The interview below is part of a new, yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity. To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey Wittelsberger is a senior vice president with Patriot Capital, a junior capital fund based in Baltimore, with additional offices in Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. Patriot is currently investing out of its fifth fund to date, which is $315 million. Since joining Patriot in 2010, Wittelsberger has focused on deal origination, execution, portfolio management and fundraising. Prior to Patriot, she worked in securitization finance for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Wittelsberger received a B.S. in finance from Virginia Tech and an MBA from the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland.
Q: Who is an example of someone who inspired you in PE and why?
An example of someone who has inspired me in my PE career to date is the
former president of one of our prior portfolio companies that specialized
in the production and design of wireless antennas. She started the company
with her husband in 1997 during a time in which female CEOs made up less
than 0.5 percent of all Fortune 500 companies. Her financial acumen,
integrity, positive attitude and democratic leadership style were some of
the key drivers of the company's success and our ultimately strong
investment outcome. Not only did the company encounter many challenges
during her time as president, but she faced struggles in her family and
personal life that alone would be enough to distract any good leader. She
comes from a very humble upbringing and worked very hard to get where she
is today. Since selling the company, she hasn't taken her foot off the gas
and has started a new venture: an internet service provider currently
serving the Mid-Atlantic region. She has inspired me not only in my
professional life but also to be a better person, partner, mother,
colleague and friend.
Q: What is a goal that you have set for yourself in the coming year?
A goal that I have set for myself in 2019 is to complete a new investment
in the healthcare services industry. While we are generalists and have
historically taken a diversified industry investing approach, we also view
healthcare as an area of strength in our prior and current investment
portfolio. Healthcare as an end market offers a number of different
positive attributes from an investment perspective: significant component
of overall GDP, ability to make a difference (double bottom line), market
fragmentation, compelling demographic trends making healthcare services
ever more important and, finally, the diversification across the various
A secondary goal would be a more concerted effort to work with women. I
look forward to more opportunities to invest in female-run companies, build
relationships with female limited partners for our fund, recruit women for
our firm or invest alongside other females in PE.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
For investments, we look at each opportunity with a holistic perspective;
from the viewpoints of the key internal and external stakeholders — the
suppliers, consumers/customers, employees, government, etc. Our firm is
made up of an awesome group of individuals of varying backgrounds,
including both operational and financial. This, in my opinion, gives us an
edge in our analysis, but I would love to see more women around the table —
a desire which is shared across our firm.
For us and the industry as a whole, if our firms aren't diversified in all
aspects, including gender, how can we be sure all perspectives, especially
that of half the population, have been considered? Women just look at
things a different way than men, a characteristic I believe to be
invaluable in decision-making.
Q: What attracted you to PE and what also concerned you about this
chosen career path?
What attracted me most to PE was the opportunity to experience the variety
of businesses that exist in this day and age. Each day offers a new concept
ranging from a restaurant franchise to a manufacturer of plastic parts for
industrial applications to a multi-unit, specialized physician practice. I
am constantly learning and being challenged in this role and business,
which is not something that can be said for many career paths.
In addition, I truly enjoy and am motivated by the time spent with company
founders and management teams, hearing how they built their businesses from
day one and working alongside them in the decisions they face on a daily
basis. The relationship building that takes place over the three- to
10-year period that you are active with a company is very unique and
something I treasure. Some of my closest friends are people I have met in
my PE role, including my colleagues.
One thing that potentially concerned me about this chosen career path, and
I still view as an area for improvement, is the lack of diversity in this
industry. Nearly 50 percent of the world's population is female; the last
figures I saw, while improving, stated the percentage of women in PE was
less than 20 percent. I became a mother for the first time in 2018, to a
little girl, and can only hope that when she begins her career search down
the road, the female representation in PE and other careers won't ever be
viewed as a hurdle for her. Continuing female-focused recruiting efforts
and fostering strong mentor-mentee relationships are two ways we, as an
industry, can improve this statistic.
To contact Stacey, email email@example.com.