Excellence in Action
Grace Reyes ’04
Interviewed by Monique Beals • January 1, 2020
Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.
A bit of luck and also hard work! I remember watching Pretty Woman and being fascinated with Richard Gere — of course by his looks, but also his career. (That was my first exposure to how private equity works.) I came from humble beginnings and grew up in the south side of Stockton. As such, all I ever wanted to do was get out in the real world and work in finance.
After I finished school and took a few jobs in the investment industry, I landed a prominent position at The Reliant Group, a highly regarded real estate private equity firm. As the head of fundraising, I was always out networking and wanted to find a more efficient way to connect with industry leaders and investors without having to go out every night – back then my son who I raise singlehandedly was very young. (Side note: I had Jayden during my last year at UCLA at the UCLA Hospital before taking my finals a few weeks after!)
As I was fundraising, I decided to host happy hour events to bring people together and called it goodtimesSF, because I think networking should be something enjoyable and fun! goodtimesSF took off and became the largest investment happy hour in San Francisco. Co-hosting these events connected me to some amazing individuals including top decision makers at the largest US public pension plans.
I left my fundraising position a little after I started the MBA program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. After graduating, I did a stint at a startup (which opened up my eyes to a whole new world!) before going back to work within the investment industry. I became President of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) thanks to recommendation from a former CIO of a public pension plan who I had known through goodtimesSF (so everything came in full circle…)
Working for a non-profit was not in the books and if you were to tell me when I was younger that I would be working for a non-profit, I would have never believed you. However, the more I looked into AAAIM’s mission and the position, the more I realized how much it aligned with not only my skills and talent but my values and what I cherish most in my life — time with my son, Jayden. My work with AAAIM enabled me to leverage my broad investor network while furthering a positive message of diversity and gender balance in our field. All the while, giving me full complete control of my schedule.
Now it’s 2020 and my son is a teenager, I feel that if there’s a time to take a risk and do something entrepreneurial it would be now. I recently left AAAIM to launch my very own organization – The Investment Diversity Exchange (TIDE) with the mission effect change at a more broad and global scale. I am humbled by the amount of support and traction that I have received from the investment community! I’ll keep you posted on how this whole entrepreneurial thing works out. Wish me luck!
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in finance and along that path I realized how much I enjoy meeting diverse people, networking and bringing those benefits to the organizations I work at. One of my greatest strengths has been in building a broad investor network and understanding how to maintain and create meaningful professional relationships. I’ve found Linkedin to be an amazing tool to help me spread my message (and my networking!) as well.
In particular I’m grateful to the support within the TIDE community, which lets me combine my best talents – working within the field of finance while promoting a message of diversity and inclusion – something I strongly believe in. Our work to create a future of more diverse impact and help advance minorities, women and young investment professionals across our field, is something that inspires me daily.
How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?
My success in becoming known as one of the most prominent voices in finance when it comes to promoting diversity & gender balance in the investment management industry is because I was immersed in that kind environment at UCLA. Not only was I intellectually challenged at UCLA, but I was vastly exposed to such a rich, diverse environment.
In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?
Networking is at the core of what I do! I’m proud to be a UCLA alum and have crossed paths with a great many other alum in the finance field – it always makes for a great initial connector of having something in common.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?
I had my son in my final year of UCLA – balancing life, being a new mom, school and getting ready to kick off my career was no small feat to say the least. This struggle for balance at this early career stage taught me a lot about focusing on what matters, staying motivated and fighting for what you believe in. I’m so proud of raising an amazing son while growing my career to the level it’s at today.
What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in your field?
Dream big! And seek out great mentors to help you along the way. Network, network, network and keep your contacts strong – leverage tools like Linkedin to provide your own thought leadership and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.
Also, there’s a great Richard Branson quote, “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.” I try to include this mindset in everything I do.
How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?
I try to help as much as I can and I wish I can do more. I am always open to being of resource to other Bruins.
What makes you proud to be a Bruin?
I remember when I first step foot on campus. Coming from south side Stockton, the environment was very different. The campus felt so surreal. It was like living in paradise. All the while, I was surrounded by amazing people who were there to change the world. The hard work I put in prior to college culminated to my acceptance into UCLA. Being a Bruin is a reflection of the investment I put into myself. I am proud to be a Bruin because of the high standard it represents.
I would be so proud to see the effects of TIDE’s mission continue to take force to inspire ethnic and gender diversity in the field of investment management… and beyond this field!
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Monique Beals is a Communications major and UCLA College Honors student from Memphis, Tennessee. She has previously interned at the Office of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Orange County Register, and Tegna Inc. She has also worked as an Urban Fellow for the City of Memphis. At UCLA, Monique has been involved as Marketing Director of the Community Service Commission in addition to working as a Student Recruiting Assistant for UCLA Athletics. After graduating from UCLA, Monique intends to pursue a career in journalism or law.
Interested in learning more about UCLA alumni who are creating lasting impressions and impact in their industries? Visit Excellence in Action for the full collection of interviews.