Natalie Kelly is a Portfolio Manager on the Co-investment Team within APG’s Global Private Equity practice based in New York. Natalie is also a participant with LEAP™ (Leadership & Executive Acceleration Program).
Natalie reveals to IIBN that APG provides financial services for pension funds in the Netherlands and seeks to maximize the pension value of its clients while making responsible and sustainable investments. APG is one of the largest active pension investors in the world, managing €512 billion (April 2020) in pension assets and investing across the public equity, fixed income, and alternative investments markets globally. APG serves over 22,000 employers across a variety of public and private sectors, including education, government, construction, cleaning, healthcare, and architecture, and provides the pension for one in five families in the Netherlands (approximately 4.5 million participants).
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
I joined APG in 2015 and am a Portfolio Manager on the Co-investment Team within APG’s Global Private Equity practice based in New York. The Co-investment Team was formed in 2014 to benefit from the investment opportunities originating from the growing number of APG’s primary private equity fund relationships. My role on the Co-Investment Team is to make direct equity investments in buyout transactions of private companies alongside APG’s numerous private equity partners. As such, I am responsible for performing diligence and analysis to assist in the selection process for potential investment opportunities, as well as monitoring the performance of those investments. Our team consists of ten investment professionals investing globally across all sectors. Our objective is to optimize exposure to high- quality private equity assets that generate attractive returns for our clients, and we proactively seek opportunities that fulfil UN Sustainable Development Goals.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
The private equity industry currently has a record amount of capital to deploy and the challenge is to find high-quality assets at attractive prices despite the increased competitive environment. This entails developing strong relationships with top-performing private equity fund partners and conducting comprehensive diligence on investments we evaluate.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
ESG, which stands for “Environmental, Social, and Governance”, has become an important criteria for private equity investing. Investors are focused on making investments that are both responsible and sustainable and are incorporating ESG into the due diligence process of evaluating investments. More importantly, ESG has become a critical part of portfolio monitoring. At APG we work with our partners to set clear ESG goals and priorities for each of our investments, and regularly monitor and track key metrics such as carbon emissions and diversity initiatives.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
I would like to continue to see increased diversity in the makeup of the professionals in my industry, especially in terms of gender diversity. Within the general private equity industry, women still comprise a minority of senior positions. I am fortunate to work at a firm like APG, where diversity is recognized and appreciated. I am a member of the APG Women’s Forum, which focuses on providing a supportive community and professional development opportunities for APG’s female professionals. Over my career, I have continued to see improvement in this area, but believe there is still room to go.
What are your biggest challenges?
A large part of my role entails presenting investment recommendations to senior members of our firm. As such, I am focused on continually developing strong investment judgment and effective communication skills. Additionally, as a Portfolio Manager, I mentor and oversee several associates on the team. Another personal challenge, therefore, is to enhance my managerial skills in order to lead teams more successfully and support the development of the associates.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
I define success in several different ways. From a professional standpoint, it is achieving the goals and objectives set out by my team and manager, such as outperforming our benchmarks as it relates to the outcome of investments and continuing to develop my professional skillset. From a personal standpoint, it is being passionate about the work I do and to always be challenging myself to take on new responsibilities and learn new things.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
First and foremost, given the importance of building relationships both within an organization and with external stakeholders, it is critical to demonstrate integrity in all that you do. Additionally, something I learned from my first job as an investment banking analyst and which I continue to believe today is that, while the relevant technical skills are indeed necessary and important, a positive attitude, willingness to learn, and strong work ethic are what leads a person to be successful and helps he or she stand out from the crowd.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Our team has continued to grow in size and scale and we successfully deployed €1 billion across 10 investments last year. This compares to our first year of investing in 2015 where we deployed less than €200mm in 3 deals. This has demonstrated the successful platform we have built over the past five years and the relationships we have developed.
What’s next for your company?
We are living through a unique time right now with COVID-19. Since March, APG has transitioned its employees to work entirely remotely, which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Over the past three months and going forward, APG will continue to focus on supporting its employees in this new environment while continuing to pursue its objective of finding high quality investments on behalf of the Dutch pension funds we serve. While there is a lot of uncertainty in the market right now, we believe this will lead to unique investment opportunities. We have already started to see these opportunities appear and APG is prepared and well-positioned to get involved.