For nearly two years, Kristi Craig has been the director for private investments at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., overseeing the $1.5 billion endowment’s private markets portfolio, including private equity and real assets. Ms. Craig has served as Senior Vice President of Business Development of the Small Business Investor Alliance and was also a Senior Investment Officer for the Small Business Investment Company Program before returning to Georgetown, her alma mater. Ms. Craig holds a BA in economics and is also a CFA charter holder. Ms. Craig sits on the board of the Capital City Public Charter School.
Ms. Craig was recently named on Trusted Insight’s ranked list of The Top 30 Most Influential Women In University Endowments. She graciously spoke with Trusted Insight on September 2. The following interview has been edited and condensed.
Trusted Insight: What to do you think about the number of women in the endowment space relative to other areas of business/finance, such as hedge funds?
Kristi Craig: It’s pretty good for endowments, especially by comparison. When I’m sitting at an endowment conference women probably make up one third or maybe even one half of the room. It’s very different at a conference that’s largely GPs or hedge funds. Then I’m usually just one of five women in the room and two of us are working the projector.
We meet with a lot of fund managers all day long. 95% of the time, they’re middle-aged guys. One day we met with two different funds, both of which had women attending. I was puzzled because within five minutes of the start of each meeting both women volunteered information about their childcare situation. One came right out and said, “My husband stays home with the kids.” They wanted to reassure us they would be devoted to managing the fund.
TI: How has your career path led you to become director for private investments at Georgetown?
KC: Well, I’m a Georgetown graduate. My degree is in economics from the College of Arts and Sciences. I went into a consulting position with Arthur Andersen right out of college -- three-quarters of what I did was economic and financial consulting. It was interesting, but nowhere I wanted to be for very long. I joined a startup leveraging transformational [technical] business models gaining traction in Latin America where I raised capital and discovered the world of VC, then went to another start up.
After the tech bubble burst, I joined the SBIC Program, a federal public-private investment program with $9 billion under management, where I led the manager selection effort and managed a small team. Primarily what we did was invest in lower middle market credit and buyout funds. I am proud of what we accomplished, but it was so narrowly focused on small business in the US. I wanted a broader platform; I wanted to expand my horizons. I’d met Michael Barry at the University of Maryland (currently Georgetown’s Chief Investment Officer) and joined the staff in October 2013.
TI: Has this position given you a broader focus?
KC: It’s been all that I expected. I’m learning a lot about different asset classes. There’s a lot to be said for being very deep in one space, but it’s fun and exciting to be on a small team with a portfolio that’s in a lot of different assets, geographies, etc.
TI: What is the biggest challenge to endowment investing right now?
KC: There’s a lot of capital out there. The best risk control is to buy well. And high private asset valuations are making that increasingly hard.
TI: Do you have a philosophy that guides your investments?
KC: I share a philosophical view about how to approach private markets with Michael Barry and the Board. We expect our private portfolio to compensate for illiquidity and we look for sectors and specific market opportunities where capital is in short supply relative to demand.
TI: Are there any accomplishments related to the portfolio since you’ve been here you’d like to mention?
KC: We sold [some sector exposures] when everyone else was buying them in June 2014 based on our observation that there was too much capital pouring in and the market wasn’t sustainable. Our investment philosophy pushed us in the right direction. We bought low and sold high.
TI: What do you find is the most engaging thing about your job?
KC: I’m always learning, going deep in different sectors. You just get to sit across the room from some of the smartest, most interesting people, people who have devoted their careers to investing in particular sectors or regions.
TI: What do you find to be one of the most gratifying things about your job?
KC: I’m a huge believer in the power of education and if our nation doesn’t get itself on track educating kids we’re going to be in trouble. My daily purpose is to help Georgetown provide scholarships and other resources to students. Georgetown is a needs-blind admission institution, meaning they provide substantial financial support each year.
To learn more about the powerful females of institutional investing, check out Trusted Insight's list of The Top 30 Most Influential Women In University Endowment Investing.