Up-and-Coming Women in Private Equity to Know: Rachel Hannon, Summit Park

April 1, 2019

The interview below is part of a new, yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity. This new profile series complements our existing Women Leaders in Private Equity profile series, which will continue throughout 2019. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at awalsh@mcguirewoods.com.

Rachel HannonRachel Hannon is a principal at Summit Park, a Charlotte, N.C.-based PE firm focused exclusively on the lower middle market. Hannon joined Summit Park in 2014 and leads the firm's business development and investor relations efforts. She is responsible for the firm's intermediary and direct sourcing strategy, investor development, and other firm operational initiatives. Prior to joining Summit Park, Hannon worked in consulting, legal operations and as an investment banking analyst at Harris Williams. She also serves as the president of the board of directors for ACG Charlotte and is a member of the Women's Impact Fund and on the leadership council of Children's Home Society of North Carolina. Hannon received her undergraduate degree from Washington & Lee University and received a master's degree from New York University.

Q: How did you end up on a PE career path and what do you enjoy most about private equity?

Rachel Hannon: I had an indirect path from investment banking to end up in a career in PE. After banking, I spent four years in a strategy and financial planning and analysis role at a global law firm. I then transitioned to pursue my master's degree from NYU where I studied nutrition and food policy, which is a passion of mine. I also worked with a food industry consulting firm while in graduate school. Upon moving to Charlotte, it was my network from investment banking that connected me to the founding partners of Summit Park.

I joined Summit Park as we were closing our first traditional fund and during a period when the firm really grew its team and processes. This presented an opportunity to leverage my past experiences and wear many hats to support the growth of our strategy and brand. The variety of work — including how we source opportunities, structure investments, recruit and retain talent and create value at our portfolio companies — continues to be challenging and rewarding every day. I have also enjoyed becoming more involved in our investor and fundraising efforts, including the closing of our third fund in August 2018.

Q: Who is an example of someone who encouraged you to pursue a career in PE and why?

RH: Two of my peers from my first job in investment banking have remained extremely influential in my life and supported me to pursue PE and navigate the various roles in the industry. We were the only three women in our analyst class, and we have tracked our respective careers over the years and supported each other through big professional and life changes. One is actually a current limited partner in Summit Park, which made our paths come full circle.

A handful of mentors that are a decade or so ahead of me in their careers have also been invaluable for advice and benchmarking. I had two of my three young children while working at Summit Park, and it is my hope that I can encourage other women to pursue a career in PE, especially during that period in life.

Q: What is a lesson you have learned concerning what's required for success in PE?

RH: I think an immensely important skill in the industry is the ability to develop a diverse network spanning experience levels. The ability to build relationships and be memorable to various stakeholders and decision makers goes a long way, from sourcing an opportunity, to closing an investment, to recruiting management teams. Marrying this skill with the ability to bring an organized approach and discipline to block and tackle the most important initiatives is invaluable. Summit Park is very focused on the emotional intelligence of its leaders, and I think one's emotional quotient plays a pivotal role in success.

Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?

RH: One thing I love about PE is the variety of careers it creates. I think it is important to have more women, and more diversity of backgrounds and experiences in general, across roles internally at PE firms as well as in the C-suite leadership and on the boards of directors at portfolio companies. Summit Park recently hired our first female CEO, which is very exciting. My hope is that women continue to pursue these jobs and, more importantly, know about these jobs. I think it relates back to the network effect and ensuring that women are included in the right networks and know how to set themselves up for consideration and ultimately success.

To contact Hannon, email rhannon@summitparkllc.com.

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