Interview with Susan Balloch by Inspirational Women Series
Susan Balloch has over 25 years of experience in the investment industry, most recently focusing on social impact investing. Susan is a Managing Director of Golden Seeds, an angel investing group focused on driving capital to women entrepreneurs by investing in their early stage companies. Prior to this, Susan was the Chief Operating Officer of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). While in this leadership role the GIIN doubled in size. Susan was responsible for helping to guide and execute strategic decisions while overseeing the management of key GIIN programs. Moreover, she has experience in traditional finance having held positions at The Blackstone Group where she was an Executive Director of Private Equity, and at Credit Suisse where she was the Co-Chief Operating Officer of the Investment Banking Group. Earlier in her career, Susan was a Managing Director at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette where she worked for over 15 years focusing on mergers and acquisitions and debt and equity financings, and later in operating management roles. Susan holds a BS in International Economics from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
You are the Chief Operating Officer at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). How did you come to join GIIN?
My background is in traditional finance. I was an investment banker for many years and then involved in the private equity world. I also had experience in management roles and took on the COO role in the investment banking divisions at a couple of large financial institutions. I began to make the transition to working on issues that had had a social good side of them when I joined Golden Seeds. Golden Seeds is an angel investing group that invests in women founded, owned or managed start up companies. The idea behind Golden Seeds is to provide capital to women who are starting businesses because women have substantially less access to capital at this phase.
Back to how I got to the GIIN—while working with Golden Seeds, I decided to look for opportunities to continue to use my investment and management skills while working in a social and/or environmentally good area. Someone told me about impact investing. It fit my interests almost perfectly. The GIIN was a great opportunity to contribute to impact investing through the industry group and to grow a business as the COO.
What are some key programs you have developed and led?
I led several groups at the GIIN: most notably the membership team and the IRIS/impact measurement team. During my time at the GIIN, the membership team took on some complex topics that many of the members thought were slowing down the development of impact investing. One of the most notable of these was to form a working group of members and explore whether a holding company structure would better suit an impact investing portfolio. The IRIS/impact measurement team was very focused on working towards developing metrics to measure the impact of an investment or portfolio of investments.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities the field of impact investing faces going forward?
I see two big challenges that impact investing faces. First, is the need for more experienced people with private equity investment experience. Although more people are coming into the impact investing, there aren’t many people with substantial PE experience.
The second big challenge is measuring impact. Right now, investors do this in many different ways but there is no standard or consistent way of measuring impact. Therefore, investors can’t compare one investment to another. The GIIN, along with a number of notable institutions, are working hard on this.
You also serve as the Managing Director at Golden Seeds. Can you share some of your experiences at Golden Seeds and your most valuable memories here?
At Golden Seeds, I really like working with the entrepreneurs. They are enthusiastic and passionate about the businesses they have started. They have found a problem that they are trying to solve. It’s exciting to be working with these highly motivated and talented women.
On a personal level, why does women’s empowerment matter to you?
As a woman, I have fortunate enough to have opportunities to build my career and be able to make decisions that allowed for me to have a family. I would like to see all women be able to make the choices that best suit them and given the same level of support as men so that they can build their own careers and families without adhering to traditional gender roles.
What are your favorite books, films, websites and resources related to international development and/or business?
I really admire and like to read Malcolm Gladwell’s books. One of my favorites is Outliers. He manages to provide a very interesting perspective to long term trends based on a critical analysis of people’s behavior.
In addition, I think it is important to stay current on the start-up world and read Tech Crunch. For news in impact investing, there is a new daily e-newsletter, the Impact Alpha, which I think is excellent.