‘PE firms have been very proactive acknowledging the gap in diverse talent,’ said Oaktree’s Milwood Hobbs Jr

'It actually requires patience and a real focus to create a pipeline of people.'

As we celebrate Black History Month, PE Hub is featuring interviews with private equity professionals who are Black. Today, we are featuring a Q&A with Milwood Hobbs, Jr, managing director and head of North American sourcing and origination at Oaktree Capital Management.

Hobbs leads Oaktree’s North American sourcing and origination group, which focuses on private credit sourcing and deal origination for the firm’s US private debt, global private debt, special situations and global opportunities strategies. He also serves on the investment committee for Oaktree’s direct lending platform. Prior to joining the firm in 2013, Hobbs was an executive director at Natixis Securities, focused on building the high-yield sales and trading franchise. Earlier in his career, he spent five years at Goldman Sachs as a vice president in leveraged finance origination and sales.

Over the last couple of years, PE firms have talked a lot about making the industry more inclusive for people who are Black and/or members of other underrepresented groups. In your view, how are PE firms doing when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion?

I think PE firms have been very proactive acknowledging the gap in diverse talent.  Moreover, it actually requires patience and a real focus to create a pipeline of people.  Programs like Girls Who Invest, SEO and Alt Finance have been on the forefront of developing diverse talent in the Alternative and PE space. Oaktree has been very involved in these programs with really positive results to support the investment in diverse talent.

What’s the biggest mistake PE firms make when it comes to underrepresented groups?

PE firms assume that training is core to retention when in fact having diverse leadership that is active in retention and training is probably most important. Moreover, I think you have to benchmark and define success – which is core to Oaktree’s Diversity & Inclusion philosophy.

It’s Black History Month, and PE Hub is showcasing Black leaders in private equity. Please tell us about someone you admire.

Reginald Lewis is someone I admire for his accomplishments in the PE space.  He was ahead of his time in terms of aptitude, execution and passion.

Editor’s Note: In 1987, Lewis bought Beatrice Foods for $985 million in the largest leveraged buyout of overseas assets by an American company at the time. By 1992, TLC Beatrice International had annual sales of over $1.8 billion, making it the first Black-owned business to generate a billion dollars in annual sales. Lewis died at the age of 50 after a short illness in 1993. For more info, see the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation website.

As a private equity investor who is Black, are there any experiences or insights you want to share with PE Hub’s audience?

While at times I am sure my skin color has been the deciding factor at points in my career, I can honestly state it hasn’t been a hindrance to my success. The key to success in this field isn’t that much different than most careers – know your customer and product, respect individuals at all levels and have the confidence to get up when someone knocks you down or counts you out.

For Hobbs’ insights on dealmaking in an era of rising interest rates, listen to our podcast, Private Markets and the End of Cheap Money, featuring interviews with Hobbs and other dealmakers. 

For more insights during Black History Month, see PE Hub’s Q&A with Tarrus Richardson, CEO of IMB Partners.