April Smith is constantly thinking three steps ahead. As Alpine’s Head of Investor Relations, she opens up about what it takes to raise a multi-billion-dollar fund (it’s a team effort), the importance of strong relationships, and what it’s like to work with Managing Partner and Alpine Founder Graham Weaver.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from Rhode Island and went to Brown for undergrad. Until college, I had never been exposed to finance, and I didn’t see it as a career path. Then I started learning from friends and professors about different options, and I was intrigued by the many possibilities the industry seemed to offer. I interned at Jimmy Choo as an analyst for two summers, then I spent another summer at UBS doing investment banking. After graduation I joined UBS full time as an investment banking analyst, and after getting a great foundation in finance, I explored the retail world as a wholesale analyst at Jimmy Choo.
I discovered the world of investor relations and my love of fundraising at Ionic Capital, a hedge fund based in New York, where I worked under two incredible mentors who taught me the ins and outs of the industry. I loved the people at Ionic and loved the role, but when I got a chance to broaden my skill set and take on a role at HG Vora, I jumped at the chance to work under another amazing mentor who helped me gain confidence and find my voice.
How did you know Alpine was a good fit?
When my husband got a job in San Francisco, I knew it was time to explore west coast fundraising roles, and while private equity felt like a departure from my past hedge fund experience, Alpine impressed me from the first conversation.
I had never worked anywhere where everyone was so focused on culture. That was evident from my first interview and throughout the process. During my extensive interviews they asked about my background, what drives me, and what motivates me. As an east coaster with a New York mindset and New York work experience, that focus on the softer side of my experience made me uncomfortable at first, but the more I got to know the partners and team, the more I could see there was a lot of room for me to grow alongside a growing firm. So I joined Alpine in March 2020, right before COVID-19 shut down our offices and we started working from Zoom.
Tell us about the day to day—or week to week—for Alpine’s head of investor relations and fundraising.
I’ll split the role up into two parts, investor relations and fundraising. Think of investor relations as managing relationships with existing LPs—this includes things like providing updates on the funds, portfolio companies, and performance, doing quarterly reports, and making sure investors are generally happy with all things Alpine. I love that at Alpine I’m able to be innovative from an IR perspective. For example, during COVID-19, we started hosting webinars where we could invite our LPs to join for an update on Alpine and our funds and portfolio companies. We created them because we were working from home and couldn’t travel to meet with LPs in person, but they were very well-received so we’re going to keep them going.
The other piece of my job is fundraising, which is more cyclical. During a fundraise I’m constantly meeting (or Zooming) with investors to generate interest in our Fund. I work with the Alpine team to provide them with the necessary information for their diligence process. We just closed Fund VIII in late August, so we’re not fundraising at the moment, but we’re always thinking ahead and trying to build relationships. Naturally, we’re already thinking about what’s next.
What’s been your biggest learning so far?
If I could give 25-year-old April one piece of advice, I would say, “Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to speak up. Say what you think and don’t worry about being wrong as that’s how you’ll grow and learn.” It took me a long time to step out of my comfort zone. Now I feel like I’m able to speak my mind, and that confidence has made me a lot more successful in my role. Working with people who ask my opinion and genuinely listen have made it much easier to take risks and be vocal.
Working with people who ask my opinion and genuinely listen have made it much easier to take risks and be vocal.
What’s it like to work so closely with Graham?
It’s energizing. Graham has this power of saying something and making it happen, just by putting the idea or goal out there. He’s incredibly motivational in that way. He sets lofty goals, and his optimism and determination are contagious. I’ve been inspired working with him because he has high expectations for himself and the people around him, which makes me set high expectations for myself and the people around me. I think that’s a mark of a good leader, and I strive to be a leader like that who makes people want to be the best version of themselves.
I’ve been inspired working with him because he has high expectations for himself and the people around him, which makes me set high expectations for myself and the people around me. I think that’s a mark of a good leader, and I strive to be a leader like that who makes people want to be the best version of themselves.
What do you love most about investor relations?
I love getting to connect with different people from all over the world. I’m looking forward to traveling to meet with LPs again, but with all our meetings over Zoom I have been able to interact with even more people than I otherwise would have. There are days when I have a 7 a.m. call with someone in Europe and a 6 p.m. call with someone in Asia, and I really enjoy that. An exciting detail about Fund VIII is that we now have LPs from Asia and the Middle East, in addition to North America and Europe, so we’ve been able to broaden our LP base.
I also enjoy being able to work alongside the wonderful people at Alpine. It’s incredible that every single person at Alpine contributed to Fund VIII in some way. I may be on the front lines talking to investors, but we rely on every team member to help us raise two and a quarter billion dollars. Everyone had their hands in the process in some way, and it’s gratifying to see all 80+ people come together and achieve this result.
You recently expanded your team (from one person to two). Tell us about how you approached hiring, and your goals for mentoring and managing.
We were mid-fundraise, and I realized I needed support. Thankfully Alpine has an amazing recruiting team, and we used the same deep dive interview approach that I went through when I was hired to find Kate Mermelstein. I love the interview method because you learn so much about people; how they present themselves, their values and experiences, and their patterns of thinking. I’m super excited that Kate joined the team. She is a unicorn. She is a people person who can connect with LPs and speak confidently about Alpine, and she can also build amazing PowerPoint presentations and analyze data. I absorbed so much from many incredible managers early in my career, and I hope to pay that mentorship forward and to support her growth.
We have many new LPs who just came into Fund VIII, so I’m focused on continuing to develop those relationships. I’m hoping we can travel soon and meet some of our partners in person. And I’ll be working with the team to think about what’s next for Alpine, and that’s really exciting.
As a person and leader, I’m aiming to continue getting out of my comfort zone and challenging myself. I want to figure out what the Investor Relations team should look like one year from now, and even five and ten years from now. It’s been very much go, go, go, with the fundraise, so this quarter will be about taking two steps back, reflecting, and examining our vision for the future.