How to build a $9 billion firm and give back to the community – Tracy Maitland shows the way

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 31, 2024 6:37 AM EDT
Tracy Maitland. Photo Credit: Icon Mann

Tracy Maitland’s indelible mark as founder, president, and chief investment officer of the Advent Capital Management is an incredible phenomenon. But his impact extends beyond the investment firm and has immensely touched public life. From helping educate the public on the value of convertible bonds, and hiring a diverse employee base to his scholarship fund, Maitland is committed to giving back and engaging with the community.

Maitland has followed his father’s footsteps by taking the philanthropic path. His father, Leo, was a prominent New York City surgeon who tended to a high profile clientele but also offered his services to low-income patients.

He was one of the surgeons at Harlem Hospital who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and saved his life after Dr. King was stabbed at a book signing. Maitland’s father also ran a private practice that encouraged his son to take up entrepreneurship. Maitland credits his judgement to the guidance that his father gave him early in life.

“I’d go to his office on a Saturday and there’d be a line out the door because he would treat people whether they could afford to pay or not,” Maitland said of his father’s community work.

Unlike his father, Maitland wasn’t interested in a career in medicine. He was admitted to Columbia University where he pursued a finance degree. He gained access to the college’s alumni as advertising manager for The Columbian yearbook during his senior year. He consequently earned powerful connections that widened his network and ensured his success in the industry.

Maitland joined an exclusive fast-track management program at Merrill Lynch after graduation. Here, he notably invented a hybrid zero coupon bond that could be converted to cash or stock in 1985. The bonds were highly profitable for Merrill, with Maitland selling them to the company’s major clients. He was soon promoted to head of convertible sales which was Merrill’s most profitable unit although not as well known. Maitland leveraged the company’s dominant position in convertibles, and his role as the major distribution link between investors and issuers, to create a unique advantage in investing and trading in the convertible market.

Having spent 13 years at Merrill Lynch, Maitland decided to utilize his extensive investment knowledge and branch out on his own. He founded Advent Capital Management, an investment firm specializing in defensive investment strategies involving convertible bonds. Maitland has described convertibles as chameleons, rising in value during boom times and a fixed maturity value if the economy deteriorates. Convertibles are relatively quick to get to market and are a leading source of capital for companies with high growth prospects that are limited by a low credit rating or don’t have assets to use as collateral.

The firm has earned a reputation for surviving turbulent markets. Maitland and his team reviewed their portfolio during the September 11 attacks and the 2008 Great Recession and eliminated those without the cash flow to survive the crises. This strategy helped the firm wade through the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, Advent swiftly cut back holdings in furniture retailers like Restoration Hardware, Guess, cruise-ship operator Carnival and Six Flags, and reinforced its position in technology and health care.

From the start of his career to the present, Maitland’s goal has been to educate the public on the value of convertibles. Convertible bonds have recently gained the spotlight but remain an overlooked asset class. Advent currently manages over $9 billion on behalf of institutional investors and private clients. With institutions making up more than 90 per cent of their assets, the firm is one of the largest investors in the asset class.

Maitland believes that Black owned companies are vital for the growth of the community.

“Over the years, I have had opportunity to sell the company and just do nothing. I am not interested in doing that. I think it is important for us to have our own institutions. We hire people. We are part of the community. When you have your own company, you have the ability to be part of the conversation. The conversation you have as the head of a company is far different than the one you will have as a Senior member of even a large company because you make the decision.”

Maitland is actualizing the American dream by giving opportunities to people who want to learn and contribute to society. His firm provides equal opportunities, with diverse or female employees comprising more than 50 percent of its base. Advent works with SEO to recruit and train talented Black and minority college students and with women-owned recruitment firms such as SG Partners.

He established the Leo C. Maitland Scholarship Fund to honor his father who expressly requested that his scholarship be awarded to talented but needy students who are graduates of the New York City and/or Detroit public school system. Maitland has also donated to the John Jay Scholarship Fund and collaborated with Icon Mann which is positively transforming the dialogue and imaging of African Americans. He sits on numerous boards and is engaged in investments and joint ventures in Africa.