Our Stories

Kelly Smith: Investing in Her Own Success

Motivated self-starter finds a firm that matches her personality

Kelly Smith
Private Equity Associate, Global Endowment Management, Charlotte, NC

Vanderbilt MS Finance 2013

Global Endowment Management (GEM) seems like exactly the kind of place where Kelly Smith hoped to wind up after earning her MS Finance degree from Vanderbilt. Colleagues, she says, would describe her as “motivated, ambitious, efficient and intellectually curious.” Those words might also describe the culture of the relatively young firm in Charlotte, where Kelly monitors existing investments for clients and underwrites new ones in the private equity and venture capital spaces.

“I am lucky enough,” she says, “to be part of an organization with an entrepreneurial culture that fosters my professional development and gives me a significant amount of autonomy in a fast-paced, evolving environment.”

After a post-graduation position as a private investment analyst with UNC Management Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she was part of a team that oversaw the university’s portfolio, Kelly joined GEM in December 2014. In less than two and a half years, she was promoted twice, from analyst to senior analyst and then to associate.

In many ways, she says in looking back, Vanderbilt prepared her for these opportunities beyond the technical skills she learned. “Many of our group projects were open-ended assignments,” Kelly recalls. “They had a goal but no steps on how to get there. That fostered our creativity and problem-solving skills while teaching us how to work within a team—which is more reflective of what you’ll encounter in the workplace.”

Looking forward, Kelly is on track for her longer-term goals, which remain unchanged since her time at Vanderbilt. “I’ve always wanted to be an investor,” she says, “but wasn’t sure if I would prefer the public or private markets. After getting experience in both, I prefer the private markets and plan to stay on that trajectory. I would like to grow here [at GEM] and see myself leading our private equity investment team in 10 years."

“I see myself leading our private equity investment team.”