Finance may have a reputation for being a suit-and-tie industry, but Torrey Feimster is much more comfortable keeping it casual. In fact, a laid-back dress code is one of the things that attracted him to the investment firm Global Endowment Management (GEM), where he currently works as the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advocacy.
Of course, that wasn’t the biggest draw. More significant was the chance to work at a small firm where employees have a voice. “I’ve worked at organizations of all sizes and have realized the tremendous benefits that smaller firms provide,” he says. “The work environment at GEM is small enough that it allows for meaningful interaction with the partners and senior leaders. Having a voice and being visible empowers employees to become critical decision-makers, and it helps build trusting relationships that support a culture of belonging.”
Recently, Feimster was empowered to take on the role of Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advocacy. “I am incredibly fortunate to have the buy-in of our partners, HR, and senior management,” he says. “But more importantly, I’m grateful to work with colleagues and teammates who are supportive and willing to participate in and contribute to our DE&I program.”
Here, he shares more about GEM’s new DE&I initiatives, how the company supports growth and development, and its “culture add” approach to hiring.
Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at GEM.
There is one word that best describes my career journey: eclectic. Even though I’ve had unique experiences working in a variety of sectors such as corporate America, higher education, and small business, my primary role has always centered on sales, business development, and client relations. When I was approximately 10 years out of college and working as a financial advisor, I developed an extreme interest (some say obsession) in institutional investing after being exposed to the industry.
As you can imagine, it’s difficult to break into that field if you aren’t on that trajectory as an undergraduate student. I stopped pursuing that career path until I met one of the GEM partners several years ago while working at a university where he was on the Board of Trustees. The passion reignited, and eight years later, the rest is history. I'm grateful that GEM gave me an opportunity. The firm embraced me as a non-traditional investment professional and had confidence in my ability to add value to the firm.
How does GEM encourage growth and development among its employees?
GEM recognizes that its people are an invaluable asset. The firm values professional growth and personal development because they are closely connected to job satisfaction and help prepare employees for advancement, learning, expansion of their skill sets, and overall growth. GEM provides employees with opportunities to further their education, whether on-the-job training or through certifications, designations, or attendance at workshops and conferences related to an individual’s responsibilities. For example, many of our investment analysts enroll in Training the Street’s Financial Modeling and Corporate Valuation course and pursue a CFA designation.
GEM has encouraged my growth and development in each position I’ve held at the firm. I’ve completed Level One of CAIA, received executive coaching, completed a Capital Markets Certification, and achieved a Certified Diversity designation over the last eight years.
Tell us about your previous position at GEM as an associate of legacy investments.
Our firm’s business model is to manage our client’s financial assets on a fully discretionary basis within a pooled structure. Our clients, who are majority mission-aligned, entrust us dearly with their capital. When we onboard new clients, we have them sell their current liquid investments so we can redeploy the proceeds in our pool of investments. We call the investments that aren’t readily liquidated “legacy” assets, which are typically financial interests held in private equity, private credit, and private real asset funds.
Historically, these “outside” assets were in our periphery until 2014, when we launched a formal Legacy Oversight Program that offers our clients the opportunity to transfer the interest in their legacy assets to a holdings entity at GEM so that we can provide better oversight as fiduciaries. I was responsible for monitoring the assets in the program, which includes establishing relationships with legacy managers in regards to portfolio management, providing analysis to determine when to pursue secondary sale opportunities; working with our Fund Operations team to optimize how we track, save, and report cash flows; and reporting and reviewing the valuation processes and procedures of the legacy managers.
You recently took on a new role as Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advocacy. What are you responsible for?
I support firm-wide initiatives that support and maintain a diverse and inclusive culture, and position the firm as a DE&I thought leader in our industry. These initiatives connect to four areas outlined in the firm’s DE&I strategic plan: education, outreach, recruiting, and business development. I work with various business units, such as Human Capital, Manager Sourcing, and Investor Services, to evaluate internal policies and procedures and ensure understanding and awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a dynamic strategy for business success. For example, I manage the firm’s relationship with the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC), which is a trade association that serves the largest network of diverse-owned private equity firms. Through this partnership, we will continue to expand our pipeline of investment managers.
How does GEM hire with diversity in mind?
We hire for culture “add” rather than culture “fit,” which I believe is not the norm for many firms. The downside to hiring for cultural fit is that it may negatively impact diversity hiring efforts and has been shown to lead to a more homogeneous workforce. Hiring for cultural fit runs the risk of introducing bias in the hiring process. The culture add approach supports our desire to search for candidates who can bring something new to our firm, thrive in our work environment today, and help us become a more dynamic and innovative firm in the future.
We’ve become more active in our hiring practices by integrating diversity into our brand as an employer through partnerships with national career, recruiting, and employer platforms that serve a diverse population of job seekers and promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We believe that by building our employer brand and being intentional about sourcing candidates from platforms and organizations focused on diversity, we will attract more diverse candidates.
What other diversity and inclusion initiatives does GEM offer its employees?
Our firm does a great job facilitating firm-wide initiatives that help create an inclusive culture. Activities range from the simple art of celebrating birthdays and service anniversaries to team-building retreats to community outreach.
There are a couple of new initiatives that I’d like to highlight. First, we launched an internal speaker series called “Food for Thought,” a platform for our employees to listen to and have conversations with local leaders from various sectors that go above and beyond to build better communities. Second, we recently conducted open dialogue sessions that allowed our employees to discuss the current racial discourse in our country. The purpose of this gathering is to learn and grow through listening and sharing with other colleagues.
In addition to these conversations, GEM will provide all employees an opportunity to participate in a series of race equity workshops facilitated by a national organization that addresses racism from a historical and institutional perspective. I am inspired to see such a high level of interest and such a strong desire to become more aware of this issue by the firm and my colleagues.