Platinum Premier Global Equity (PPGE) is a minority-owned, U.S.-based, private equity firm that bridges capital from around the world for projects in growth-oriented cities and industries, with a core focus on real estate. Working in such a complex field, long-term relationships are at the heart of the business, and that falls on the shoulders of CEO, Mr Zameer Upadhya. For his outstanding work, Mr Upadhya has achieved the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the USA in this latest issue of CEO Monthly Magazine. Join us as we examine the work of Mr Upadhya and his firm to find out just why this business leader is so deserving of this success.
Growing up on the not so glamorous side of North Miami, Florida, Mr Upadhya quickly learned that the relationships he built made the difference between surviving his walk home from school or not. Building and having roots in the community gave him a sense of protection and support that encouraged him to grow from an inner-city kid to a Global Private Equity firm’s CEO. This sense of community connection was influenced by his paternal grandfather (“Dada”). In 1972, Mr Upadhya’s paternal grandparents were exiled from Uganda by Idi Amin. Overnight they became refugees in a foreign land with no other family or friends. Dada quickly built deep relationships to help him navigate a new world and set up his family for survival and success. Mr Upadhya recalls that at his grandfather’s funeral, a few hundred people from all walks of life ranging from community leaders, to successful business persons, to the custodial staff that cared for him at the hospital on his last days. This reinforced Mr Upadhya’s lessons that his grandfather and parents had imparted upon him that building sincere relationships through service to others was the true mark of success.
The story of PPGE is rooted in this lesson on relationships. Mr Upadhya had built a successful wealth management firm that had as its clients mostly affluent minority executives, physicians, and entrepreneurs. As the firm grew, several clients started to ask for alternative investments to equity markets with a keen interest in real estate. One of the clients that approached him was also a close friend who shared his frustration that he could not find trusted alternative investments. He was a successful minority physician, yet he still did not have access to quality real estate investments. Mr Upadhya realized that there was a significant gap in access to such investments for people of colour. Further, he realized that many successful women also did not have access to generational wealth type investments. Thus in 2016, Mr Upadhya and a few of his trusted and close friends started the company with the mission to democratize access to wealth creation. In short, it aims to diversify the colour and genders of money. In less than four years, PPGE has invested in $225mm USD of real estate investments in Seattle and throughout Texas.
In an industry-led by larger established corporations, Mr Upadhya and his team broke many barriers to entry. They did this by taking the first year to invest solely in relationships with investors, real estate developers, family offices, and institutions that were looking for a different approach to such investments. Early in his career, a mentor of his shared that to build trusted relationships, “I have to see you, to know you, to trust you.” They did not make their first investment for about a year as they built out these deeper connections. Under his leadership, they have built relationships from Houston to Dubai to Singapore that have turned into trusted partners and investments.
Most of the projects that PPGE invests in are because of the relationships that have been cultivated over time, and thus are deals that are not traditionally found on the open market. Whilst this can take quite a bit longer as a process, it enables PPGE to make investments in deals and partners that share the firm’s core values of Trust, Transparency, and an Unrelenting Commitment to Excellence. Trust and transparency, matter because PPGE deals with people’s hard-earned money and investors are rely on the firm to complete a high level of due diligence on projects and partners alike. Trust is very delicate, and thus excellent execution is a must for that trust to continue.
Success has undoubtedly come for PPGE over the last four years. Much of it can be attributed to the firm’s genuine commitment to authentic, long-term, and focused relationships courtesy of Mr Upadhya. He and his team are not just looking to make a quick buck on one project. The firm’s goal is that the partners will be with the firm for decades to come. Mr Upadhya’s deep focus on relationships is not only vital from a financial standpoint, but also ensures that everyone can stand together in storms such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unity and dedication has seen Mr Upadhya and his team at PPGE withstand many a storm, and come through it with clients happy on the other side.
As far as Mr Upadhya’s leadership goes, it continues to drive the business’s success almost as much as the nature of his work itself. His parents once told him that “If you did nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.” It is this ethos that drives the company culture that Mr Upadhya puts into place at PPGE daily. At the heart of everything that this outstanding CEO oversees is the drive to do what is right for the investors and development partners. Mr Upadhya leads decision making by the question of “What is the right thing for the investors and the partners?” Answering these questions is a crucial part of the company culture, and lead into the core values of trust, transparency, and excellence.
All this success is not to say that PPGE and Mr Upadhya have not experienced their fair share of challenges over the years. One of the challenges that the firm faced early on in the business was, in Mr Upadhya’s own words, “the look of the team”. A minority-owned firm in a predominantly white male-driven industry was met with uncertainty at first, and some potential investors even went as far as telling Mr Upadhya that his co-founder should not present pitches due to the colour of his skin. Undeterred, Mr Upadhya and Mr Chambers presented together, with their talent and professionalism shining through the lens of bias and prejudice, they earned the investors trust. As PPGE pushes forward with its mission to diversify the colour and gender of money, it will continue to face hurdles of access, but its commitment to each other, its investors, its partners, and the mission enable it to blow through any obstacle that comes its way.
Every good leader knows that they are only as good as their excellent team surrounding them. PPGE’s success and the success of Mr Upadhya himself is genuinely due to his team. Mr Upadhya has surrounded himself with diverse and exceptional talent that help to break these barriers. There is no way that the company could grow to be a global private equity firm in such a short time without the team or Mr Upadhya’s excellent leadership. Their hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence is what sets the firm apart.
Whilst 2020 was a challenging year for many businesses worldwide, PPGE took the global pause to grow and develop internally. It brought in a business coach that helped the team with leadership and communication development. This internal work has brought the team closer and even more committed to the purpose and future. During this slower period, Mr Upadhya and PPGE also doubled the communication with investors and partners, thereby deepening the relationships. Heading into 2021, the firm has investments in a medical office plaza, office park, and multi-family apartments lined up.
Ultimately, the global pandemic of 2020 has impacted so many people. Many have lost family and friends to the pandemic, and global economies have been decimated. One of Mr Upadhya’s favorite quotes is “Within every difficulty lies opportunity” by Albert Einstein. Mr Upadhya continues to strongly believe that there is an opportunity to come in this, and the world can come out of this pandemic in a better place as a global society. Mr Upadhya’s leadership has successfully guided PPGE through one of the most financially difficult times in modern history. Continued success is sure to be on the horizon, or as Mr Upadhya loves to say, “have faith, success is imminent.”