HFC’s Stefan Nilsson had a chat with Grace Reyes, the ebullient head of The Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM), about the importance of diversity, social media and networking.
Tell us about The Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) and its mission.
AAAIM is a non-profit organisation promoting ethnic and gender diversity within the investment industry. An official partner to the largest US public pension plans’ emerging manager, diversity and inclusion efforts, AAAIM’s alliance of prominent, successful Asian American leaders includes an expansive network of seasoned and rising investment managers that handle over one trillion in assets under management. AAAIM’s network provides a forum for professionals in the industry to meet, network and create business opportunities. This network continues to grow as AAAIM further engages more people and raises awareness of the organisation and the importance of their mission internationally.
You have a background in alternative investments and finance. How did you end up taking a role leading an industry association?
Prior to AAAIM, I spent time as the Head of Investor Relations & Fundraising at The Reliant Group, a real estate private equity firm with US$2bn in assets under management. I also worked on the corporate and business development team at Switchfly, a travel-tech firm, reporting to the executive suite. What was consistent however across all of my roles was the value of the close rapport I have formed with an array of industry leaders and prominent investors. When the opportunity to lead AAAIM appeared, I realised how valuable those relationships could be to this kind of organisation, as we grow AAAIM’s reach, value and awareness. Being able to share AAAIM’s mission with some of the industry’s best-known investors has been important to our growth as an organisation. I love that I’m able to pull on an important skill set of mine to fuel AAAIM’s future while promoting a mission of gender and ethnic diversity – one that I could not be prouder to represent!
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, do you see any dangers that some firms and people are just talking about it to look good rather than actually trying to build organisations that will benefit from proper diversity?
It’s easy to distinguish the organisations that are truly implementing diversity – those are the organisations that are championing the cause through action and not just furthering a message of diversity. I think it’s an important reminder that leadership take an active role in incorporating the change they are seeking through their own actions.
You are frequently socialising at industry events and you are also very active with social media. Is it part of your strategy to get AAAIM noticed or is it just the way you are?
I am social by nature! On the side, I’m also the Founder and Co-Host of goodtimesSF, San Francisco’s largest investment networking happy hour. I absolutely love meeting, networking and getting to know diverse individuals across our field. I also believe that being vocal about what we do at AAAIM is critical to our success. It’s important that people know who we are and what we represent. LinkedIn has been a natural venue to spread AAAIM’s message further through my own activity on this channel. It has been a great tool to reach new and greater audiences.
You founded investment-industry drinking club goodtimesSF a decade ago. What made you take that initiative?
As the head of fundraising for a private equity group, I was always out networking and wanted to find a more efficient way to connect with industry leaders and investors without having to go out every night. I decided to host happy hour events to bring people together and called it goodtimesSF because I think networking should be something fun! The group took off and grew to become the largest investment happy hour in San Francisco. Co-hosting these events connected me to some amazing individuals that have been pivotal to my career.
If you hadn’t worked in the investment industry, what would you have been doing as a career?
I grew up from humble beginnings and remember watching “Pretty Woman” in my youth. I was fascinated with Richard Gere’s career. It was my first exposure to how private equity works and from that point, I knew from this young age that I wanted to work in finance! This makes it hard to think of any other career path. But as I have been travelling all over the world, I wouldn’t mind being a professional jet-setter – is there such a role that exists?