Words by Nada Abdelrahim
Visuals by Felton Kizer
A Female Boss in Chicago’s Private Equity World
A self-proclaimed regular woman from a small town, Kristina Heinze is actually anything but that.
As the co-founder and partner at ParkerGale Capital, a private equity firm based in Chicago focused on buyouts of profitable founder-owned technology businesses, Heinze got her start after graduating with a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois. Her first job was in investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston, but her move to William Blair Capital Partners in 2003 became her official first step into the private equity world.
Chicago Growth Partners grew from this major transition and it is where she spent 11 years moving up in the company from Associate to Principal. It was in 2014 that Heinze and her four co-founders decided to start ParkerGale. Starting a firm and building a team and culture that she is proud of was “not an easy task,” she says. However, Heinze believes her partners are the best in the business and is proud of the way they have been able to accomplish the milestones they set out to complete.
In an industry like private equity, one that has existed for quite some time and is an umbrella market of players, ParkerGale is considered a small one, with a fund of $240 million for investing. It is also an industry where less than 9% of senior professionals are female (though that number is probably more like 5%). Heinze knows she is a rarity in the private equity world because of her gender identity. In this world, whether male or female, Heinze says the biggest obstacle on the road to success is prioritizing your professional life over your personal life. For her, this lesson showed in her decision to not have children until becoming a senior member, in order to build her professional foundation.
For her, it was important that she maintained her reputation as a reliable and dependable career woman, who was able to take on any task and make sure it was done right. “I worked long hours, traveled all the time for my job and made my career a priority,” she recalls.
Even now she still travels almost weekly and continues to work hard because that’s just the nature of the beast. She’s grateful for her husband, who is understanding and supports her in her work, while also taking an active role in their family structure to be available at times when she cannot.
Simply put, Heinze loves what she does. These last three and a half years have been the most exciting moments of her career. She wakes up for work excited and even on super early mornings (sometimes as early as 3 a.m. when travelling), she knows the least glamorous parts of her job are just segues for a career that is never dull, and full of challenges she is always ready to take on.
For other young women who aspire to join the private equity field, but feel intimidated, Heinze says, “GO FOR IT. You can do it just as good as a man can.”
According to her, women see the world and value risk/reward differently than men, which is good for investors because it introduces the opportunity for a different perspective, which could increase the company’s performance.
She hopes that by serving on committees for organizations like Private Equity Women Investor Network (PEWIN), more young women will become educated on what private equity is and why she believes it’s such an amazing and rewarding career path.
ParkerGale has bought one female-led business so far, and Heinze says there is always a conversation happening within the company about finding more women-led businesses to invest in. As an investor looking for a company, she says it’s important to stay true to yourself and be friendly, transparent, and honest.
She says that the founders of these companies want to sell their businesses, but they also care about who their employees are going to work for. Heinze provides them with comfort that she and the team at ParkerGale are going to take care of the business they built.
With all the great work Heinze has been doing at ParkerGale, she was named an emerging leader by M&A in 2016 and says accolades like this are a “nice perk of working hard and knowing that others see it too.” Her drive, though, is something she’s had since a little girl, and at the end of the day, she does not need recognition to keep her going.
With the stress that comes from a job in private equity Heinze says she needs hobbies like exercising and lifting weights to avoid becoming a “basket case.” She also loves playing with her kids and their dog, and says that solving crossword puzzles is “always a go to stress reliever.”
When asked to give advice for young women trying to reach their goals she said, “NEVER give up. Plain and simple. You are in charge of your destiny and how and when you will reach your goals…You have to just keep going when you feel stuck. You will get there.”