ACG NY Member Highlight: Robert Blumenfeld

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ROLE/FIRM: Executive Director at ACG New York

Every month, we will feature an active member of the ACG New York community in a brief interview. Reflecting industry insight and personal perspective, this feature will introduce industry leaders and offer advice on the tools you need to succeed in the ever-changing middle market.

1. How long have you been an ACG Member?

In 1999, I saw an ad in Crain’s for an ACG New York meeting bringing financial professionals together.  I was President of a national restructuring firm and wasn’t involved in networking associations prior to joining.  Attending my first event, I met the President, David Cunn, who is now a Managing Director at JP Morgan  Chase. David impressed upon me the importance of ACG in my career and asked me to join his Executive Committee. At that time, ACG New York had 175 members, held 9 yearly events, attended by 25-35 financial professionals

2. What roles have you played in ACG New York?

I served as both programming and membership chair and assumed the position of President from Calvin Navatto, now SVP at Marquette Commercial Finance, from 2003 to 2010.  During this period, the chapter grew from 175 members to 750 with approximately 40 annual events.  After working in restructuring and investment banking in the 2000’s, I made a career change.  In 2010, I accepted the newly created position Executive Director of ACG New York.  New York is now the largest chapter with over 1,000 members and 70 annual events.

3. How has ACG helped you in your career?

ACG allowed me to bring together my years of experience and knowledge in management, finance, operations, sales, restructuring, and investment banking,  focusing on the growth of the chapter and support of the middle market. ACG has strengthened my skills in strategic planning and leadership, positively impacting member networks, business development, and dealflow.  Working with ACG New York chapter members and global leadership has provided me with a unique perspective of the middle market and a wealth of knowledge.

4. Can you tell us about your greatest success story/ proudest achievement in association with ACG?

My greatest success has been influencing ACG New York leadership and members in strategically focusing on new opportunities and growth.  While I received both personal and chapter awards, my greatest achievement has been supporting my children Austin (now running his first congressional campaign), my daughter Victoria (currently on a one-year Fulbright teaching scholarship in Malaysia), and my wife Susan who is working in a non-profit teaching the next generation helping others is a family business.

5. What do you think are the biggest obstacles in middle market today?

The biggest obstacle I constantly hear is the imbalance in the supply side (sellers/quality deals)  which has pushed up the multiples to new highs.  Bulge bracket PE firms have been moving down-market in order to deploy capital.  In many cases this is being done without fully realizing market differences and developing relationships through ACG,  which would help them understand the marketplace and find new opportunities.

6. What changes do you foresee happening in the middle market in the next 3-5 years?

While your guess is as good as mine. Taking into account political and financial market stability, I can foresee the US, which will be in its longest period of expansion, facing much higher interest rates with LIBOR doubling during this period, driving up the cost of borrowing.  In line with this thinking, a political or economic event could occur that could “close the window” on seller multiples and provide new opportunities for the buy side.  Coupled with the aging of boomers, there will also be a greater number of sellers pushing multiples down to more reasonable levels.

It’s anyone’s guess on whether bitcoins will become a factor or if/when there will be greater international governmental controls put in place.  I do see private equity encompassing blockchain technology on the management and operational levels of their fund and portfolio companies in order to drive Operational Value Creation in their portfolio companies.  The good news is, if 2008 was any indication, a downturn in the economy could lead to greater opportunities for Private Equity firms and continued growth of ACG New York.

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