Elizabeth Burgess, a partner at Bridges Fund Management, describes two “light switch” moments in her career. The first was flipped after working for 15 years in commercial lending and then sponsored finance, providing loans for buyouts by private equity firms.
At that point, it dawned on her that she would rather work on the PE side of the fence. “Being over on the investing side, determining the strategy, running the company,” she says, “is far more interesting than just deciding whether I want to extend a loan and how that loan will get paid back.”
Her second eureka moment came after working for 16 years at Altus Capital Partners and its predecessor, Max Capital. Burgess was a founding partner of Altus, a middle market buyout specialist focused on lower middle market manufacturing, and she and her partners successfully raised and invested two funds.
It was then that she realized she could make the move into private equity ESG—investing in accord with environmental, social and governance objectives. There was an opportunity, she recognized, to use her lending and investing skills to help entrepreneurs with social and sustainability goals grow their businesses—especially in the lower middle-market.
Recalls Burgess: “It really was kind of a light that came on, saying you can do this with companies that are providing services that are needed by society and help elevate their ESG goals.” There were ample opportunities, she says, to invest in areas like clean energy and environmental services; healthcare services for the elderly and education solutions for the inner city, among many other worthwhile endeavors.
So, in February 2017, Burgess joined Bridges, which has just under $1 billion under management, all in ESG funds. She heads the U.S. Sustainable Growth Fund, which targets socially-conscious companies with Ebitda between $1 million and $5 million.
Burgess has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh and an MBA from the Columbia University School of Business.