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Jeff Mills, Global Head of Investor Relations at RCF

Interview with RCF Managing Director, Global Head of Investor Relations, Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills is a Managing Director at RCF and Global Head of Investor Relations. Jeff joined in May 2016 and is responsible for managing the communication with all of RCF’s investors.

I knew RCF to be a leading firm in the private equity space through a number of different limited partner relationships; and when I learned about the company’s desire to have its first Investor Relations professional, I jumped at the opportunity. I had previously worked in a number of third party and in-house marketing roles, and the thought of building up an Investor Relations group in a formalised fashion, was what attracted me to join and to take on the role.

Jeff’s day to day role involves interacting with more than 100 investors from different geographies, with the majority based in North America, some in Europe and in Asia.

I am responsible for all client interactions between RCF and its investors. The conversations held with investors cover a variety of topics including RCF’s current portfolio and understanding the information needs of our investors. The ultimate goal is helping our limited partners by making their interactions with RCF efficient and informative.

My expertise is in private equity investor relations and although I wasn’t that familiar with the mining industry before joining RCF, I must say that I have found it an invigorating challenge to be working with the team here. The resources industry has a key role in the economy and in the world more broadly and the expression “It’s either mined or grown” is very accurate. Every single day we are using something that has been mined. This is probably intuitive for someone in Australia, where we have our Perth office, but it’s not necessarily so to someone based in North America.

With the new role in place at RCF, Investor Relations has a more centralized function now.

Before I joined RCF, the Investor Relations role was primarily managed by James McClements, Ross Bhappu and other colleagues. It was a shared function across a number of people and RCF wisely decided that they needed a person to handle this on a regular basis and in a more formulaic manner. By creating this role for me, RCF now has a centralized function and I like to think that I have brought some fresh ideas on how to interact with investors.

Jeff has travelled extensively during the last eight months in order to meet with a broad number of RCF’s Limited Partners.

During the last eight months I have been travelling to meet with our investors and to better understand how we can work with them and help answer all their questions and needs. I have been working on a number of really interesting projects over the last year and engaging with all our investors, taking the opportunity to share the RCF story and explaining how we are working to source portfolio companies and create value for them. As we are private equity focused, the commitment from investors is over a number of years and not just a short term investment opportunity. All of our investors are here for the medium to long term which we believe makes us a more attractive source of capital. Given the term of commitment from our investors, open and frequent engagement and communication is key.

In terms of other mining private equity funds, there are only a handful.

There definitely aren’t many private equity firms that specialize in mining, especially relative to more traditional PE firms. I expect that this will change overtime as funds that specialize in mining become more common practice. However, this shows that there is an opportunity to help with educational engagements with the investor community explaining what mining focused private equity is, how we do it and why it works for portfolio companies.

The people and the technical expertise is what sets RCF apart

Since joining, what was immediately clear from the start was the great group of people at RCF. Everyone has a very positive attitude, wanting to help grow and develop the portfolio companies. As a new member of the team, I was immediately drawn towards the open, collegial environment and the culture here.

In my view people make a significant difference in a business, especially in both mining and private equity. The team at RCF has the right perspective about working hard and keeping key stakeholders needs at the forefront of their mind. This is the biggest differentiator across the board of any organization.

It’s also great to see colleagues who are really passionate about what they do. My colleagues are specialists, many are engineers, geologists, metallurgists or other mining specialists; they are experts by nature, in fact some are so passionate about mining they not only do it as a job but also in their spare time as a hobby. There are many people in the firm who work Monday to Friday and then spend their Saturday and Sunday looking for new projects and checking out different rock samples. Mining is a genuine passion here.

Prior to joining RCF in May 2016, Jeff held positions in fundraising and client services at various private equity firms.

I had been working in a role similar to this one for the last 15 years. I have worked with groups that started from investment banks to third party marketing firms. I was recently the Managing Director at Brooklands Capital Strategies, a division of TPG and Ares Management. Prior to that, I was the Head of Investor Relations and Marketing at Oak Hill Capital, and I started in the industry at global investment bank Probitas Partners.

I have worked in a variety of functions doing both primary, secondary and structured transactions, portfolio updates and client services, and I now have the chance to transfer some of this knowledge gained into my current role.

Jeff holds a B.S. degree in Mathematical Economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.B.A from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. After graduating from the United States Military Academy, he served in the United States Army as an aviation officer.

The Army is, of course, somewhat different from private equity but there are so many similarities to Investor Relations. Investor Relations is very much about clear communication, being disciplined and organised and always putting others’ needs ahead of yours. Many of these skills are very common in the army and they are certainly well suited in Investor Relations.

Jeff has lived in various cities and met his wife during his time in the army. They now have two kids and are based temporarily in San Francisco.

I am from Western Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. I was raised there and then went to university in New York. I then spent seven years in the US army and was stationed in New York, Alabama, South Korea, Colorado, Arizona and then Kentucky and Tennessee. While stationed in Colorado I met my wife — that’s our family connection to Colorado outside of RCF’s Denver office.

I have two sons who keep me very busy, one is 13 and the other one is 10. We spend a lot of time together, supporting them in their sports and hobbies, which is what I really enjoy doing in my spare time.

David_Thomas

Interview with RCF Managing Director Canada, Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas is a Partner and Managing Director of RCF’s Toronto office. He joined RCF in 2010 and was tasked with establishing the office and building RCF’s in-country presence.

Toronto is considered one of the key global mining finance hubs. On the heels of closing RCF V, RCF’s senior management believed that the timing was right to establish a Canadian branch head and that it made sense to hit the ground running by hiring someone with a deep understanding of the local market and with an established network within the mining industry. I was at a point in my career where, after spending the previous 16 years in investment banking, the idea of acting more as an owner of investments rather than as a middle man, connecting buyers with sellers, was an attractive proposition.

After coming on board in 2010, I was tasked with setting up an office in Toronto. Sourcing space in a new building that was a bare concrete shell in an area that was considered, literally, “on the wrong side of the tracks”, I worked with the architect and designers to come up with a modern space that would suit our needs for the coming years. From touring the furniture factory, purchasing and hanging artwork and buying the coffee maker, I got us up and running in under four months. It was great fun!   Fast forward to today and we have just expanded our square footage by half and added a fourth person to the office. We are also a “home away from home” for the many RCF people who visit Toronto regularly to meet with mining company management teams, attend board meetings or participate in conferences. Having a comfortable work space while in Toronto is important for our team, given how much time we collectively spend on the road each year.

  

Dave started out as an exploration geologist working in northern Canada. When the opportunity presented itself, he moved into the mining investment world and pursued a career as an equities analyst and subsequently in institutional sales.

In keeping with a common RCF theme, my background is on the technical side of the mining industry. I actually got my start as a field assistant in a remote corner of northern Ontario when I was still in high school. This experience of spending the summer outdoors as part of a team confirmed my desire to pursue undergraduate and graduate geology degrees followed by a career in mineral exploration.

Following 10 years of gold, copper and zinc exploration in northern Canada, I was offered an opportunity to move to the investment side of the mining industry, working as a geologist for a Vancouver, BC-based investment bank. Although I was hired for my ability to interpret exploration results, I was fascinated by valuation and investment evaluation, which led me to a career as a gold analyst. Over the next seven years I covered a variety of large and small Canadian gold companies which involved numerous visits to projects around the world. I then transitioned into institutional equity sales, culminating with a specialty mining sales role at one of Canada’s bank-owned investment dealers.

When RCF contacted me, I possessed only a rudimentary understanding of private equity, as most of my clients were mutual, pension and hedge funds. However, I was intrigued by the role on offer because it enabled me to get back to my technical “roots” in a manner that wasn’t possible in my sales role. I was attracted to RCF’s “patient capital” approach to investing whereby short-term market fluctuations are less important than longer-term trends. I was also impressed by the wealth of mining experience at RCF, the overt professionalism and the deep commercial knowledge within the organization. Combined with the attraction of being an owner of investments rather than an intermediary, I graciously accepted RCF’s offer to join the team.

 

RCF Toronto plays an important role in deal generation and deal making within RCF

 Working with my colleague Philip du Toit, the main goal of our two-person hunting team is to originate opportunities that fit within RCF’s investment mandates. We do this through our extensive network of mining, investment banking and consulting contacts, participating in conferences, and running screens on various data sources. Once we’ve identified an opportunity, we will conduct a “red flag” analysis and determine potential investment returns. Satisfied that the opportunity is suitable, we socialize the idea internally, resulting in allocation to the appropriate investment team. Although we stay involved throughout the due diligence process, detailed work that may involve utilizing the internal resources of our Technical Services team and possibly that of outside consultants is managed by the Investment Team, freeing us up to look for the next opportunity.

Leon Binedell is also based out of the Toronto office and engages with management and finance professionals at our portfolio companies globally. His role is to help build and support high quality business processes within our portfolio companies.

 

RCF was the first mining private equity fund to open in Toronto

 Despite Toronto’s importance in mining finance, besides RCF there is only one other mining private equity fund with an office here. I find this a bit odd, given the number of mining companies based in Toronto as well as the number of companies headquartered elsewhere which pass through Toronto, scouring the globe for capital. The city’s mining ecosystem is immense and an important part of the business landscape. A multitude of engineering, legal and accounting firms rely heavily on our industry as a significant revenue source. The large pool of qualified mining and investment professionals adds to the attraction.  Yet, the bulk of mining private equity funds are based elsewhere, including New York, London and Sydney, close to their investors.  I suspect that as the mining private equity sector grows and matures, other firms with establish offices in Toronto but by then RCF will have had a significant head start!

 

RCF is committed to investing in Canada

By opening a Toronto office, RCF signalled its long-term commitment to the Canadian mining industry. In addition to our physical presence, we maintain our profile in the community by speaking at conferences, participating in industry associations such as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) and the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (CIM), and supporting several universities that are grooming the next generation of mining leaders. We also volunteer our time on various industry association committees. Canadian companies are active within the country and around the world, with RCF playing a role in funding numerous projects. Canada represents a significant portion of our allocated capital and I see this continuing based on the opportunities we are seeing in the marketplace. Although in recent years our industry has weathered a challenging investment environment, it would appear that early 2016 was the nadir. Since then, metal prices have rebounded and capital is flowing back into the sector. RCF is as excited as ever by the prospects of working with companies in advancing and developing their projects.

 

Dave was born 25 miles from where he now lives and works about 10 miles from where he was born. Dave feels privileged to have been able to pursue a varied career in an industry that he is passionate about and also be able to raise his family so close to his childhood home.

We are fortunate to be part of such a terrific industry, an industry that attracts talented, committed and ethical individuals in the pursuit of mineral resources. Mining is a truly global industry yet at the same time I am always amazed by its interconnectedness. There are few industries where former university colleagues working as summer students in northern Ontario bump into each other again in Santiago thirty years later and pick up the conversation like it was yesterday! When I speak with university students who are considering a mining career, I always cite the high quality people within the industry as the top reason why so many of us stay in the sector our entire professional lives.

On a personal note, although I’ve travelled the world visiting more than 50 countries and living across Canada, today I live a short train ride away from where I was born. My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in 2017 as well as seeing off the eldest of our two teenagers to university. As you’d expect from a geologist, my hobbies focus on spending as much time outdoors as possible. Hiking, cycling, sea kayaking and photography are at the top of the list of activities that my wife and I enjoy together. I am active on the Human Resources Development Committee of the PDAC and especially enjoy speaking with students who have an interest in pursuing careers in mining and mining finance.