Ani Vartanian Boladian is Founder and co-Managing Partner of Rubicon Point Partners (RPP) with her husband, Razmig Boladian. RPP is a real estate private equity firm based out of San Francisco, California. Prior to RPP, Ani was at the U.S. Department of the Treasury managing the Term Asset Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), a $200 billion lending program in partnership with the Federal Reserve in restarting the asset-backed and commercial mortgage-backed security markets. Ani’s career has been in real estate private equity, previously a member of Rockwood Capital and Transwestern Investment Company. Ani began her working career at Goldman, Sachs & Co. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Ani has authored and published two HBS real estate cases, and is a regular guest speaker at both Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. We sat down with Ani to discuss launching a business, philanthropy and the importance of International Women’s Day.
"We all have a responsibility of doing what is right and leading through example"
My career had been rooted in real estate private equity, but I had not seen a lot of women and/or minority leaders in the industry and in private equity, writ large. When the opportunity presented itself to start Rubicon Point Partners, I jumped at it. My entrepreneurial spirit drives me to create things and see them to completion. I also am motivated to see more female leadership and so I saw my chance to contribute to that message of women in top management in commercial real estate.
What has been the most rewarding part of building RPP from the ground up?
I have the pleasure of working with my husband, as well as an amazing team of folks who believe in us and have put their trust in us to create something impactful and special. We also have an incredible group of investors, advisors and stakeholders. We have been blessed. Lastly, I have had the chance to truly participate in the community in which we operate. We have taken buildings that are dilapidated, or are eye-sores of the neighborhood, and turned them into the pearl of the street. Working as a team with the community and local government to create real change has been greatly rewarding.
Prior to RPP you worked in the Obama administration, helping create the TALF program, among other accomplishments. How did that opportunity arise and what was your greatest lesson learned?
That opportunity arose when a classmate from Harvard Business School reached out to me during the financial crisis to get a handle on what was happening in the commercial real estate world and on the West Coast. One thing led to another and I was asked to join the Treasury Department to run a program that was eventually named: Term Asset Backed Loan Facility, a $200 billion facility to restart the securitization market. I was at Rockwood Capital at that time, and so it was a difficult decision to make, but I felt working for the government during the financial crisis was my way of giving back.
Some of the lessons I learned from that experience were that, firstly, no one is immune to failure and, secondly, transparency and communication are critical. Now with our own organization and seeing all those that did things “right” vs. “wrong,” we espouse transparency, honesty and open communication with all our stakeholders. We are all partners in this venture, directly or indirectly, and that is how we approach everything we do.
Many believe part of being a leader is helping those less fortunate. How do you help support your community and its constituents?
I am of Armenian descent, so based on the struggles of my heritage, helping others is very important to me. My husband and I funded a center for children in Armenia that provides warm meals, education and a safe place for underprivileged children. We also contribute to an Armenian orphanage in Lebanon that my grandmother was placed in as a result of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
At RPP, we participate in outreach programs in our local community on a quarterly basis. We close the office and go as a team to volunteer with our community partners, such as SF-Marin Food Bank, and with two other local organizations.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “pledge for parity,” encouraging men and women to help accelerate gender equality. What do you think is the most important action people can take to support gender equality?
First and foremost is the recognition that parity does not exist between men and women in the workplace. The first step is recognition of the problem. The second step is to do something about it. We all have a responsibility of doing what is right and leading through example.
Who has been your most impactful mentor and why?
A professor at Harvard Business School, Arthur Segel. He was incredibly impactful because he taught me how to think outside the box. He was generous with what he had accomplished and was one of the first to encourage me to start my own company.
What do you think will change for women over the next 10 years?
As the millennial generation continues to populate the workforce, the rules of the game will continue to change. There will be more women and diversity in the C-suites.
If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing instead?
I would be working for the Red Cross, going to any location suffering an international crisis.
What advice would you give to aspiring women who want to become thought leaders in their own spheres of influence?
Just do it. There are no rules to the game. Anything goes. Whatever avenue you decide to go down, make sure it’s something you care deeply about. Nothing should hold you back. If you feel like you’re being held back, then change your situation. Chart your own course. Believe that you can, and stay persistent. With persistence, things eventually work out.