Jackie O. Gifford, who was recently named managing director and head of non-U.S. equity at Strategic Investment Group, has a resume that is somewhat unusual for someone in the asset management industry — she once ran a successful bakery full-time in Baltimore.
Ms. Gifford said that in 2006, after spending 15 years in various roles in institutional investing, she "followed her dream" to attend culinary school, enrolling in an accelerated pastry arts program at what was then called the French Culinary Institute in New York.
She subsequently learned the day-to-day operations of a commercial bakery, later opening and successfully running the operations and production of Washington-based CakeLove's Baltimore location.
Ms. Gifford explained that she had met Warren Brown, the founder of CakeLove, in 2007, when he was building out an expansion plan for the bakery business across Maryland and Virginia. Mr. Brown selected a locale for a CakeLove outlet in the waterfront Canton neighborhood of East Baltimore.
"At our peak, the Canton location was generating over $50,000 a month in sales of specialty cakes and cupcakes," she said. "Alongside company management, I hired and trained a staff of 20 across customer service, production and operations."
Her day-to-day responsibilities at CakeLove included managing facilities and inventory, supervising customer relations staff, and coordinating payroll and benefits administration.
Ms. Gifford left the bakery to come back to investment management in 2008. The CakeLove site in Baltimore closed in 2010.
CakeLove was "my only full-time baking gig," Ms. Gifford said. " I still bake but only for family and friends."
"It was the most exhausting and fulfilling experience, giving me a true appreciation for the stature of small businesses within our society's economic framework," she said.
Ms. Gifford added that her experience running a bakery taught her a few things about her main vocation, investing.
"First, you must work really hard to consistently meet and exceed expectations for clients," she said. "Investing is a tough business, and no matter your role, you have a client to serve. Actively listen to truly understand their needs and goals and work tirelessly to achieve them… . Invest and align yourself with people you can count on when performance starts to turn. Usually, when things go wrong, it's because the organizational foundation and structure was faulty. Underperformance just exposes the cracks."