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The link between private equity and wine

Alexandra Poe, a private funds partner in the corporate practice of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed in New York, tells pfm about how she ended up in private equity law and the best week of her life

 Q What’s your role at Hughes Hubbard & Reed?
AP: I joined Hughes Hubbard & Reed in June as a private funds specialist. I represent investment advisors in private fund formation, regulatory compliance and managed accounts. I also advise institutional investors in investment and fiduciary matters; some have been seeders in amounts up to $750 million.

I often deliver onsite compliance training, tailoring my advice to a client’s operations. For clients targeted in regulatory enforcement, I assist with meeting the Securities and Exchange Commission’s settlement requirements, which often include passing muster with an independent compliance consultant.

It’s hard to say which aspect of the work I enjoy the most. Governance and fiduciary advice feel like my highest value as a seasoned counselor, yet I love the creativity and satisfaction of helping clients with new fund launches as well.

Q How did you become involved in private funds law?
AP: During law school, socially responsible mutual funds emerged and I wrote about them for the school magazine. I then volunteered for the funds practice at my first Wall Street firm. I think they were quite surprised that I even knew what a mutual fund was back then.

In the 1990s I became US general counsel at Schroders, who were very well known as a manager of overseas pension assets, and I helped launch the hedge fund business. I loved working with these flexible product structures and managers who think outside the box.

After Schroders, I went to US Trust, a private bank, which got me involved in private equity and other alternative asset classes.

I’ve formed funds in private equity, as well as funds focused on natural resources, energy, shipping and receivables.

Q You are a certified sommelier. What sparked your interest?
AP: I first studied wine professionally in 2004, at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California. The students were wine professionals, one wine collector – and then there was me! I suppose I did it to test my curiosity. I finished the program and thought, “This may have been the best week of my entire life.”

I soon started representing my friend Henri Bungener’s fine organic wines from Clos de Caveau, as a sort of brand ambassador at international wine fairs and other tastings.
In 2014, I enrolled at the International Culinary Center in New York for the 17-week intensive sommelier training, involving over 200 hours of study after work and weekends. I passed the Introductory and Certified exams given by the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2015.

Q Have you found there are links between law and wine?
AP: Many clients are interested in wine and they’re happy to have a glass with me; they trust I’ll add something extra to the experience of drinking nice wine.

Also, when you’re learning to blind taste, it’s necessary to engage all your senses, instincts and knowledge to identify the wine. Similarly, it’s good to listen to clients and colleagues holistically, as well.

Vintners’ journeys require patience, resilience and vision. Asset managers must also be nimble, attentive to harmonize constantly changing factors. One can think of each reporting period as a new vintage, wherein making the right choices today can deliver lasting rewards in the fullness of time. n