Most Influential Women Q&A: Sheryl Schwartz, Caspian Private Equity

How has a mentor helped your career?

My mentor throughout my career has been Mike O’Kane from TIAA. I worked for him for approximately 15 years in several roles . Mike gave me the opportunity to start and build 2 new asset classes from scratch, after I helped and watched him start the ABS group. He was forward thinking and gave me great opportunities- he believed in me and while he gave me a lot of rope, he was always there to support me when I needed it. He gave me the courage to take risks that I may have otherwise not had the courage to take. I always felt I could turn to him for advice on personal and professional matters.

What is your current role?

You may want to describe a typical professional day. My current responsibilities include managing separate account portfolios that invest in a wide range of North American private equity opportunities including distressed, buyout, special situations, growth equity, and secondary fund on behalf of clients. My role requires coordination with many different areas of the company, clients and overseeing junior members of the team. In addition, I maintain a broad base of relationships with institutional investors and several board positions including AIF and Wave, which is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 committed to the development and advancement of women in private equity and venture capital.

Describe your influence on the middle market.

I have worked at 4 firms in my career, investing in a wide range of illiquid asset classes- all of which included investing in middle market deals. Currently, my portfolio is overweighted in middle market North American private equity opportunities where I believe you have the the potential for significant alpha and outperformance, but a much wider dispersion of returns. Therefore, underwriting and manager selection are more important, which I feel play to my strengths. In addition, in the mid market and smaller universe, there are significantly more deals and opportunities, which can lead to better performance if you have the resources and experience to pursue.