Thrive Global's Women Leading Finance 2019 Featuring Curated Fund of Fund, LP's Founder and Managing Partner
The following article was published on June 4, 2019. Read it below, or by following this link.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Higgins, JD MBA is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and fund of funds manager who has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, USA Today, Thrive Global, Newsweek and thousands of other publications. She created Curated Fund of Funds, LP in January of 2019, quickly amassing over $10M in assets under management in less than one month, which has generated over 15% annualized returns to date. Her investment strategy is to seek to generate attractive, absolute returns by opportunistically and tactically investing in areas where conventional sources of capital are disproportionately unavailable. Her fund of funds was formed to expand the spectrum of opportunities for investors seeking risk adjusted returns that are less correlated to other markets. For more information visit www.curateinvest.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
I’ve always taken an interest in complicated areas of business. Finding them, understanding them, and then breaking down the barriers to make these opportunities human, connecting and accessible to the average person, with special emphasis on helping women. I noticed that finance was one particular area in which most people disproportionately do not understand, and therefore, do not participate. My goal is to help change this.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
What comes to mind, for me, was overcoming my own biases with this industry. I always thought of finance as synonymous with the Wolf of Wallstreet, and the stories of the finance ‘boys club’. When I started my fund of funds I was quite terrified of harassment, discrimination, and a whole list of other issues. The first group I worked with was Charleston Capital Management, and the team was more polite and respectful than in the business world, and much more so than in the legal field. They truly respect people for their results, and couldn’t care less that I am a woman. I said “Wow, where here has this been my whole life!?” As silly as it seems, I went into finance and experienced the opposite of Wolf of Wallstreet. Maybe I got lucky.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
After the success of Fund I and II, I am now in the process of putting together Fund III with our investment strategy being to invest in and build businesses through leveraging our own intellectual capital. In basic English, we’re taking everything that we have learned as venture capitalists to build successful companies, and scaling it across businesses with similar features to clone our success over and over, which is very exciting.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am a female-owned business woman with a non-traditional background who leads with my core values. I come from marketing, law, data science and management consulting, which are all of the components — I believe — that make me able to understand the investment-worthiness of an asset, but few of which are the traditional finance background. However, understanding operational design, and the executability of teams and marketing strategies, lets me see investments from all directions, unlike the traditional finance pros who just audit the numbers. Above that, I care deeply about people and value personal connection, so I’m high-touch on any investment, but in a friendly and encouraging way that I don’t always see from VCs.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
The statistics continue to show rampant inequality. Ask me again when that changes.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?
This is a deeply rooted cultural issue that transcends gender alone. Inequality is about power dynamics. Those in power have to give some up in order for those not in power to achieve parity. The problem is, so many business professionals today are unwilling or unable to see the bigger picture in doing so. Those who do will have access to a whole new set of human capital. The startup world knows that innovation comes from outsiders. 1. Embrace the concept of open collaboration, i.e. 1+ 1 = a numerical equivalent of the intelligence and diversity in any room. 2. The best people and ideas for your business will come from outside of it, so begin seeking them out. 3. Watch what the power of what diversity does to improve your business and your returns. Otherwise, be eaten by the speed at which innovation impacts your industry. Innovation eats status quo for lunch.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
The traditional views of risk, and of investment-worthiness, are not evolving as our culture is. The financial collapse was only one example of this. Don’t believe the rules and standards just because they exist. They were created prior to the world we live in today. Instead, examine everything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is one particular mentor who always believed in me, and was responsible for my entrance into this space. I will not mention him by name because he chooses to avoid media attention, but I will recommend that you find someone who sees your value, believes in you unconditionally, and is more successful than you, and then follow whatever that person says so long as the advice aligns to your values. Even at the cost of that advise being wildly outside of your zone of comfort.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We honor the dream by doing the work.” — Cleo Wade
It was when I taught myself to absolutely fall in love with me, and believe that I will be my own best friend and companion, that I became this unstoppable, crazy, positive force that I am now. Dreams are a multiple of your time and relentless pursuit of them. Find your dream and honor it. A purpose-driven life is one that is very worthwhile.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Let’s all be kinder and gentler with each other. The end.
Thank you for joining us!