Peter Zaldivar Has a Global Focus but Never Loses His Personal Touch
Cofounder of Kabouter Management Peter Zaldivar takes pride in running a diverse global investment firm that supports the individual needs of employees
By Cristina Merrill
Kabouter Management’s Peter Zaldivar sees great value in starting small. The Chicago-based investment firm, which Zaldivar cofounded in 2003 with his partner Marcel Houtzager, invests exclusively in public equities for small cap companies outside the United States and manages $4.5 billion for institutional clients such as foundations and endowments.
“It helps in establishing relationships with smaller foreign companies when we call up and say, ‘We’d like to talk with you for a few minutes about your business,’” Zaldivar explains in a Hispanic Executive feature from earlier this year. “A lot of other investors don’t get the opportunity to talk to companies directly. If you can interview a company directly, it’s really easy to get straight to the point of whether or not it’s a company you want to invest in.”
It’s also important to Zaldivar that the Kabouter workforce remains diverse and globally savvy. He cites this “incredible diversity” as one of the company’s greatest assets. Nearly 70 percent of staff members are people of color and women. Collectively, the staff speak over a dozen languages, while 100 percent of the company’s analysts have lived abroad or come from immigrant families, according to Zaldivar.
“As a firm that invests internationally, our cultural proficiency and language skills give us a competitive advantage every day,” he explains in a recent speech to members of The Alumni Society.
When it comes to his leadership style, Zaldivar believes in being a visible leader, one who leads by example and is there to support employees when they need it.
“It may not be as easy for others to walk your walk too, for lots of reasons. They might not have had the same education, training, or experience—or maybe what you were modeling isn’t clear,” he says. “People need to know that you are keeping an eye on them, and if they get stuck, they can depend on you to provide them with resources, equipment, training, and emotional support and guidance. If they can see that you are doing that for others and you will do it for them, it is motivating. That’s my idea of visual leadership.”
To this end, he spends much of his time ensuring his individual employees have all of the tools they need to do their jobs. He believes in catering to their individual needs, especially during COVID-19.
“I spend time with all the individual members of the research team—which is my area of expertise—and also with the heads of the rest of the areas of the firm,” he explains in the speech. “During these interactions, I’m careful to ask if everyone is productive and actualized.
“For instance, someone might need additional tech resources while working from home. Or someone else might feel overwhelmed now that they aren’t sitting next to their team members for support. Or they might even feel like they want more to do and are being underutilized. In those instances, I try to make it clear to everyone that we’ll work to get them the equipment they need, or virtually team them up with someone who would be able to mentor them or rearrange responsibilities to keep them interested.
“We can’t always make everyone perfectly happy, but they can at least know we are watching and listening, and we will try our best. Not just for the company, but for them.”
With his passion for small but interesting enterprises, a diverse workforce, and top-notch employee support, Zaldivar proves on a daily basis that he’s in it for the long haul.