Cortez-Young outside her office at Espirito Santo Plaza on Brickell Avenue
At just 23, Jocelyn Cortez-Young helped launch Goldman Sachs’s offices in Brazil and Mexico, and her career juggernaut hasn’t stopped since. By age 26, she was a force on Wall Street, responsible for emerging markets at Credit Suisse. And just three years ago, she founded Minerva Capital Group, one of the first social-impact private equity firms in Miami. This year, Cortez-Young, now 36, started the Miami chapter of 85 Broads, a global network of high-powered women selected for their professional prowess that has members in more than 90 countries.
Born in New York to Chilean parents, the statuesque brunette is usually seen in a navy St. John suit with a crisp white shirt, Louboutins, and her signature Prada glasses. Not that it always has been smooth sailing—she was at Credit Suisse in 2001 when the World Trade Center was hit. “Understanding risk management suddenly became the core of my business,” she says. An offer to build Citibank’s capital markets business in Latin America brought her to Miami in 2004. “I was traveling from Mexico to Chile; [I was] on a plane 300 days a year,” recalls Cortez-Young, who also speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese. In 2008, she experienced what can be called bad timing: She left Citibank to join a hedge fund just before the market took a dive. “I jumped right into the financial crisis. The fund collapsed, and there I was in Miami—with a skill set appropriate to New York or London. There were not a lot of proprietary trading jobs in this area.”
That’s when she founded Minerva Capital Group. “The common thinking was that you had to be in New York or the San Francisco area to successfully launch a private equity fund. But we invested in three companies, and we are on the way to our fourth,” she explains. “People don’t realize that Miami is key to finance because it provides a gateway to Latin America. We saw to it that our investment influence was used for social improvement. We also made sure that women had equality and were front and center in management.”
Her dedication to advancing women’s careers took its sharpest focus this year, when she initiated 85 Broads’ Miami chapter. “I reached out to the women’s leadership groups in New York because there was no network for female entrepreneurs here. Not only was 85 Broads the one I identified with most, but the people there were the most receptive.”
Cortez-Young plans to hold monthly networking events. Her first was a mixer in February at Sra. Martinez, in the Design District. “There were lawyers, bankers, artists, and media professionals,” she says. “They were all women on top of their game.”
Of course access to Latin America isn’t the only advantage to working in Miami. “Here you can pursue a dream of starting your own business and spend your leisure time sipping a cocktail by the beach or going kitesurfing. Try doing that on Wall Street!”