2019 Knowledge Brokers New Guards

Rebecca Levy

Title: Senior portfolio advisor
Firm: Aksia
Assets under advisement: $85 billion
Number of consultants at firm: 172 professionals, including 33 portfolio advisory professionals
Client type: Corporate and public pension plans, insurance companies, government-related

Rebecca Levy may be the new kid on the block at Aksia, but her energy and wealth of experience helps her confidently tackle the tough investment decisions she advises her clients on.

Aksia is Levy’s foray into consulting, but her almost two decades of handling institutional clients and experience in financial markets has fostered a passion for solving problems for institutional investors. She cut her teeth on the trading floor and was most recently at Goldman Sachs covering commodities, pitching trade ideas, providing market analysis, and selling derivatives.

She’s also held commodity and sales roles at Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and worked in UBS’ Investment Banking Department’s Global Industrial Group and Alternative Capital Group. Since joining the firm last year, she’s worked with many different types of clients on their hedge fund and private credit portfolios, advising them on portfolio construction, manager selection, and pacing, among other things.

“I love the markets, explaining complex products and helping clients problem solve with creative solutions,” Levy, who spent her undergrad years at Duke studying psychology before earning her MBA at the Columbia Business School, tells CIO. “So, if you think about that from a sales perspective, it’s a very similar job with a similar skillset. It’s just talking to a few different folks. On the GP side, I covered many of those managers when I was on the sell side.”

Aksia represents institutions including corporate and public pension plans, insurance companies, endowments, foundations, and even superannuation funds, an immensely diverse group in which Levy enjoys getting her feet wet.

“I haven’t been a consultant for 20 years so I think that [I] can sometimes be a fresh lens to look at things,” she says.

Solutions and Sightings

Levy is seeing more private markets activity, interest in Asia, as well as discussions around niche strategies and managing down fees. “In a world with $15 trillion+ of negatively yielding debt globally, the focus on private markets and alternatives continues to grow with investors taking advantage of opportunities to harvest illiquidity premiums,” she says. “It is with this proliferation of interest in private credit that we have seen some organizations move towards dedicated PC buckets in their allocations.”

“As we think about the supply and demand for middle-market lending, the continued capital raising results in a significant amount of capital chasing a finite number of financing transactions. In these scenarios, all things equal, as lenders compete for deals, we would expect to see increasing leverage, fewer covenant protections, and tightening spreads. In addition, the magnitude of the increasing leverage multiples may be further exacerbated by a trend towards more aggressive EBITDA addbacks,” Levy says.

“One of the most interesting aspects of private credit is that many people don’t realize how vast and diverse the landscape is,” she says. “Given the plethora of money being raised in specific subsector areas of the direct lending space, we continue to look for strategies that are less trafficked or have more attractive supply/demand dynamics,” such as health care lending, real assets credit strategies like shipping, or agricultural lending and geographical diversity in the form of Asia special situations.

Levy specializes in alternative portfolio advisory solutions for institutional investors. One of her preferred client solutions is Aksia’s private credit strategy map, which houses seven main strategies and 90 sub-strategies.

“Helping one client who’s at the beginning stages of building a private credit book might have different needs or priorities from someone who’s been investing in this space for many years,” she says. “So, in my opinion that’s what makes the job really fun and every day is different.”

Levy, who has two daughters, enjoys traveling as much as she can, and is a bit of a thrill seeker. She’s done Kilimanjaro, Machu Pichu, and has been in a microlight above Victoria Falls, which she says is “pretty much a lawnmower engine and a seatbelt,” but one pre-motherhood experience tops them all.

“It’s a little bit hardcore, but on my honeymoon, I went diving with great whites in South Africa,” she said. “I was afraid my hands were going to float out of the cage.” 

By Chris Butera

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