The change agent
Jocelyn Cortez-Young is transforming Latin American companies and communities through smart investing
In mid-December, as Chile’s presidential race came down to two women, Jocelyn Cortez-Young ’07 realized something: This was history in the making.
“We’re about to have four female presidents in ‘Lat Am.’ Four!” says Cortez-Young, alluding to Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica. “So gender parity is certainly showing in the public sector. And I think it’s eventually going to show in the private sector.”
That’s precisely the shift this New York native is working toward at Minerva Capital Group, a Miami-based impact investment firm that focuses on achieving fiscal returns while driving social change in Latin America. As the firm’s founder and CEO, Cortez-Young is particularly interested in advancing the careers of women and underrepresented populations — two issues that the 15-year finance veteran identified while building Goldman Sachs’ Brazilian and Mexican operations, developing Latin American trading strategies at Credit Suisse First Boston and serving as senior head of capital markets for Citigroup Private Bank in Latin America.
Cortez-Young’s experience makes her a savvy investor, one who navigates opportunities and mitigates risk by keeping “boots on the ground” while closely monitoring social, cultural and economic shifts throughout Latin America.
“You need to know what’s flourishing and what’s not,” she explains. “You need to be aware of events that are happening, like the World Cup or the presidential election, because that tells you something [about where to invest]. You need to know the differences between, for instance, running a business and closing a transaction in Mexico versus Brazil.”
That intimate understanding helps Cortez-Young know when to seize or pull back from investment opportunities. More recently, the firm was motivated to invest in Mexican companies after observing six years of consecutive growth in the country’s GDP. Many of these companies make up Minerva’s latest fund, which is projected at $250 million.
Another key to Minerva’s success is “being sector-agnostic,” Cortez-Young explains. “We focus on plain, vanilla, regular companies that need access to capital and which, through our terms, conditions and guidelines, end up growing and understanding [the impact] of a social component.” Minerva’s guidelines include maintaining a management team that’s 20 percent female and providing 20 hours of training to employees each quarter.
“This is unusual for the industry,” says Cortez-Young, “because these guidelines are typically a ‘nice to have.’ For us, it’s a front-and-center focus.”
Cortez-Young hopes that, as more investors observe the impact of a double bottom line on companies and communities, that mindset will shift.
“There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of all invention,” she says. “That’s what we’re implementing today. We’re effecting change through investment.”