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From Endowment to Wealth Management: The Mindset Shifts of Peter Newman


Peter Newman, the president and founder of Peak Wealth Planning, has seen it all in the world of finance. After spending nearly two decades working in endowment investments, he switched to wealth management in 2014 and never looked back.

Leaving a stable, well-paying job in endowment investments was a big decision, but it was one that Peter felt compelled to make. And the reason was more than just the allure of making more money.

“There’s a lot easier ways to make money than being a wealth manager or living,” Newman told me recently in a Zoom call.

“The relationships you have with people and finding out later that they think you did a good job, and you help them solve an issue and gave them peace of mind or help them save time or found them that banker they needed to get a real estate deal done that they didn’t know about. That feedback is the reward,” he added.

Newman’s journey from the endowment to wealth management wasn’t without its challenges. He outlined three fundamental mindset shifts that he had to make to succeed in this new field.

Shift #1: From Being Reactive to Proactive

In the world of endowment, you are constantly reacting to what the market is doing. You have managers buying and selling stocks and bonds, trying to outperform a benchmark. Or, you shift your asset allocation to earn more on cash or to outperform your peers.

“The biggest mindset change I had to make was that you’re moving from a reactionary role to a proactive, trusted advisor role,” he said, explaining how his new role involves anticipating the needs of his clients and helping them plan for the future.

Shift #2: Every Family is Unique

When working in endowment, you invest in a particular asset class to achieve a specific goal. For example, you might be investing in venture capital to help support a university’s research initiatives. That is what Newman did at the University of Illinois, where he helped grow the endowment from $250 million to more than $700 million, according to his LinkedIn profile.

However, when you’re a wealth manager, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. “The second mindset shift you have to make is [that] every family is different,” he said. “And what it means to be a trusted adviser to a private equity family might be different for a second generation real estate family. There are also commonalities. Being adaptable, flexible and willing to continue learning, as a financial advisor, I have found to be really important.”

Shift #3: From Organizations to People

When you’re working in endowment, your focus is on the organization you represent. You’re not necessarily thinking about the individual people who will be impacted by your decisions. But as a wealth manager, you are constantly thinking about the people who are your clients.

“This is a really personal business,” he said. “If you’re doing wealth management for families, you’re sitting across the table from a husband and wife, and the most important thing they’ve accomplished in their life is what you are talking about.”

“So, some of the conversations I have with people are: what’s your philosophy on money? What are your family’s core values? And oftentimes, they don’t question this level of engagement. But once in a while, I have to explain that I’m asking all these personal questions so I can put myself in their shoes and deliver the most relevant planning advice.” He added.

If you are interested in learning more about Peak Wealth Planning, LLC check out Peter’s website

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
January 2022

How the Pandemic Transformed HR Function for Private Equity Firms


In 2020, when the Covid-19 virus turned into a pandemic, the business world had to adapt quickly. Companies of all sizes were forced to let their employees work from home as a temporary solution. As the pandemic dragged on, it became clear that remote work was not just a provisional fix but a new way of working.

For private equity firms and their portfolio companies, which had long relied on in-office workforces and face-to-face interactions to conduct due diligence and evaluate company performance, the switch to remote work meant a transformation in how they did HR, according to several private equity HR executives interviewed for this article.

In many ways, the pandemic elevated HR from a back-office function into a strategic role in private equity firms.

“We are thinking about HR or Human Capital in a new way at Southfield” Tim Lewis, Partner at Southfield Capital told me.  “10 years ago it was a back office function required for compliance and benefits.  Now a thoughtful and engaged HR function is a strategic necessity and the range of activities our HR execs are asked to address has expanded from functioning during a pandemic to addressing new ways to think about the workplace.”

“It’s a whole new game today,” Keith Swenson, longtime HR executive and operating partner at New York-based consulting firm Beckway, told me in a Zoom call.

“For most organizations, they have to press the reset button because the conditions in the market have changed. The expectations of workers have changed. Based upon being remote versus in office, the expectations of new people coming into the organization have changed as a result of that,” he added.

Time for a New HR Playbook?

With the business world moving to a distributed workforce, HR needs new tools and processes. It appears that the old ones just won’t cut it anymore. Swenson, for example, whose company leverages leading B2B commercial products, said HR executives like him had to rethink the way they attract, evaluate, and retain talent.

“Companies are finding themselves having to rethink their whole strategy around people on how they supervise, how they motivate, how they pay,” he said, adding that he has observed some organizations lose key personnel as a result of the pandemic.

Retaining talent has been a significant challenge for companies across industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million workers, or 3% of the country’s workforce, quit their jobs in November, intensifying the mass resignations that began in early 2021.

Experts say one of the reasons for the mass exodus is the ability of employees to work remotely. Except for certain jobs that cannot be done from home, such as those in the medical and construction industries, most positions appear to be doable with a computer and internet connection. At least, that is what workers think, and employers have been forced to accept.

“There is a war on talent,” said Lisa Rivoli, the executive vice president of Human Resources for New York-based Milrose Consultants a Southfield Capital portfolio company.  “We have to look to retain the talent we have. We are exploring ways of improving our benefit offering and maybe offering a continuous, flexible workweek,” she added.

For HR professionals like Rivoli, the pandemic has meant a shift in the way they do their jobs. No longer can they rely on face-to-face meetings with employees to get a sense of their work performance. They now have to find other ways, such as video conferencing and employee surveys, to gauge how people are performing.

“It’s gotten a lot harder because you can’t just get up and go down the hallway anymore,” she said. “You have to make all these phone calls. And sometimes, you know, people are on the phone, you can’t reach them… I literally have two phones. Two phones are going off. My computers are going off. My house phone might ring. So it’s a lot.”

Attracting New Talent: A Challenge to be Courted

In addition to retaining your best and brightest, attracting talent has also become a challenge for HR professionals. To lure the best talent, Forbes reports, many firms are now offering sign-on bonuses and other perks, such as paid vacation days and tuition reimbursement.

The appeal of remote work is one that PE portfolio companies might have to grapple with for the foreseeable future, including those companies that cannot embrace it because of the nature of their business. American Refrigeration Company (ARC) a Southfield Capital portfolio company based in New England is one such company.

“Finding people during COVID has been the biggest challenge,” said Mary Fairbairn, the company’s Director of Human Resources.

For example, she said as an essential business it remains a struggle to find project managers to oversee product installations for manufacturing plants or ice-skating rinks as those jobs require people to be on site. There is no way an installation can be done remotely – we need people onsite. This problem could become more acute as the pandemic drags on and new Covid-19 variants continue to emerge.

To Fairbairn, remote work has also meant “a mindset shift” for her department as it tries to retain and recruit talent.

“I think it’s shifted our mindset, from something that has to be well defined, to something that’s a little bit ambiguous,” she said, explaining how employees’ personal lives are now a greater factor when it comes to things like scheduling.

“Also, a lot of people have children. We try to be a little bit more flexible when it comes to someone that has child care, or if their child is sick, of course, we’re always very nice about it.”

“A Candidate’s Market”

And nowadays, when people apply for a job, their goal might not be to get hired by the company, but rather to use the offer as a bargaining chip for a better position or more money at their current company, said Rivoli.

“They may want to use your offer to bring it back to their current employer to see if they can gain a better compensation package where they are. So, we’ve had that with people ghost us and then at the ninth hour, tried to negotiate real hard on compensation after they already knew what the compensation package was,” she said.

In light of this reality, has made six wide-ranging recruiting projections for 2022, including the notion that “remote work is the new normal.”

“It’s a candidate’s market,” said CEO Evan Sohn. “The talented candidates are in high demand. And if they’re demanding hybrid or remote workforces, the companies have to adjust to those workforces.”

Adam Miller, the founder, and managing partner of Hygge Capital Partners, a human capital solution for the private equity industry and their portfolio companies, says the need for human capital within the PE space has never been greater.

“Now, all firms are rushing to the plate to hire HR professionals to help them,” he said. “They think proactively through each one of these components to make sure that they’re creating a competitive advantage in the market when they’re out telling their story marketing their brand.”

Miller’s views about HR’s function being about “creating value” align with those leading HR scholars such as Dave Ulrich. Often referred to as the “father of modern HR” for his pioneering work on human capital, Ulrich recently said that the time had come to “reinvent” HR.

“HR is not about HR,” he told Geeks, Geezers & Googlization podcast on December 30. “HR is about helping your organization compete and succeed in the marketplace.”

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
January 2022

How Creativity Helps Kristina Walsh Thrive in Finance


Kristina Walsh is Co-Head of Consumer and Retail Investment Banking at Young America Capital, a New York-based FINRA/SEC-registered broker-dealer/Investment Bank. She has a long and illustrious career in senior management roles in the hedge fund and financial services industries, having spent nearly two decades on Wall Street.

Kristina is not your typical Investment Banker. Kristina’s career has been built on her background in psychology, a degree she obtained from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She says her psychology background has provided invaluable insights to her career as an Investment Banker and Executive. In particular, Kristina says, the “creative” side of psychology has helped her think “outside the box” when it comes to finding clients and solutions for them.

In terms of strategic relationships, she said her background in psychology has allowed her to identify potential partners who may not have initially been on her radar.

“I think, in structuring deals and finding potential investors, for my clients, it’s not always the ones that check the box or that would be obvious.,” she said.

Creativity also played a role ten years ago, when Kristina and one of her colleagues started a women’s family office lunch series, which she has kept ever since. The lunches are a way to bring together successful women from various backgrounds and industries to share their experiences and advice. They try to meet every month or two to talk about everything from work-life balance to the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in business.

“It’s all about sharing ideas, friendly suggestions and introductions. I think the lunches have really created a foundation of trust and sincerity in actively wanting to help each other thrive,” she said.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
January 2022

A Conversation with Steven Nigro, Managing Partner of TAG Financial Institutions Group


Steven Nigro is a Managing Partner of TAG Financial Institutions Group, LLC, a New York-based specialized investment and merchant bank focusing on the insurance industry.

The 61-year-old has more than three decades of experience in the investment banking for the insurance industry. He co-founded TAG in 2012, and it has since closed more than 250 deals. In a Zoom interview, he recently discussed what’s driving his firm’s success and what he plans to do next.

Nigro attributes TAG’s success in part to being a “specialist” instead of a “generalist.”

He said this approach has allowed them to be more selective and focus on deals that make sense.

“Specializing is important because we see things over and over again, we’ve recognized common issues and problems as they arise, we know how to solve them and we’re experts in the subject matter,” he said.

“Everybody in the firm here is an has significant in insurance. We have overlapping disciplines but also complementary disciplines as well. So, we’re able to approach each deal and solve problems and add certainty to close…Believe it or not, outside of the investment banking realm, we’ve helped them with their businesses by as an ancillary service by providing business and capacity for brokers or distribution for carriers. I don’t know how a generalist can approach some of our deals, especially the complex ones,” he added.

A firm’s success also depends on individual commitment at the highest level. Nigro often works on weekends and puts in long hours because he believes in his firm’s mission.

“I work all the time,” he said, “You know why? Because I love what I do. I’m in on weekends, not because it’s a chore but because it fuels me.”

He says he’s not going to retire “anytime soon” but has planned for a successful exit. He has created a perpetuation plan with his partner and others to take over his role and plans to stay on as a mentor.

“Thankfully, I have a partner and team that can take over. Maybe this happened serendipitously but I’ll take it.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
December 2021

What Does it Mean to be a Black Woman in the Male-dominated World of Business Development?

An interview with Traci Rhone, Vice President at Young America Capital


Business development is not just about closing deals and making money. It is also a profession requiring the ability to build relationships with people, something Traci Rhone has been doing for years as an African American woman who has been an independent filmmaker and psychotherapist for nearly 20 years.

She now serves as the vice president of business development at Young America Capital in New York. She works out of Florida and has been doing so since 2019.

“One of the major surprises for me was that there is really an art to the deal,” said Rhone, who holds two master’s degrees: one in gender and economic development from the University of West Indies and another in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University.

“Deals have life cycles, and you can’t just close one like that. It takes time. You have to massage the client, you have to romance the client, you have to make sure that the product is good, you have to make sure that you get the correct investor there,” she added.

Wearing big eyeglasses with a thick, black frame, Rhone spoke to me via Zoom about her journey in business development and how being an African American woman has been a distinct advantage rather than a liability in a world where business is usually conducted by men.

“It helps a lot,” she said. “Because I walk in with my glasses. I’m a female, and I’m black. Right? So, people are immediately like, Okay, forget the glasses. Just being female. Why is she here?”

She added that her experience has largely been positive, encouraging other women to break barriers and not be afraid to enter fields that have not been traditionally diverse.

“I haven’t come across any racism. I haven’t come across any sexism at all. At all, I’ve only come across people that are respectful to me and kind,” she said.

As a filmmaker, Rhone has worked with major companies such as Time Warner as well as with award-winning producers, directors and actors. Her passion for filmmaking goes back to her late father, Trevor D. Rhone, a prominent Jamaican playwright and filmmaker.

To succeed in any industry, including business development, Rhone believes one must live in the moment and not stress over things that cannot be controlled.

“I made sure to always remind myself on a daily basis, to remain present. Because if I start to worry about the future, at any given time, I’m going to paralyze myself. And I’m not going to be able to function,” she said.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
December 2021

ESG Investing: Here’s What’s Next

ESG Investing: Here’s What’s Next

ESG investing is not a new phenomenon. Sometimes referred to as “sustainable investing,” ESG stands for “Environmental, Social, and Governance” and was first coined in 2005. It is used as a tool for investment decisions but is a more recent concept of interest among private equity firms.

Traditionally, PE firms have strictly been concerned about ROI and compliance with legal standards. A new focus on impact investing has been gaining traction where the end goal is to maximize both financial returns and social impact.

If a PE firm wants to differentiate itself from others, it might proactively set metrics to demonstrate its commitment to ESG. Firms have been subject to increased scrutiny by ESG-conscious investors and decision-makers in the environment that COVID-19 has created. Providing concrete evidence of ESG-focused due diligence and performance reporting could give a firm a distinct advantage over its peers. Tal Sheynfeld of Energy Impact Partners said that “We see a significant amount of correlation between high ESG scores and the success of our investments. We have resources available to the companies that we invest in, which makes it easier for them to make improvements across the ‘E’, ‘S’, and ‘G’.”

At the same time, evaluating portfolio companies based on their perceived commitment to ESG can be fraught with difficulties. One of the main problems is that there are many misconceptions around the topic because it is based on opinion and subjectivity. John Sheffield of Valley Ridge Investment Partners, LLC, mentioned that “ESG makes for great virtue signaling, but not great investing.” For example, an investment in solar power may appear to be environmentally beneficial on the surface from an emissions reduction perspective. However, this may be negated by the widespread mining required in production which depletes natural resources along with the exploitation of low-cost labor.

Ultimately, the degree to which a firm decides to use ESG is at their discretion. Michael Kornman of NCK Capital, LLC, said that “we do incorporate ESG in our deal process but don’t use it as a screening mechanism, per se. Historically, we have been more attracted to good businesses when they have positive ESG benefits.” 

There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer for how a firm can incorporate ESG into an investment thesis, but the subject is gaining momentum and presents many potential opportunities for firms looking to differentiate themselves by effectively adopting ESG strategies. 

In the last couple of years, ESG issues have begun to make more of an impact on companies that have shown dedication to these causes. Companies have an obligation to address ESG issues to the public and within their own company in matters of procedure. Due to the nature of the changes necessary to change the corporate structure to address ESG issues, the ESG movement must be spearheaded by industry leaders who are willing to function at the forefront of the movement.   


References from General Sources:

  1. ESG in Private Equity – Doing Well By Doing Good, Osler Hoskin and Harcourt LLP (available at:
  2. The Remarkable Rise of ESG, Contributed to by George Kell (available at:
  3. Five Challenges for net-zero investing, BMO Global Asset Management (available at

By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
November 2021

From Martial Arts to Mergers and Acquisitions: How Josh Goldberg Uses his Martial Arts Background for Closing Deals

An interview with Josh Goldberg, Vice President of USI Insurance Services


Josh Goldberg has his eye on the prize. The insurance broker with USI Insurance Services is working toward closing deals in the areas of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), real estate, and construction in California’s competitive market by bringing something to the table that many of his peers don’t have: a 20+ years’ experience in martial arts training.

Josh Goldberg is the vice president of USI Insurance Services, a Los Angeles founded and New York based national insurance brokerage with thousands of employees. It’s an impressive resume for the 31-year-old who joined the company seven years ago. Goldberg credits his achievements in business to the lessons he has learned in the world of martial arts since he was seven years old when his father encouraged him to start training.

Martial arts is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years. It’s the study and practice of mental and physical techniques to promote health with an emphasis on self-defense.

“In martial arts,” said Goldberg, “no matter how many times you’re challenged; how many times you get knocked down; it’s important to continuously progress. The goal is not achieving a belt. It’s continuous improvement.”

That philosophy, he said, is pivotal to success in business development, which is based on keeping a continuous stream of potential deals and business opportunities flowing.

“From the time I wake up, most of what I hear from people is ‘no’,” Goldberg told me in a recent Zoom interview.

“A no is not a ‘no’. A no is a ‘not yet’, and you have to figure out [that] perhaps it’s just not the right solution and you have to figure out another path, or continuing pushing on the same path, depending on the situation,” he said.

Goldberg’s views are consistent with studies that have found strong correlations between the practice of martial arts and improved mental health, which can impact one’s success in business. Emotional control, self-esteem, and stress reduction are just a few of the martial arts’ well-researched advantages.

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
November 2021

Changing Careers from Commercial Lending to Private Equity

An interview with Brian Hoblit, Vice President of CVF Capital Partners


Changing careers is no easy feat, particularly for those who have spent years in one field. When it comes to commercial lending, it is a career that people spend years in and build relationships with clients, making transitioning to another industry challenging.

After serving for nearly a decade in commercial lending, Brian Hoblit decided to transition his career into private equity at CVF Capital Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in Northern California, where he has been vice president for more than two years.

Shortly after joining CVF, Hoblit was taken aback by how differently private equity and commercial lending operate. Though they both entail providing capital to help businesses achieve their objectives, there is significantly different risk tolerance in private equity.

“It was more challenging than I anticipated,” he recently told me in a Zoom interview. “I kind of naively thought that private equity and commercial lending were first cousins, and they’re probably more like second or third cousins.”

He went on to explain that in comparison with commercial lending, private equity poses a greater degree of risk tolerance.

“While in senior lending, the return on assets is about 1%, it’s significantly higher than that in private equity. So you do take more risks. And you really only have one way to get paid back, and that’s through cash flow and then ultimately through an exit,” he said.

Hoblit holds an MBA in finance from UC Davis and a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Rice University. Before joining CVF Capital Partners two years ago, Hoblit was the chief financial officer (CFO) of Valley Farm Transport.

He added that there are structural differences in the way private equity and commercial lending operate that one must learn on the job.

“There’s not really a textbook that you can go by,” he said. “What does this structure look like versus that structure? It’s really learning by doing, and I have some great colleagues here at CVF. And everyone is able to teach and help mentor you as you’re working through the learning curve,” he added.

“The other difference is the depths in which you get to work with your prospects and portfolio companies and the ability to provide value is much greater. For instance, I am the company representative to our captive insurance group, an opportunity I would not have had in commercial lending. The ability to impact change is so great and I am thankful for having made the move to private equity and CVF Capital Partners, in particular.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
November 2021

Is Hybrid Work the Future of Business Development?

An interview with Kevin Grossman, Vice President of Decathlon Capital Management


Traditionally, business development required a significant amount of in-person contact. But the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many people to reconsider ways of working. Kevin Grossman, vice president of Decathlon Capital Management, a revenue-based finance lender in Denver, Colorado, is one of them.

“The pandemic forced us, especially people like me, who said it would never work to do stuff online, [to reconsider our views],” he recently told me in a Zoom interview, explaining how the future will include a mix of in-person and virtual meetings.

“The customer hybrid work environment is here to stay,” he added.

Grossman’s views are in line with a recent Microsoft report titled “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?” The study found that more than 70% of the global workforce wants to maintain their flexible work options.

Before the pandemic, Grossman, a seasoned investor with more than 20 years of expertise building debt portfolios for early-stage through middle-market firms, said his work had entailed a significant amount of traveling to attend conferences and meet people in person.

The pandemic, however, made him realize this approach was impractical not just because of the extra cost associated with traveling but also because of the time wasted traveling.

“This is absurd,” he thought, “that I’m going through all these different things to go do this for one meeting somewhere else.”

Although many companies have adopted remote work, Grossman claims that business development will always necessitate some degree of face-to-face interaction.

“There’s going to be a mix of virtual and virtual stuff,” he said, explaining that certain things such as trust and business relationships, as the backbone of business development, are harder to develop without face-to-face interactions. He added that it’s easier to attend large events in person than online.

“Things that don’t work as well online, in my opinion, because I’ve tried it a couple of times, is the kind of one too many where you have an event that has 500 people in the audience,” he said.

“And even though you tried to schedule the one-on-ones in the blocks that they set up, I just find it much more challenging to manage. I found that many people were bailing out on meetings and rearranging.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
October 2021

Business Development Strategy: Three Tips from Principal at CVF Capital Partners

An interview with Stefan Okhuysen, Principal at CVF Capital Partners


Stefan Okhuysen is Principal at CVF Capital Partners, a lower-middle market private equity firm based in California. CVF Capital Partners has been around for more than 15 years, investing in businesses from various sectors. In a Zoom interview, he recently told me about his business development strategy and the lessons he has learned over the past five years working as a principal at the firm.

Lesson #01: Be Broad in Your Search

It is a numbers game. The more deals you see, the more likely you will close a deal. Being broad in your search increases the likelihood of finding an investment prospect that fits your firm’s criteria, he said.

“We’d like calling it internally kissing a lot of frogs to find a prince,” Okhuysen said. “We’re trying to see as many companies as we can, through as many different referral sources as we can to really find the right fit for strategy.”

Lesson #02: Keep Networking

Networking is time-consuming, but it is good for business. As Okhuysen noted in the interview, it’s those relationships that will continue to give you referrals and introductions as well as help close deals.

“You might talk to somebody today who may have nothing to offer in terms of a new deal,” he said. “But that person may remember you for any particular reason, a couple of months down the road, or maybe a year down the road, and they can refer you a deal that is actually a good fit for you.”

In other words, genuinely be interested in people and remember to follow up.

Lesson #03: Pipelines Need Nurturing 

Okhuysen pointed out how important it is to strike a balance between cultivating and maintaining existing relationships as well as nurturing new ones. At his company, he said they have their own approach of how to keep pipelines filled.

“We all do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I know some firms have people who are solely dedicated to deal flow. At our firm, we all tried to do a little bit of pipeline generation and being out there.”

A significant advantage of this approach is that the firm is not dependent on one person for its referrals.

“That also means that when somebody in the team is busy, the other person can step in and continue doing business development. We kind of see the pipeline like this thing that’s alive and needs to be nurtured and taken care of and continuously growing.”

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! @opusconnect.


By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
October 2021