The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to
profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous
click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at
Anne Marie DeMent is a co-founder and partner of Excelsior Energy Capital and
a member of the firm's investment committee. She brings more than 10 years
of experience in traditional and renewable energy mergers and acquisitions
transactions, including leading more than $5 billion in wind and solar
transactions. DeMent most recently served as managing director, and before
that, assistant general counsel, at TerraForm Power. Prior to TerraForm
Power, she started her career at Jones Day in the PE and mergers and
acquisitions groups and then moved to Bracewell to further specialize in
energy finance and acquisitions transactions. DeMent received her JD from
Georgetown University Law Center and her BA from Franciscan University.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Anne Marie DeMent:
I came to PE circuitously, via the industry of renewable energy. I was
initially drawn to energy more generally when I was practicing law, as I
found that energy industry transactions were rarely cookie-cutter. Every
transaction was alive and required bespoke solutions, given the evolving
political and social climates impacting energy decisions. From there, I had
the fortune of moving to a renewable power company that the team helped
bring public. I witnessed the pros and cons of a public vehicle — the
convenience and value of liquidity and the difficulties with managing to
quarterly earnings and public sentiment. Upon the sale of this public
company, my now-partners and I launched Excelsior Energy Capital, a
pure-play renewable energy infrastructure fund. We decided to go the PE
route because we saw a need in the North American renewable market to
connect institutional capital with a complex but high-in-demand asset
We have seen a tremendous appetite from institutional investors from all
around the world for North American renewables, given the long-term
contracted nature of the assets, the consistent rule of law and strong
solar and wind resources throughout the region. However, given the tiered
regulatory schemes (federal, state, local) and the various federal and
state incentive programs for renewables, it is often difficult for large
institutional investors to effectively compete and acquire these assets.
The renewables market moves quickly, and sellers are looking for certainty
of execution. The PE model allows Excelsior to be the on-the-ground experts
for our institutional investors, moving efficiently, all while providing
certainty of execution to sellers and financing partners.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
As a starting point for this topic, I think it is critical to state a
truism: Every woman and every man is unique. Consequently, any career
discussions on women as a whole should be, in my opinion, ultimately geared
toward creating opportunity for each person to be uniquely themselves,
regardless of gender.
With that backdrop in place, when I think of women in PE, the first thing
that comes to mind is that most of us have a shared experience of being the
only woman in a sea of men in meetings. PE has been and continues to be
very homogenous. Expanding the diversity of experience that drives this
industry will, in my opinion, create safeguards against myopic group-think,
and ultimately provide better value and returns to investors. Diversity is
not just about gender, but gender is a good starting point for the
discussion because roughly 50 percent of the world’s population is female,
and the obvious lack of female presence in PE is an easy indicator that
something is amiss in creating a space where diversity can flourish.
There is a natural tendency to gravitate toward like-minded,
like-experienced individuals. And this is fine and good if you are talking
about your closest friends who will always tell you that you are perfect
after a massive failure. But when you are a PE fund, responsible for
safeguarding your investors’ capital and creating alpha, homogenous
thinking creates blind spots and a precarious sense of certainty built off
mirrored validation. It is critical as fund managers that we persistently
question our own assumptions. In my view, the best way to do this is to
create a team that comes from all different walks of life, gender
experiences, ethnicities and beyond. This often creates painful discussions
as we grow outside of our individual sense of reality and preconceived
notions of risk and reward. But the result is invaluable. Women, we need
your voices in PE!
Q: Do you think there are any benefits to being a women in PE?
Typically, the conversation about being a woman in PE focuses around the
downsides or challenges, but I like this question because I think there is
always unique opportunity born out of challenges. I have found that being a
minority in a male-dominated industry has opened the door to an incredible
network of women who have shared experiences and are committed to helping
create a world that is more attractive and conducive to women and other
I recently became a member of PEWIN (Private Equity Women Investor
Network), which is a group of women who are not only there to support each
other in current business opportunities, but who are also looking to more
broadly create a world where young women and girls have exposure to the
world of PE and to carve pathways for them to follow, if they care to do
so. Recently, one woman at a PEWIN event wondered what her life would have
looked like if, as a young associate at a PE firm, she was exposed to women
in decision-making roles in PE that were willing to share their experiences
and what it means to be and thrive as a woman in the industry. The fact
that there is now a critical mass of female decision-makers in PE who want
to share their experiences with and sponsor the next generation is
I also have been fortunate to be involved with Kayo, which is an
organization that puts on women-focused conferences. Of important note is
the PE conference held in the fall that attracts a wide range of limited
partners (LPs) and general partners. The atmosphere I find at both PEWIN
and Kayo events is similar. It is one of connectedness, authenticity and
genuine desire to find ways to work together, lift each other up and pave
the way for future generations of women and other minorities.
Q: What do you look for in partners in your business — partners on the
LP side as well as partners when you make investments? Does gender
diversity come into play?
We first and foremost look to find partners, whether on the LP or
investment side, who think long term and view the partnership as a long
game. The core strategy of our business is aggregating middle-market solar
and wind assets with long-term contracted cash flows — ultimately building
a portfolio that can be optimized during our fund’s hold period with
intention to sell at premium at the time of exit. Critical to this strategy
is surrounding ourselves and our assets with long-term partners. In any
partnership, some days you are up, and some days you are down, but real
partnership is not to grab the last cent when you are up and to, in turn,
know your partner is not there to grab the last cent when you are down. The
goal is to collectively all win together, and so we look for partners who
have that long-term view and are looking to take the ride together.
As noted above, I and my co-founders view diversity as a critical component
to ensuring healthy, well-rounded vetting of thoughts, assumptions and
investments. This does not apply just to internal hiring, but also to our
partnerships on the debt and tax equity side as well as in our LP base. We
are fortunate to have incredible female leadership with many of our current
partners, and we look to continue that trend.
To contact DeMent, email email@example.com.