Nishita Cummings, partner, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, is one of 36 dealmakers named in Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. Click here for the full list. This year, we asked the dealmakers to tell their stories in their own voices through Q&As.
How did you get into dealmaking?
Early in my career I worked across several strategies ranging from a long-only value public hedge fund to microfinance in emerging markets. However, what ultimately drew me to growth equity was the confluence of finance, technology, and strategy. Investing in management teams has always been my passion but working with and creating value in businesses is what drives me.
How has a mentor helped your career?
Ric Kayne has been an exceptional mentor; he has taught me three key things that have impacted my career: 1) develop a core investment thesis that targets niche segments where you have a sourcing and knowledge advantage, 2) always hire great people that are smarter than you, and 3) develop a culture that empowers those people to execute. Doing these three things does not guarantee success, but not doing them almost guarantees failure.
What is your current role?
I am partner in Kayne Anderson’s growth equity activities. I am intimately involved in the sourcing, execution, of portfolio companies, but my career on also involves thinking about the future and next evolution of our fund. To date I have been instrumental in scaling our fund from zero to $700 in AUM, building a team of 14 professionals with a focus on diversity (over 50% of our team members are women), and completing 25+ transactions.
Describe your influence on the middle market.
Through our proprietary sourcing model, we are able to be involved in companies at earlier stages than our counterparts. We become integral to their strategic initiatives and help them grow into leading middle market companies that are changing their respective industries. We invested in a company called Conservice in 2011, the company grew its top and bottom line nearly 300%, employed thousands of people, and became a game changer in the real estate technology world – it is a great example of our spirit of partnership.
Describe a recent deal.
I recently led our investment in Circle Cardiovascular Imaging. Circle’s software enables doctors to review and analyze cardiac imaging more effectively and efficiently so that physicians can spend more time providing value-based care, a current revolutionary theme in the healthcare market. This company embodies the continued trend of technology augmenting healthcare by solving complicated problems. It’s also a model investment: demonstrable ROI to the end user, proven management team, and a highly scalable business model.
Describe a challenge your overcame.
Starting a private equity fund is very hard to do. Having been part of the growth equity strategy here since its inception in 2010, I’ve lived through all of the struggles: fundraising for a new vintage, the high-wire act of investing in your first companies which need to succeed and attracting talent to a startup. We overcame all of these by defining a clear strategy and had the right team in place to execute. Ultimately people are everything.
How do you support women?
To start with, I focus on our fund, and ensure that our fund is focused on developing female investment professionals. In an industry where less than 20% are women, we are at 50% female professionals. Beyond that, I serve as a mentor to women in college looking to build a career in finance, and regularly speak on campus to be a resource to an even broader population of women interested in this world.
What is your advice for women?
To quote Steve Martin, “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.” The harsh reality is that this is still a male dominated world, so to succeed, you need to be better than your male counterparts. That doesn’t mean you cannot achieve balance – I have a family, a life outside of work, and a career I’m proud of. Don’t compromise, make your voice heard, and know that hard work is the great equalizer.
When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?
Outside of work, my passions are cooking and traveling. Cooking is therapeutic for me and after spending a day working through a complicated transaction or a long week of travel, cooking helps my family and me unwind and spend time with one another. Traveling has always been important to me for there is a lot to learn outside of our everyday lives, and I love immersing myself with new people, foods, and cultures.
What other career path might you have chosen?
Well if my parents had their way I would have been a surgeon or an engineer (I studied biomedical engineering), but the business world has always been more interesting to me. If I was not an investor I would likely ended up working at a company like those I invest in. Building businesses from within is just as interesting to me, albeit a much different job. If not that, being a food critic would be a close second!