Root Capital is pleased to welcome Frances Reid as our new Chief Operating Officer. We recently sat down to learn more about her background and what brought her to Root Capital.
Frances joins us from the CDC Group in London, where she served as Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director for Investment Risk and Analytics from 2014 to 2019. Her career in finance spans more than four decades, with a strong focus on impact investing, debt restructuring, and corporate finance in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. She spent years working in senior positions at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, US Department of the Treasury, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Lehman Brothers Global Asset Management. In addition, she has formal training in financial law, experience as a professor of political economy at the University of Michigan, and is a lifelong advocate for women and American Indians.
As Root Capital’s new Chief Operating Officer, she will oversee the day-to-day operations of Root Capital and ensure that we are able to provide transformative financing and training to agricultural businesses. Please join us in welcoming Frances to our team!
What drew you to Root Capital?
Three things: the mission of Root Capital, the organization’s approach to achieving that mission, and the reputation it has in the development space as a small, but agile and creative organization that is both a thought leader and a practice leader. Root Capital has been around long enough to have a track record and some real experience, while taking pride in being an organization committed to self-reflection and learning.
I see my time here as a culmination of what I’ve spent my career doing. It brings together my interests in international affairs, development, and community development.
What unique skills or perspectives do you bring to the table?
Unlike most people, I’ve gone from large organizations to small. Most people’s careers go the other way around. And I’ve been in both public and private sector organizations through roles in the field and in the head office. Essentially, all of the functions that are reporting to me at Root Capital I have had reporting to me at one time or another in the past. So I bring a lot of management experience, but of course I started out down in the trenches. There, I learned the importance of listening to what people are telling you in the field and not necessarily assuming that you know exactly what it all means. You bring the expertise and insights you have—as someone who’s been working broadly in the space—and combine that with the very direct, local, personal experience of the people you’re working with. I think what I bring to the table in that regard is a lifetime of really listening to people.
What are you most excited to work on?
What’s exciting to me is that Root Capital prides itself on a commitment to improving the lives of smallholder farmers through small and growing businesses. Many organizations are pressured to move up market, away from what was often their original focus. It’s a big challenge to achieve economies of scale, so there has often been a tendency to move toward large agribusinesses and consolidate smallholder interests. The question is, can you really enhance the productivity of commercial agriculture without, in effect, wiping out the smallholder?
I view agriculture as the sector on which a huge portion of the world will always depend. That’s why at Root Capital I’m excited to work to move the dial for the whole sector of smallholder agricultural development.
What else should we know about you?
I have an American Indian background—as well as Scottish—and I’ve been involved in Indian affairs for most of my life. That cultural perspective has been super useful, particularly in how I look at other cultures and their interactions with outsiders who arrive and tell them what to do. It also predisposed me to an interest in languages. Whenever I go to another country, the first thing I do is I try to find a grammar book, a dictionary, and a book that I can try to read—like a local history. Sometimes I buy children’s books, because it’s a great way of getting into the language. I have had some exposure to Spanish in the past and I am now focused on improving it with the help of Root Capital’s Spanish language posts. I think being predisposed to an interest in other people’s languages is an entrée to their cultures.