Podcast: Women @ RopesTalk: Conversation with Louise Dumican, The Carlyle Group
In this episode of Women @ RopesTalk, hosted by partner Christine Moundas, partner Amanda Raad interviews Louise Dumican, the Managing Director and Head of Legal (Investments) for the Americas at The Carlyle Group. Louise started her legal career at a global law firm, where she first discovered her passion for private equity. That passion led Louise to a secondment opportunity at Carlyle, where she has worked for over 10 years. Amanda talks with Louise about her career path and why saying “yes” has been such an important part of her trajectory. Louise also shares how recent diversity & inclusion initiatives at Carlyle have had measurable results for the better.
Christine Moundas: Welcome, and thank you for joining us on our latest installment of Women @ RopesTalk, a podcast series brought to you by The Women's Forum at Ropes & Gray. In this podcast, we will spotlight extraordinary women who have had successful careers and interesting lives, and are also making a positive impact in their workplaces and their communities. We feature women attorneys at Ropes & Gray in conversation with prominent women clients, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and others, about their careers and what's led to their successes, the challenges they've faced, and the hard-earned wisdom they've acquired. I'm Christine Moundas. I'm a health care partner at Ropes & Gray and co-lead the firm's digital health initiative. In this episode, I'm thrilled to be joined by my colleague, Amanda Raad, who's based in London. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us. It's wonderful to have you. To start, could you please introduce yourself and provide an overview of your practice and all the roles you've had at the firm?
Amanda Raad: I am London-based, but after moving to London from New York about six or seven years ago. I'm one of the co-leaders of our global anti-corruption and international risk practice, and so that spans all kinds of risk areas, everything from thinking about corruption, trade compliance risk, money laundering risk, financial fraud, to issues such as sexual misconduct or other culture issues. Excitingly, I'm also one of the co-leaders of a new initiative that we just launched called the R&G Insights Lab, and that is a legal consulting practice that focuses on data analytics, behavioral science and consulting, and advisory services for our clients.
Christine Moundas: That's great. Could you tell us a little bit about the special guest that you'll be interviewing in this episode?
Amanda Raad: I will be speaking with Louise Dumican, who is Managing Director and Head of Legal (Investments) for the Americas at The Carlyle Group, which is one of the largest and most diversified investment firms in the world. Louise and I actually met years ago when she was based in London, but she’s since relocated to the U.S. and now she’s living and working in New York.
Christine Moundas: How did you meet and start working together?
Amanda Raad: I met Louise not terribly long, I don't think, after she joined Carlyle. From very early on, they were looking to build up their anti-corruption and international risk practice, and so we have worked together for years on building up their proactive compliance solution in that space, both thinking about risks at the Carlyle level, but also at the investment or portfolio company level.
Christine Moundas: And what would you say is most notable about Louise's career?
Amanda Raad: I think Louise is just a really great people person, which makes her a great client and friend, and I have had huge respect working for her over the years. I think her focus on people and problem solving, and really being a partner or advisor is so important to her success. Because of that, people within Carlyle come to her – she's trusted by the business, she's trusted by the legal department, and I think she achieves really great outcomes because she's able to really relate to all of those around her, and she takes a lot of time and energy to make sure that happens.
Alright, Louise, thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us today. Maybe we can start with you just briefly introducing yourself to all our listeners?
Amanda Raad: So that's where you got to spend the lockdown – in New York City. Can you talk a little bit more about your career trajectory?
Louise Dumican: I studied law at Oxford University in the UK. Initially, I think I went into law with aspirations to work in something a little bit more human rights-esque or family law. I do like working with people, and I'm naturally drawn to helping people sort through their problems, so I thought that meant I should be working in those sorts of sectors. I definitely didn't immediately feel an attraction to BigLaw, but after some time working as a paralegal for a law firm in London, which I was doing to save some money for a year traveling abroad, I was actually quite surprised by how much I really loved being part of something super high-profile, as well as working with amazingly intelligent, interesting people. Working as a team to accomplish something really meaningful and impactful for the clients really changed my mind and, ultimately, still working towards resolving issues and providing answers to problems that clients were facing. After my stint of traveling, which I did do, I went back to London and did a training contract with Clifford Chance. I did my first seat of my training contract, which for anyone who didn't train in the UK is a period of training that you do before you qualify as an associate lawyer and you can practice independently. My first seat was in the private equity group there, and I think you could probably say I was pretty much hooked from that point. That was 2006, so the deals were coming thick and fast. It was a furious pace, but, again, it was that sense of being part of a really great team, which that team really was, and being really in the thick of it. Walking into the office, and seeing your deal on the front page of the FT, it was just such a rewarding feeling, and I did love it, despite the intensity. I think I've been a deal junkie ever since, really. And from there, about three years in, I got the opportunity to work on a secondment to Carlyle in London. That was over 10 years ago now, and that's when I first met Heather Mitchell, who's our general counsel for global legal investments and who is my boss. Looking back, I think that was a really fortuitous opportunity that I've been really lucky to have.
I came in to Carlyle pre-IPO, when in Europe there was just myself and Heather providing support for four or five teams across Europe. And since then, we've grown our internal practice to a team of nine permanent lawyers based in London, New York and Hong Kong. We support every deal team at Carlyle pretty much on the private equity, real estate and credit sides of the house, and we are working alongside those deal teams on their deals from cradle to grave. We support them on all legal aspects of the deals, from early stages of due diligence, transaction negotiation, portfolio company issues that arise even beyond deal closing. We've developed training programs for those teams. We've implemented processes internally and externally to speed up a lot of what's necessary to achieve on every deal, from engagements with advisors to ethics or due diligence. And we're constantly evolving and looking for new ways to stay abreast of developments on the legal landscape and make sure we're able to capitalize fully on our global strength and our position in the market. So I'm super proud of what we, as a team, have achieved, and, for myself, to have such a major impact and role in its development over the last 10 years. It's been really great. And today, I head up our team’s presence in the U.S. and then oversee the team that we have here in New York.
Amanda Raad: And still a deal junkie that enjoys the 40 hours at your desk?
Louise Dumican: Not so much the 40 hours, but I do, I do love the deals. I was just thinking earlier about how in the second quarter of this year, our minds were on a lot of other things, right? We were in a different mode of work, where we were surveying what was going on around the portfolio around the world, and trying to make sure we were dealing with that as best we could. And when the deals started to come back through in the last month or so, it was this light at the end of the tunnel, like, "Oh good, we're back into normalcy of doing deals." And that's uplifting and refreshing. It is hard work – there's no getting around that. It's the nature of the transactional role and a transactional job. You have to be on it when the deal is going on, you have to be on the calls when they're happening, and it's not always convenient times of day, etc. – that comes with the territory. But the thing I love about private equity and the thing I love about my job is just that there's opportunities to get to know and get to learn about lots of different businesses and lots of different people – it really is a people business. And looking at the people who drive these businesses, and even our deal teams who have to nurture their investments and find these opportunities in the first place, and working with all of them in their different situations and sectors and geography, I just love that aspect of it. No two hours of my day are the same, and certainly no two days are the same.
Amanda Raad: As you mentioned, the world has shifted quite a bit in the last few months, and really since 2020 started. Are there any particular things that you would point to that are just big changes that maybe you see as lasting changes, or anything positive maybe that's come out of this crazy time that we're all in?
Louise Dumican: Yes, I do think we have seen some positives for the situation we've been in. I think it's brought people closer together in many ways, ironically. Given the relationship that we have with the deal teams and portfolio companies, for example – that's really allowed us to reach out to them when all this kicked off, especially to see how people were managing with all of this. That was really positive for us and our group to see how useful it is that we were already plugged-in in that way across the globe. The team in Asia had been through it before us, and then obviously as it came through Europe the team there focused on it as well, and we were poised and ready in New York to have it impact us. Even though I speak to members of the team every day, multiple times a day, and we share information constantly and knowledge across the globe and the deals that we're working on, this really capitalized on that, and we could have that cross-pollination of ideas and put people in touch with other people. If one portfolio company had a particularly interesting way of handling something or has an issue that needed to be resolved, we could canvas the group quite easily and canvas the portfolio and deal teams as well on whether there were interesting ways that that's being handled elsewhere. Not that we delighted in the situation, but it did feel rewarding to be in a position to provide some useful connections and support, even in that situation, given the global nature of it and that we were all thrown into the same situation. Ordinarily as a team, we would be in our respective positions dealing with our respective deals and we'd be talking as a group, but this was one issue that was something that everybody was going through at the same time, so it was nice to be working on that one thing going through the same thing in a way. I think when you're in the trenches because of that, it can really bring the team closer. I'm working with teams that are all over America, South America, Europe and even in Asia, and now we get on the Zoom video call, where we would never have done that in the past, I do feel closer to them, ironically, maybe, because I can't actually physically see them of course. We would've physically seen each other quite a few times during this period, but it feels like we've been meeting regularly just by having seen each other on the screen, so I hope that's something that could continue and that we can be a little bit more tech-savvy in that respect, because I do think that has brought people together. And I think we'll see, I suppose, what the true impact of all this is in years to come – I think the butterfly effect will be quite interesting.
Amanda Raad: I love the fact that you said earlier that this is a people business. In a lot of ways, isolation or separation has created an opportunity that has maybe brought us closer together, which I totally agree with and I definitely hope is a lasting change. I certainly feel like I get to see you more now that I'm London and you're in New York, and we utilize Zoom and video more often, which is a real bonus. So just changing for a minute, a little bit back to your career and your career trajectory, what are you most proud of in your career to date?
Louise Dumican: I think it's quite a tough one because it's hard to single out one particular achievement, one particular deal that I worked on, or a point that I won in a deal. Now I remember having a conversation with a partner in another law firm recently, saying to him, "It's hard to know how to measure whether you're doing very well, what you are doing well.” And he said, "I think the thing is that you can measure it by whether or not you get the call," right? So when I think about the biggest achievements and the biggest wins I've had in my career, it's been when the head of the European Buyout Fund calls me and says, "I need you to be on this deal – I need you to go and be there with them in the room." And those sorts of instances really are when I feel like okay, that's me, I've done what I'm supposed to do here because I'm getting the call, and people are allowing you in to serve your purpose and to look out for those risks. They trust you to do that, they trust your guidance and advice, but they're not afraid to welcome you into that very sensitive situation that they are grappling with – they actually want you there. I think that's when I have felt that I'm really doing what I'm doing well.
Amanda Raad: What was the most important piece of advice that somebody's given you in your career, or one of the most important pieces of advice?
Louise Dumican: One piece of advice that I think you actually hear a lot and maybe a number of people have given it to me or I've heard presentations where people have said it before, but it's to say “yes” to things. Even if you feel like you might not be ready or you've always got more progress to make before you feel like that particular opportunity is one that you can go and excel at, or maybe you're feeling like it's not the right time because of whatever you've got going on in your personal life, when opportunities that you can see are going to be good for your career present themselves, you should say “yes.” I think that is a challenge for people. When I was asked to come to New York, I'd been back from maternity leave for about three months, and had literally just finished renovating our house, which ended up being a labor of love for about two and a half years, or maybe more even. So was I about to emigrate to a different country? I wouldn't have walked into someone's office and said, "Please send me to New York." But the opportunity presented itself, and I knew I had to say “yes,” despite the timing. Obviously, I needed to think about it carefully, but really glad that I did do that. Similarly, I think really early on in my career, I had an opportunity to go and do a secondment in France, in Paris, and was very nervous because I did French A level, but it's one of those things you use it or lose it, and I just wasn't confident in my French language skills, to be honest. But here was an opportunity to go and live in Paris for six months and work in Paris for six months, and so I knew I needed to just overcome that and go and take the opportunity. It was amazing – I learned so much and I had a great time. I think it's easy to convince yourself of the reasons why you shouldn't do something or why you're not ready to do something, and you should just say “yes” and just do it because it will always be the right answer.
Amanda Raad: Just say “yes,” I love it. What about mentoring – how do you see the importance of mentoring in your career, and how have you been involved with mentoring?
Louise Dumican: I think it's incredibly important. I think one other piece of advice that someone gave me as well is you should have a sponsor and a mentor – the two being different things. A sponsor who actually helps you get further along in your career, who's somewhat responsible for your career, and has a line of visibility on your career and can help you through that path. And then a mentor who you can really bounce ideas off and get advice and guidance on certain situations that come up for how you should pivot yourself differently. I always encourage our team to talk through issues because somebody will have a different perspective or will have an insight or have done it before. And if you're sitting there with your wheels spinning, thinking, "I'm not quite sure where to go with this," that it's just you're wasting time – just pick up the phone, speak to someone else, and you will together resolve that issue very quickly.
We have a mentorship program at Carlyle which I'm a part of and I have been mentoring a junior for the last couple of years, which has been going really well. I actually have gotten a lot out of it myself because it's a different generation coming up, and they have a different perspective because their vantage point as a more junior member of the team and in actually a completely different area of Carlyle. This person doesn't even work in the private equity space, so we can get to talking about things in a very high-level and holistic way, and I've found that really helpful from a management perspective on being a manager. I can ask, "How do you feel about this? What do you think works in terms of this situation?" and get a lot out of that as well, so I think it works both ways too.
Amanda Raad: Excellent. I want to turn a little bit to diversity and inclusion, and talk about what you see as some of the biggest advantages of having diversity, both in law, but also just generally in leadership teams, and what value bringing a diverse team brings?
Louise Dumican: That’s a big question, and I think it's a really important question: What value does diversity and inclusion bring to leadership? We're fortunate at Carlyle, we have a great diversity and inclusion officer, Kara Helander, and actually, she always points to the importance of this question and the importance of having a compelling “why.” Why should companies, law firms, whatever they are, take notice of this and make changes to their organization? There's got to be something in it for them in order for them to really effect change. And the answer's in some of the real data that's been collected around this, which I think leadership teams are certainly getting better at taking notice of, but she would give us some statistics even that I can offer from Carlyle. So over the past three, four years, the average earnings of Carlyle portfolio companies with two or more diverse board members have been nearly 12% per year greater than the average of companies that lack diversity, which is incredible. After controlling for industry fund and the year of the fund, companies with diverse boards generate earnings growth at five times faster on average, and with each diverse board member, they can each be associated with a 5% increase in annual earnings growth. Those sorts of statistics and that sort of data are just so compelling, I think, and really difficult to ignore.
We have another initiative at Carlyle, the Better Decisions Education Program, which is being rolled out across the globe now. The format is come together in a working group with a facilitator to learn about the importance of diversity and inclusion, to talk about the importance of it, but also, to really think about how to practically apply that to yourself in the way that you work. A big component of that is to consider unconscious bias because, obviously, everybody has biases because we've all been raised in different situations, from different backgrounds – we come to the “now” with all of that built into us. One thing that I was reflecting on in that course myself is the difference between needing to go to a lawyer or go to a partner of a law firm or whoever it is, your advisor, somebody who thinks very much like you, who has a similar outlook to you, who's on the same page. When you're dealing with a very fraught, sensitive, delicate matter, you don't want the wildcard – you want someone whose judgment you trust and who you've been through it with over, and over, and over again. But then, you have to challenge yourself because ultimately, if you're putting the same issue to the same people all the time, you always get the same responses. No two law firms are the same, lawyers within those law firms are not the same, and it's important in some situations really to canvas those different views and get those different vantage points. In order to do that, you really need to be asking different people. I think it's just one example of how the cause kind of gets you to think about your own judgment and your own decisions about who you have in your network, and whether you have a broad diversity of people and therefore, perspectives and judgments. So we have a diversity and inclusion counsel, which looks at the environment and how we work at Carlyle to make sure that it is diverse and inclusive. I mentioned the Better Decisions Program that we're rolling out, which yields quite some real results for individuals. But also, they've set some quite impressive goals I think for board composition, for example – in 2016 they had set a goal that we should have diverse boards on all U.S. portfolio companies. At the time, I think there were about 38% of companies with diverse boards, and now, four years later, we have 78% diverse boards across the U.S. portfolio, and 100% diverse boards within the U.S. Buyout Fund, which is our flagship private equity fund. More than half of our $221 billion of assets under management is managed by women. Those are really great and important facts to recognize and progress to recognize, but also, we need to continually reflect. I think the other area coming to the fore now obviously is racial diversity, and we just need to make sure we take full advantage of the attention that it's getting and the momentum to make real, meaningful changes as we have seen so far in the gender equality space. The work's not done there by any stretch, but we need to keep gathering pace and pushing this forward – it's really, really important.
Amanda Raad: I couldn't agree with you more about how important it is. I also really like that you started the discussion by talking about not only the “why” and making sure everyone understands the “why,” but also making sure you tie progress to actual data instead of value statements or positions only, but actually looking at data to understand whether the steps you're taking are actually having the desired effect in achieving the outcomes that you want them to achieve. I think that's really the only way we make real progress in the space where we have to.
Christine Moundas: That was a wonderful discussion. Thank you both so much, and thank you to our listeners. We appreciate you listening to our Women @ RopesTalk podcast series. For more information about Ropes & Gray's Women's Forum and our woman attorneys, please visit ropesgray.com/women. You can also subscribe to this series wherever you listen to podcasts, including on Apple, Google and Spotify. Thanks again for listening.