processing is the secret to Zhang’s success. The strategy led to a partial exit for portfolio company Daxko last year and a promotion to the role of director this year.

Zhang was on the investment team that last year backed Rectangle Health, which provides medical, dental and specialty practices with software and financial technology to drive revenue by increasing patient payments and streamlining practice management and payment processing. GI joined TA Associates as an investor, and the pair recapped Rectangle.

Zhang’s in-depth knowledge of payment processing helped GI win the deal. “In five minutes, I understood something about Rectangle’s business that they said usually takes them five hours to explain,” she says.

These days, Zhang is using her experience in the sector to oversee growth at Rectangle. “In payments, scale matters,” Zhang says, pointing to her ability to leverage direct relationships with payment processors to pass on savings to GI’s portfolio companies.

For more on Zhang and all the dealmakers in our Women in private equity report, read the story.

That’s all for now.

Until tomorrow,