Episode 3: Alejandro Canelas Fernandez, Blackstone

Ontra Senior Managing Director of Sales Randi Lynn Veenstra and Alejandro Canelas Fernandez, the managing director in the Chief Legal Office of Blackstone, took a walk with Randi Lynn’s goldendoodle in Central Park. They touched on ESG, cybersecurity, and data privacy.

Video Transcript

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:01):

I’m Randi Lynn Veenstra, and I’m a senior managing director at Ontra.

Winnie and I are going for a walk near our favorite pond in Central Park. Going to talk to Alejandro Canelas from Blackstone. Come join us.

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (00:17):

Hey, good to see you. What’s going on?

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:20):

When did you end up in the states?

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (00:22):

When I was around 11, 12. So a lot of moving leading up to that.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:27):

Yeah, you probably had some really amazing experiences, I have to imagine. Does anything stick out to you in your mind in particular?

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (00:34):

So, I was thinking about this earlier today as the holidays approach. One Christmas, my family rented a riverboat in Bolivia, one of the kind of big rivers that lead up to the Amazon. And we spent a few days on it, pretty much just us. One night the engine blew out, so we were essentially drifting in this river for almost half a day. And I was trying to soak it all in, understand where this was going…

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:05):

Your methodical behavior. You were like, “How do I calculate this?”

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (01:10):

And in the meantime, my dad and my sister decide to jump into the river and just take a swim while we wait for the mechanics essentially to show up. And then I was thinking in the back of my mind, that’s the same river we were fishing piranhas two days ago. But didn’t go through their head, and they were living it up.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:31):

Surrounded by piranhas. Hmm… it feels a little interesting. Now you’re in the private equity asset management space. Does it feel any similar to that? Just a boat stranded surrounded by them at all times?

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (01:43):

There’s an element of that, and I think me as the, as the lawyer kind of trying to figure out, okay, are the piranhas getting close? Are they in this part of the river as opposed to that other part of the river?

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:52):

It’s funny you mentioned Blackstone, because I feel like you guys almost don’t have to differentiate in a lot of respects. Your reputation precedes you. But it is something obviously you’re keeping top of mind as you think about, call them competitors in the field, in the industry.

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (02:07):

That’s exactly right. I think, I mean, we do benefit from our reputation and our track record. But I think as we enter into new areas, there’s a combination of: There may be people or actors in those areas that are not as familiar with the name and with the brand. There’s always an education process.

And the flip side of that is, as we enter that new area, we want to maintain our reputation. Maintain our brand. So I think part of what I do, and what the legal team tries to do, is ensure that as we enter into the unknown, as we jump into the water, we keep in mind the things that built our reputation to begin with.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (02:46):

Yeah, one area where I think everyone’s having to differentiate — and it’s difficult because there’s no clear sense of how you do differentiate — is ESG. How are you all facing that?

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (02:58):

I think what’s great about ESG is that it allows, at least from a lawyer’s perspective, to bring in your methodical and structured way of thinking about things.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (03:08):

She’s excited, she’s excited about ESG.

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (03:09):

But you also get to bring in, you also get to bring other advisers that look at things from an economic perspective, or from an environmental perspective, or more scientific perspective. And I think your role as a lawyer in the ESG world is to bring all these pieces together and try to think of a framework that you can actually operationalize as you think about new investments or new opportunities.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (03:42):

I know another thing top of mind has been cybersecurity, data privacy. How’s your team approaching that?

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (03:50):

I think with a lot of openness, and I think they’re approaching it from the perspective of sometimes lawyers are assumed to not be tech savvy or at the forefront, which there’s some truth to that. But in order to be an effective adviser, an effective partner to your colleagues and your clients, you need to dive into it. You need to be willing to learn from the engineers and the data privacy experts.

And you can add value to their work by guiding them through the new regulations that are in place or the potential risks and liabilities that exist in that space. So I’ve been encouraged by how my colleagues have really embraced the opportunities to contribute as a lawyer in that space.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (04:41):

That’s great. I’ll take that away for sure. Thanks, Alejandro. Really appreciate it.

Alejandro Canelas Fernandez (04:46):

Good to see you, Randi Lynn.

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