Private equity firms often get a bad rap. They can be characterized as cold-blooded, willing to eviscerate an acquired company and sell off its parts, scorching the community in the process.
That’s not the case at Signet LLC., a firm founded in 1995 by Anthony Manna. His preference is to build companies up.
“It was definitely more my personality,” says Manna, chairman and principal of Signet. “I used to watch guys when I first started practicing law rip companies apart. Candidly speaking, I’m sure some of those guys made a lot of money, but I’m not sure that the so-called shareholders really came out. In fact, my argument was they did not. I believe you should try to build something up and not destroy it.”
Signet’s approach has led to a reputation of goodwill, which in turn has amassed a currency of its own.
“There’s absolutely no question about it,” Manna says. “The longer people see over time that you continue to have that, that currency gets stronger.”
“We’re selling ourselves and we’re selling a philosophy,” says Ken Krismanth, Signet’s CEO and principal. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to be at the table. We’re not a commodity investor. We’re not just capital. It’s more than that.”
The firm has three basic platforms: operations, real estate and capital investments. It conducts business internationally and has a presence in seven states and Washington D.C. It has done about $4.5 billion dollars in total real estate development over the life of the company, currently has $400 million in assets under management, owns 25 companies and has about 700 employees.
With its diverse, evolving approach and balance of business, Signet needed to consolidate its image and worked to determine the best way to represent itself over the course of many months.
“We travel all over the world. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking to venture capital or PE firms or just family wealth offices. Everybody who looks at us goes, ‘you guys are different,’” Manna says.