Home Private Equity More than a bottom line: Upstate trio launches Insignis, a new real...

More than a bottom line: Upstate trio launches Insignis, a new real estate and private equity firm

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The seminal moment for Insignis Partners, a new investment and real estate development firm in Greenville, happened several years ago on an Upstate golf course where Kyle Putnam, then a partner in RealOp Investments, and Paul Sparks, then with CertusBank, crossed paths.

“We were paired up together at a charity golf tournament,” Putnam remembers. “That’s how we first met.” It was 2013. Within a year, Sparks had joined Putnam at RealOp, a real estate development company, as a third partner.

“The idea that was generated from that due diligence grew into a 10-location company, 150 employees and we’ve seen thousands of patients.” -Paul Sparks, partner, Insignis

Meanwhile, a lawyer named Seph Wunder was in Spartanburg working as general counsel for the Johnson family. But the entrepreneurial and real estate development bug bit him, bringing him back to Greenville in early 2014 where he rejoined Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, whose client list included RealOp. In 2015, Wunder joined RealOp as general counsel. “From there, we launched like a rocket ship … grew very fast,” Wunder remembers.

But the decision for Putnam, Sparks and Wunder to exit RealOp and form their own partnership came in part through Wunder’s efforts in the private equity space, which fueled the trio’s desire to put all their energies into their own venture.

Combined, the three men have executed over $5 billion in real estate transactions and have over 50 years of combined investment experience, according to information on their just-launched website. Leveraging that experience, Insignis Partners will focus primarily on the development and acquisition of commercial real estate assets and strategic investments in lower-middle market operating companies that other firms might overlook.

“Kyle, Seph, and I agree this is an optimal time to identify and pursue disruptive opportunities in new and growing industries,” Sparks says. “We are excited about the opportunity to invest in the continued growth of our current portfolio of community-centered investments which, alongside our real estate holdings, include family health care services and environmentally conscious packaging.”

What’s in a name?

The partners’ choice to name their venture “Insignis” is the result of a ground-up branding effort, said Elizabeth Bush with X-Agency in Greenville. Insignis, she said, is the Greek version of the word “insignia” — leaving one’s mark. “It’s indicative of their core purpose and encapsulates both their personal and professional relationship,” she says. The three ‘I’s within the word represent the three pillars, which are the three partners — Putnam, Sparks and Wunder. The visual brand will reflect that idea.

“I couldn’t ask for better partners, better men to be around,” Sparks says. “The decision, for me, was easy.”

The three I’s

The three I’s represent ideas the partners believe will be reflected in their daily ethos: Invest — a growing and diverse financial portfolio; Inspire — building trust, promoting empathy and creating excitement; Impact — create economic opportunity and growth in the community.

Sparks says an example of the Insignis approach is found in the partners’ decision to invest in AFC Urgent Care, a Birmingham, Alabama-based provider with several locations in the Upstate now in development or under redevelopment.

“The idea that was generated from that due diligence grew into a 10-location company, 150 employees and we’ve seen thousands of patients,” Sparks says. “We were never closed during the pandemic. We never had to lay anyone off during the pandemic.”

And they’re putting themselves in the heart of the action, headquartering downtown at 110 E. Court St. — home to a host of other notable Greenville businesses including First Horizon Bank, Parker Poe, Cherry Bekaert, Hughes Commercial, Alice Company, Littler, and Hughes Agency.

Knowing their “why”

Putnam says Insignis Partners’ investment decisions will be guided by a healthy sense of self-awareness gleaned from years in the trenches. “Back then, we’d take on stuff because we had to pay the rent, pay the bills,” Putnam jokes. “I think now we have a little more of the luxury to be selective, take on what we want to take on.” Not to mention the “why” behind their projects and investments. “We’re here to make great investments, make no mistake,” he says. “But our goal is to carry that success on to our employees and the community — to everyone in our collective sphere.”

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