Chaya Weiner
Aug 13 · 8 min read

As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ginger Lew, Co-Founder of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) and Managing Director of Cube Hydro Partners. As a founding member of AAAIM, a non-profit organization, Ginger has directly affected change while promoting ethnic and gender diversity within the investment industry. An official partner to the largest US public pension plans’ emerging manager, diversity and inclusion efforts, AAAIM’s alliance of prominent, successful Asian American leaders includes an expansive network of seasoned and rising investment managers that handle over one trillion in assets under management. AAAIM’s network provides a forum for professionals in the industry to meet, network and create business opportunities. The network continues to grow as AAAIM further engages more people and raises awareness of the organization and importance of their mission internationally. Since 2012, Ginger Lew has also been the Managing Director of Cube Hydro Partners (and its predecessor company), a $700 million fund that invests in renewable energy (hydropower) projects in the United States. Ms. Lew is also a senior advisor to I Squared Capital, a $13 billion global infrastructure fund. Until October 2011, she served as Senior Counselor to the White House National Economic Council. She provided economic policy advice on a broad range of matters, including innovation, impact investing, small business, capital access and formation, procurement reform, and entrepreneurship policies.
Under the Clinton Administration, Ms. Lew was the Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration where she provided day to day management and operational oversight of a $42 billion loan portfolio. Before joining SBA, Ms. Lew was the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce where she specialized in international trade issues. Ms. Lew was unanimously confirmed by the United State Senate for both positions.
From 1998 to 2009, Ms. Lew was active in venture capital, as the CEO of TDF, a communications venture fund, and as a venture advisor to Amplifier Venture Partners. During this time, Ms. Lew also was the Chairman and board member of an investment fund based in Europe. She also was a member and co-chair of the NASDAQ Listing Council. She has served on the boards of publicly traded companies, private companies and not for profit organizations, including the Meyer Foundation and the Yosemite National Institute (now Nature Bridge), and the the Board of Governors of the East West Center. Ms. Lew went to UCLA for her B.A. and UC Berkeley School of Law for her Juris Doctorate.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to start on your career path?

When I was in third grade, my father contracted tuberculosis. He was a postal clerk and my mom worked in our small family business and did not speak much English. The practice in those days was to isolate the patient and he was sent to a sanitorium where he stayed for more than 6 months. During that time, my three brothers, my mother and my grandfather (who lived with us) were living under very difficult conditions since the sole breadwinner was unable to work and incurred enormous medical bills. Our family network and our community church played a major role to provide basic services such as food and transportation. We couldn’t have made it but for the contributions of our community coming together to help us. This taught me the power of community action, the power of collective action, and how we have to look out for each other and to help each other. This incident also taught me the power of advocacy. We had a social worker who helped us navigate the medical care system which was overwhelming and foreign. The twin lessons of the power of community action and the power of advocacy set me on my current path.

Did you set out to start a movement? If so, what was your vision? If not, what did you imagine would be the impact of your work?

Throughout my career, I’ve always sought a seat at the table — to make sure the voices of women, of minorities, of social inequities were heard and more importantly, become part of the fabric of social public policy. I became interested in energy and environmental issues when I attended law school and got very involved with a publication, the Ecology Law Quarterly. I also advocated for the admission of more women, more minorities, and in particular, for more Asian Americans, into professional non-engineering fields, such as law.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

In 2006, a friend and I started a not for profit trade group, the Association for Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM). This was precipitated by the incredibly opaque process of raising investment funds from institutional investors. Until then, it was the realm dominated by a small club of privileged white men who were loathe to share the secrets about raising capital. When I was raising capital for a fund, I approached a major U.S. pension fund and was told a) we weren’t qualified (but no one told us what the qualifications were) and b) when asked why there weren’t there more Asian American led venture funds — the response was “we can never find any Asian American fund managers.” It was such a typical response to the long-standing question, why aren’t there more black fund managers, women lawyers, Latino executives?” Because the recruiting manager “didn’t know any.”

So, my friend and I said we’d address that problem by establishing a network which would promote and introduce Asian American fund managers to institutional investors. Hence — the Association of Asian American Investment Managers was born. In 2006, when we held our first conference, we had no idea how many people would show up. We were stunned that 150 people attended. I think our initial members had about $500 million AUM. Today, AAAIM’s members have more than $1T AUM. We’ve introduced many qualified fund managers to institutional investors, and institutional investors have become supporters of AAAIM. It’s well documented that when a business has more diversity in its workforce, including the C-suite, those companies make more informed and better decisions, are more inclusive and are more successful — especially when measured by metrics such as increased shareholder value. By highlighting more Asian American fund managers, we elevate their profile and their competencies and their leadership skills — and recent studies suggest — better fund performance and returns for the institutional investors.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?

Through our work at AAAIM we have helped create meaningful connections for thousands of rising investment managers to network and create business. In particular our Emerging Leaders Programs are continually connecting rising Asian American leaders with accomplished industry veterans to expand their network and grow their careers. The Emerging Leaders program was started by one of our board members, Gordon Liao, who I initially met when he was getting his MBA from Harvard. I’m proud to support him and play a role in creating the forum that is producing these meaningful connections and changing the face, literally, of our industry.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Politicians and business leaders can create greater transparency about capital access, adopting the Rooney rule (from the NFL coach analogy) when it comes to the selection of C-suite executives and board members — and apply this to minorities and women fund manager candidates. Equal pay for equal work is the third critical leg to creating gender and ethnic diversity and parity. The financial industry continues to be dominated by the old boys’ network and pay inequality is rampant.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Great leaders establish a vision and are inclusive on seeking out advice from others on how to achieve that vision. Leadership means listening to people, all people. It’s about inspiring people to want to become a part of the solution and to achieving that vision.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Hire and listen to people smarter than you. It took me a long time to do this — and there are a lot of really bright people in the world who are way smarter than me — from whom I can learn so much.

2. Do something that aligns with your values. We’re frequently told to do something that we are “passionate” about — but I prefer to think of it as doing something that aligns with your values. This will inherently bring passion along with it.

3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I was never afraid to take risks, but I was afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how you learn to be a better person.

4. Create your own solutions. Creating AAAIM was an answer to a problem we saw in our industry. Sometimes you have to take it upon yourself to create the change you’re seeking.

5. Seek advice from others. This goes back to being a great leader — don’t ever be afraid to seek out advice from others on how to achieve your vision.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“A stumbling block for the pessimist is a stepping stone to the optimist.” Eleanor Roosevelt

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m a luddite when it comes to social media on a personal level! But readers can absolutely catch up the latest with AAAIM and follow us on LinkedIn here.

Your work is making a massive positive impact on the planet, thank you so much!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Chaya Weiner

Written by

Director of branding & photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, helping leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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