Commonfund opens diversity office to boost LP dialogue around women

  • Firm seeks to boost engagement of women in asset management
  • Office will be clearinghouse for information on diversity
  • Managing Director Caroline Greer is chairperson

Diversity in private equity is an issue that has slowly gained more attention, but meaningful change won’t likely happen until the limited-partner community fully pushes its managers to make change.

Women represented only 17.9 percent of PE employees globally and just 17.1 percent in the U.S., Preqin reported last year. Of the 9.4 percent that held senior positions in PE, most were in investor relations and marketing.

Along these lines, Commonfund launched a diversity office Nov. 15 to serve as a resource and clearinghouse of information about diversity in the asset-management industry.

One of the diversity group’s main goals will be to increase LP engagement on the issue, especially as it relates to institutions’ investment managers. Commonfund’s first diversity chairperson is Caroline Greer.

LPs haven’t addressed diversity in a meaningful way with their GPs, Greer said. But recent LP requests for proposals have included more questions about diversity and women managers,Tony Ialeggio, spokesperson for Commonfund said.

Commonfund’s diversity office was an institutional evolution from the all-volunteer diversity committee that worked on several initiatives, Greer said.

It is early days yet, but the team will build out concepts and set actionable tasks over a number of years, she said.

A project that should be completed in the next few months is the diversity-manager database, which focuses on women and minority managers, Greer said.

The database, already 500 managers strong, crosses all asset classes, including PE and hedge funds, that Commonfund invests in, Greer said.

Additionally the diversity office will build on the volunteer diversity team initiatives, like internships and events to recruit women in financial services, she said.

It will also ramp up external initiatives like panel discussions on diversity at Commonfund’s twice-yearly events, which are attended by more than 400 LPs, Greer said.

Commonfund will continue publishing white papers on diversity and its engagement with the Girls Who Invest program; it offered internships and full-time roles to girls from the program over the years, she said.

Indeed, a diversity program can be successful only if the same fair standards are applied to everyone, she said.

“By formalizing our efforts, we will be able to better incorporate diversity and inclusion strategies across all operating areas, from our own recruiting efforts to promoting minority investment mandates for clients,” Greer said.

Greer, a managing director, is responsible for designing and implementing custom solutions for Commonfund’s outsourced chief investment officer clients.

For 11 years at Commonfund, Greer focused on hedge-fund manager due diligence and fund-of-funds portfolio management.

Prior to joining Commonfund, she was a partner and principal for Contego Capital Management, specializing in customized funds of hedge funds. She source, evaluated and monitored hedge-fund managers across a full range of strategies.

Her resume also includes posts at Oppenheimer & Co and Montrose Advisors.

Leadership at the newly formed Commonfund diversity office includes George Suttles, managing director and director of research for Commonfund Institute, and Elaine Mizer, chief human-resource officer.

Commonfund, Wilton, Connecticut, manages $25 billion in assets for about 1,300 institutional clients, including endowments, foundations and philanthropic organizations and other nonprofits.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed quotes to the wrong person. The article also stated the program would only focus on women managers. The program will focus on women and minority managers. The article has been updated.

Action Item: Read an article on diversity by Commonfund here: