Profile: Bob Long, CEO of StepStone Private Wealth
- September 1, 2023: Vol. 10, Number 8

Profile: Bob Long, CEO of StepStone Private Wealth

by Mike Consol

Bob Long was adopted six weeks after his birth by Bob and Ann Long. His younger sister Ann (more commonly referred to as “AB”) was adopted a few weeks after her birth.

Both adoptions were managed by Children’s Home Society of North Carolina. In the adoption realm, the day parents pick up their adopted child is called the child’s Chosen Day. In Long’s case, that was March 21.

The psychological weight or insecurity of having been handed off by one’s birth parents — common to adopted children — never exerted itself on Long, who calls his adoption a “massive advantage.”

“To know how much you are wanted, to be chosen, to know that two sets of adults had to make the unselfish decision, I consider it an advantage.”

Indeed, when Long reached adulthood and professional success, he served as a board member for Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, and is currently involved with the Strategic Advisory Council for Gift of Adoption.

Long and his wife, Mary, actively support organizations focused on vulnerable children and the opportunity,  sharing a modest amount of their resources to assist parents in completing the adoption process, which typically costs $25,000 to $35,000 in expenses. Organizations such as The Gift of Adoption (with the help of people like the Longs) offer grants averaging $4,500 to help get adopting parents across the finish line. Long explains there are thousands of U.S. families who have been thoroughly vetted by state and social service agencies and ready to adopt, having saved their money as well as borrowing funds from family, friends and their church, but still need assistance covering the final 20 percent to 30 percent of their financial obligation.

“I use the word ‘invest’” he says. “I don’t think of it as a ‘gift.’ If I can invest $4,500 to complete a family, that is the easiest decision I make. Adoption is one of the few causes that has no enemies, it is an absolute win/win. So, for me, to support families and organizations that are placing children, particularly vulnerable children, who would otherwise not have a home …” Long doesn’t feel the need to complete the sentence, trusting the benefits to children, would-be parents and society are evident.

Long’s own biological children, Sarah and Evan, are studying data science at Carnegie Mellon, and mechanical engineering at MIT, respectively.


Long was born in Raleigh, N.C., and grew up in Eden, a small town north of Greensboro, and home to Fieldcrest Mills, one of the largest towel manufacturers in the world and a Fortune 500 textile company at the time. The company is now gone, though, having merged with a couple of companies, including Pillowtex.

“The company ultimately went bankrupt, and many of those mills are shuttered now,” he says. “The town I grew up in has suffered a lot.”

Collegiate basketball legend David Thompson was Long’s sports idol, playing for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, the same university where Long’s father earned his agricultural education degree. Unlike his father, Long attended the University of North Carolina, where he studied economics and religion.

“I benefitted greatly from going to Chapel Hill in 1980, having not spent much time outside of North Carolina and having not met a lot of people from other backgrounds, faiths, traditions, cultures and parts of the country,” he recalls. “That was four extraordinary years of broadening my perspective.”

He stayed focused on his objectives during his summers as well, working to earn the money required to pay for the majority of his college tuition. He worked at a can factory affiliated with the Miller Brewing Co. (now Miller Coors) facility just miles away. He assisted in the manufacture of beer cans from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. four days per week. More specifically, he was a summer replacement operator at the Miller Container division in Reidsville, N.C., for three summers. The Miller Container division manufactured empty cans that were then shipped to the brewery where the cans were filled with beer and the top sealed onto the can.

“I learned a lot,” he says of his summer employment. “I still have all my fingers. I am very proud of that.”

Long also earned income by going door-to-door selling yellow-page advertisements in the campus phone directory for a couple of nearby colleges.

During his semesters at the UNC campus, Long went out with friends three nights per week and rarely missed a football game, while still studying more than the vast majority of the UNC student body, by his estimation, with aspirations of attending a top 20 law school.

That turned out to be the University of Virginia. Long dates the start of his adulthood to 1987, when he graduated from law school and clerked for a year with North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Willis Padgett Whichard — the only person in the state’s history to have served in both houses of the legislature, on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Long remains in touch with Whichard.

His clerkship was followed by a stint as a securities lawyer at Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice (since renamed Womble Bond Dickinson).

“I found out just how much I didn’t know,” he remarks. “My college education paled in comparison to the experience of having the responsibility for a client’s securities filings, deadlines and transactions. That was the experience that was formative to me.”

In 1993, Long was recruited by a nascent investment bank at NationsBank (which eventually merged with Bank of America and took its name), to be its first in-house securities law specialist. “Second to marrying my wife, this is the best decision I ever made.”

Long made the move from law to business after realizing he was less interested in being a counselor and implementer than the actual decision maker. His first business role  was as Bank of America’s co-head of real estate mezzanine financing, followed by roles in investment banking and private equity — eventually running most of the private equity business at the bank, about $7 billion in AUM. His responsibilities included  managing the BofA strategic investment portfolio, making numerous investments in fintech startups and other emerging companies.


Long’s father was dean of the local community college, running the school’s day-to-day business, as well as managing the school’s academic talent and designing the curriculum. So, when local textile companies needed 20 machinists to maintain their looms and other factory equipment, they would collaborate with the elder Long to create a training program at the community college to develop the needed talent.

“It was a really neat hands-on economic development role,” the junior Long observes.

Long’s mother, vivacious and outgoing, started selling residential real estate later in life and became financially successful in that pursuit.

Long went to work at an early age, mowing lawns and delivering newspapers at age 11. What was distinctive about the experience was that Long’s father participated in the tasks, rising from the bed every morning at 6 a.m. to help his son deliver newspapers from ages 11 through 18.

“The typical 11-year-olds, at the time, were not carrying paper routes themselves, but my father chose to keep doing it, so we had that time together every morning until I graduated from high school,” he explains.

Similarly, an 11-year-old is not hired to mow the lawn at the local bank by himself, though with the steadying presence of his father also making the commitment, a young Bob Long was a trusted service provider.

“Imagine this,” he says, “you are the dean of the community college by day, a member of the country club, chairman of the board of several nonprofits, and yet, Saturday afternoon you are wearing your dungarees mowing the lawn at Wachovia Bank with your son.”

When he got his driver’s license and was able to manage and transport the equipment solo, his father still often joined him at the jobsite, capitalizing on the opportunity to spend meaningful time with his son.

“I definitely earned more spending money than my friends because I had the benefit of free labor from a very capable adult,” Long quips. “We were extremely close, and I was extraordinarily blessed to have that time with him.”


Long’s first foray into the democratization of alternatives came in 2007 when Bank of America selected him to lead the spin-out of the bank’s private equity fund investing business, an entity that would eventually become Conversus Capital. Some $2 billion in investor commitments later, Conversus began trading on Euronext Amsterdam as the world’s largest listed fund of private equity funds. Conversus offered the ability for individuals to access private equity in a daily traded format, and Long served as the CEO until its sale in 2012. Complementing that European listed private equity experience, Long later became the CEO of OHA Investment Corp., a NASDAQ listed business development company.

Taking the lessons learned from the publicly traded format, Long and three business partners — Tom Sittema, Neil Menard and Tim Smith — conceived of their business in early 2018 around the idea of investor-centric retail alternatives. They partnered with StepStone Group, one of the world’s largest allocators to the private markets. The firm was launched in July 2019, and its growth has been strictly organic since its debut.

In a September 2019 statement, StepStone Group reported that the private wealth group “will leverage StepStone across private equity, real estate, private debt and infrastructure to develop and distribute innovative products for individual investors. …[and to] integrate fund investments, secondaries and co-investments to create customized product solutions for the private wealth sector.”


Bob Long’s faith in StepStone’s future is underscored by his investment in the StepStone Private Wealth funds as the largest single position in his personal investment portfolio. The firm is headquartered in Charlotte, with a second office in Orlando, Fla., but its salespeople also work from parent company StepStone Group’s 25 offices in 15 countries.

Long sounds especially proud of StepStone Private Wealth’s recent launch of a venture capital and growth equity fund.

“No one has ever done an open-architecture venture and growth fund in a tender fund format, in a semi-liquid format,” he says. “There were countless challenges around cash flow modeling, valuation, deal allocation and track record.”

Venture capital’s risk/reward ratio at this stage is regarded by Long as “extremely attractive” for those with a long-term investment horizon. Why now? “We are operating in a winner-take-most business environment,” Long asserts, “where even a modest competitive advantage has the potential to be leveraged globally to create extraordinary value creation opportunities for innovators.

“You can only lose 100 percent of your money in a deal, and that happens,” Long says, “but venture capital provides the opportunity to earn substantial multiples on your money.”


Long refers to the early funds created by Blackstone and KKR as the “inception phase” of private markets, as compared to the institutional phase that followed it.

“A democratization phase had begun right before the financial crisis,” he says, “and that set it back significantly. We are now in the maturing phase of democratization, and what that means is truly institutional-
caliber private market assets are being brought to individual investors and smaller institutions.”

Going forward, Long predicts the private wealth sector will bring about lower minimums for investments, a reduction or elimination of paperwork via straight-through processing, more fluid and efficient subscriptions and redemptions, improved valuation processes, and more real-time reporting.

For its part, the StepStone Private Wealth mission statement asserts the firm is seeking to “expand accessibility to the private markets for individual investors by creating and distributing investment solutions differentiated by industry-leading investment managers and investor-centric products.”


Bob Long is a night owl, getting increasingly productive as the day and night progresses, with many of his best ideas taking shape between 9 p.m. and midnight, when “there is absolutely nothing else going on” and “I don’t need to think about responding to any emails and no one else is even available to talk.”

His evening routine is to exercise before dinner, and dinner is followed by a 30-minute walk with his wife, Mary, a constitutional he calls “a terrific way to download about your day.”

Despite the late hours Long sometimes keeps, he rises before 7 a.m. each morning, after getting at least seven hours of sleep. He is assisted in this routine by his commitment to very short commutes, noting that he has never lived more than 15 minutes from kissing his wife goodbye to sitting down at his desk, working at the office on weekdays and weekends.

“I find that most efficient.”

At the office, Long and his three founding partners act as equally empowered executives. He identifies Tim Smith as the most effective problem solver he has ever worked with, while Neil Menard is the best relationship builder, and Tom Sittema is the top strategic thinker of the group. Long regards himself as the person who weaves together the leadership’s vision and plan of execution.

“When they introduce me, they describe me as the keel on the ship,” Long says of his partners.

Long processes ideas by writing.

“If I force myself to put ideas in writing, I find their inconsistencies and weaknesses, so I do tend to produce a lot of written product in the form of an outline or Q&A or a pros-and-cons document. To me, it is not done until there is a written description of the strategy or agreement.”


Long can be found eating at the Charlotte Country Club with some regularity, though his favorite place to dine is Dogwood Southern Table & Bar, where dishes ranging from basted scallops and braised short ribs to crab cakes and panko-crusted flounder are served. Charlotte, the so-called Queen City, named after Queen Charlotte of Britain, has seen its dining scene immeasurably augmented by the opening of a Johnson & Wales University campus in 2003, an event Long dubs a “huge inflection point” for the city’s dining scene.

His favorite style of cuisine is Asian fusion.

Despite his appetite for fine dining, Long flatly states, “I am a barbecue guy” and “there is only one kind of barbecue in North Carolina, and that’s vinegar-based eastern North Carolina barbecue.”

Though investment decisions never prosper or wither based on culinary penchants, it is that kind of decisiveness that has been a hallmark of Long’s career, and it extends to all aspects of his life. Steadfast and determined, “the keel” of the StepStone Private Wealth ship does not tilt without cause.


Mike Consol ( is senior editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter (@mikeconsol) and LinkedIn ( to read his latest postings.

Forgot your username or password?