004: Social equity with Gina Cocking

Gina Cocking is a Managing Director and Partner at Colonnade Advisors LLC, a boutique investment bank specializing in sell-side mergers, acquisitions, and capital raising in the financial and business services sectors. Colonnade’s clients are large corporate entities typically selling a non-strategic business, private equity firms and founder/family owned companies.

After college at the University of Chicago, Gina joined the investment banking industry at Kidder, Peabody and later JP Morgan where she advised companies on M&A, debt, and equity offerings. She has been with Colonnade for over six years. Gina also spent a year with the private equity firm, Madison Dearborn Partners. Gina has operating experience as the CFO of a specialty finance company, Director of HR of a private equity-backed manufacturer, and as the CFO of consumer banking businesses within Discover Financial Services. Gina received her MBA from the Booth Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.


What do private equity buyers and strategic buyers look for in buying a company?

·         “That’s a great question, private equity acquirers are usually looking for a company that have shown sustainable growth, consistent earnings, strong management teams, and large industries. Specifically, they’re looking for at least 5 million dollars in operating income, a strong management team that’s dedicated to the company, and participation in a growing industry.”

When a private equity fund buys a company, how is that transaction structured?

·         “Well, a private equity firm brings money to fund growth and management consulting expertise but they won’t run the company. Typically, the owners will maintain 10% – 20% of equity to continue running the company.”

How do you find new businesses to invest in?

·         “It’s a long term process where we really get to know companies by watching with them and working with them for a long period of time before we can get the deal.”

How do you stay in front of your network or community?

·         “The most important thing is to always have added value to your networking and that’s something that takes preparation. Before you make a phone call you need to know what you’re going to share or what you’re going to do for them.

What advice do you have for business professionals looking to grow their networks?

·         “Firstly, get out there by going to networking events, industry conferences, and actually following up with the people you meet at those events. Make sure your relationship isn’t one sided”

Digital networking or traditional networking?

·         “I think I find a little more value in traditional networking especially in my business however, digital networking is also very important.”

If you could go back 20 years, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of regarding your career?

·         “I think firstly I would say that I should try and stay in contact with people I knew a little better, specifically some of the men I worked with early on in my career.”

Who would you love to connect with and do you think you could do it within 7 degrees?

·         “One of my favorite speakers is Terry Gross on NPR and I would love to meet her and I’m almost positive that I could meet her within my 7 degrees.”

What book are you reading right now?

·         “I love listening to Freakanomics, This American Life, and The 538 Politics Podcast, to name a few. Right now though, I’m reading ‘The Power of Habit’.

Any final words of advice for our listeners?

·         “Growing you network is an activity you have to participate in every single day. It’s a constant outreach to people but you have to bring value.”


You can get in contact with Gina Cocking at:

Find her on her LinkedIn


On her website at: www.coladv.com/