Movers and Shakers: Rachel S. L. Minard, Partner and Managing Director, Optima Fund Management, LLC

RSLMBy Gigi DeVault (Munich)

When the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley opened in 1991, it marked the first time that five United States presidents had gathered in one place. This prestigious gathering of ribbon-cutters—Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush Sr. and their respective First Ladies—at the largest Presidential library in the nation, could be attributed to a number variables. Three factors come immediately to mind: Longer lives due to improved health care, Presidential privilege, and the marketing acumen of Rachel Minard.

Fresh out of Northeastern University in Boston, from which she graduated with honors in journalism and philosophy, Minard got her start in marketing with the launch of the library. She has, since that time, focused on launches of a different sort.

Skip ahead one year, from Simi Valley to London. Pareto Partners, a currency overlay investment management firm had opened its doors about the same time as those of the most recent Presidential library. A young woman named Rachel Minard was hired as assistant director of marketing and client services at Pareto, helping the firm grow to one of the most highly respected currency overlay firms in the world.

Minard’s is both an “opener” and a “closer.” Early in her career, Minard was hired to be an opener. First she opened her own marketing firm, and then opened a Presidential Library. Her next decade would be spent securing new assets for her firms, raising well over $9 billion in her career. In a new position created for her, Partner and Managing Director, she was hired in May by the hedge fund-of-funds firm Optima Fund Management to open and oversee their San Francisco office as well as build the firm’s global institutional business from the bottom up. She has 18 years experience building businesses and raising assets globally for investment management companies. Minard knows how to close business, too. For the last eight years, Minard has been engaged in building fund of hedge fund firms into global institutional powerhouses.

Woman on the Move

Though she may not have seen the connection during her matriculation, the skills Minard was developing in both preparatory school and college functioned as robust scaffolding for a career in the global institutional asset management industry. Having attended Westover School, a 100-year-old all-girls school in Middlebury, CT, Minard was Captain of her soccer and softball teams, first head of Glee and first head of Wests, a school honor. For the school’s centennial celebration this year, Minard was selected to speak to the alums on “Women in Leadership,” commenting on the need to “pack your own parachute and jump it” which only a 20-year veteran skydiver such as Minard is could rightfully say.

From her professors at Northeastern, Minard learned to distill complicated ideas and communicate them simply, concisely, and clearly. She became adept at working in a variety of environments and as a member of a team. Minard was a four-year member of the Northeastern women’s crew team. To be a successful rower requires a flawless sense of what it means to function as a member of a team, and the ingrained discipline to continuously train for that role. The exacting demands of this form of competition were not lost on Minard. She applies these same standards to her life in the boardroom and on the road.

If you ask Minard what she does for fun, the answer is as likely to be “work hard” as it is running marathons, mountain climbing, skydiving, or riding her motorcycle. Think you might have trouble keeping up? Add this. Minard is on the road about 85% of the time. Want to make a bet that if Minard had been advising the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation at the time of her early gig, she might have arranged an investment committee meeting on Reagan’s Air Force One?

Minard’s career in the industry is a mosaic of skills and positions: Business development, managing teams, consultant relationships, client service, marketing and asset raising. Undergirding these seemingly disparate aspects of the global institutional asset management business is a profound understanding of how to communicate clearly and instill confidence. Minard has been to school to learn how to refine her communication, teamwork, and business engineering.

To Westover, Northeastern and the AIMSE/Wharton Institute, add a classroom at 17,000 feet. You aren’t the first person to think: “Now, that’s higher education.” Faculty and graduates of the Wharton Executive Management Program participate in high altitude treks where lessons about leadership are the goal. At 28,253 feet in altitude, Kanchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world and about as tough as a teacher can be. As a two-time Himalayan trekker and having summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Whitney, Half Dome in Yosemite Valley and others, Minard speaks from experience when she says that nature has no regard for position, title, or responsibility. That makes trekking a great leveler. The trekking experience itself, in concert with the more formal curriculum, conditions a leader to have inordinate respect for her team and to have a level head during times of high stress. In preparation for a trek like this, participants exercise both body and mind. When pre-reading more than 200 pages of philosophy and Eastern concepts, a philosophy minor like Minard may have an edge—but it is clearly not a time to rely on Cliff®™ notes.

Minard obviously values the applicability of experiences derived from travel, and not just adventure travel. Her advice to new graduates or anyone wanting to work in the investment management industry: Travel the world. Work at a variety of jobs. Think there is no relationship between being a docent in a museum and marketing a hedge fund? Think again. And what can skydiving with a group of people disclose about the risk tolerance of, say, an investment committee?

It is not much of a leap to understand, then, how Minard would come to become an advisory board member of the Professional Association of Investment Communications Resources (PAICR), a founding member and executive board member of the Association for Women in Alternative Investing (AWAI), and sit on numerous prestigious Advisory Boards, notably the World Pension Forum, Investment Management Institute, ProTrak International and the Westover School Endowment Investment Sub-Committee.

Minard has many times over received awards as a distinguished lecturer on hedge funds. She has been named “Non-Profit Marketer of the Year” (FEMM), the Wesley W. Marple Distinguished Lecturer at Northeastern University, is an Honored Member of Cambridge’s Who’s Who Among Executives (2005-2010), Cambridge’s Professional of the Year (2007-2010), and a featured speaker on CNBC. She is currently working on her first book.

0 Response

  1. Steve

    Thanks for the article. I can’t wait for RM’s book. I also hope she goes into teaching for higher education. That will be one lucky institution!