Mergers & Acquisitions names the 2021 PE Leaders in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, including Candice Richards, managing director and head of ESG and compliance officer for MidOcean Partners.

New York-based MidOcean, founded in 2003, specializes in middle-market private equity and alternative credit investments. In 2018, the firm closed on its fifth private equity firm at $1.2 billion. The PE part of the business focuses on the consumer and business services sectors. For example, in a deal announced in August, the firm acquired Louisiana Fish Fry, a producer of sauces, spices, seasonings, and marinades.

Candice Richards joined the firm as a compliance officer in 2013. Today, she is a managing director and serves as the firm’s head of ESG. Richards shared some insights with Mergers & Acquisitions in this Q&A:

What are the benefits of DEI in PE?
From a cultural perspective, a robust DEI platform can be transformative. An inclusive organization can communicate that each member’s experience, perspective and feedback is valued drives higher engagement, collaboration and problem-solving among teams. Communicating the importance of each member’s voice fosters trust, boosts morale and plays a role in the retention of top talent, which ultimately drives productivity (and hopefully performance). Additionally, a strong DEI platform showcases positive role models within the organization to potential employees. Individuals today want to work for an organization whose values align with theirs, whose initiatives are important to them, and where they can see a clear path for growth. From an attraction of talent perspective, a focus on DEI is essential today. We believe our industry has a responsibility to focus on making strides to advance DEI initiatives.

What steps are you taking to improve DEI at your portfolio companies?
We are actively engaged with our portfolio company senior executives and boards of directors to discuss broader ESG initiatives, inclusive of DEI. We recognize that each company is different, and we calibrate those initiatives in a manner that is authentic to each company and consistent with their brand, culture and customer base. To work toward making progress around those initiatives, we’ve integrated deal team ESG reviews into our ingoing investment monitoring process, and more recently, have introduced CEO and management team ESG workshops. An important component of our DEI program is expanding the composition of women and minority board and C-level executives at our portfolio companies. Every new hiring mandate must include diverse candidates, and we’ve been successful in expanding the number of highly talented women and minority executives to lead and advise our companies.

What measurable results have you and your firm achieved in DEI?
Since the beginning of 2020, we have increased representation of diversity at MidOcean with 33 percent of our hires being woman or minorities. We specifically focused on adding diversity at senior levels, where 43 percent of our hires at a VP level or above were diverse candidates. Additionally, as we added to our stable of world class operating partners, 40 percent of the executives we brought on were women. Lastly, 57 percent of the new board members we’ve appointed have been women or minorities.