Growing up in Guatemala, Beatriz Beltranena remembers being very sick with cancer as a child. With a failing kidney from birth, chemotherapy and radiation marked her days, finally resulting in surgery to remove one of her kidneys and a painful tumor along with it.
Lucky to be alive, by the time she was a young girl she received the sobering news she might not be able to have children. While some people faced with such a dire situation might despair, as a woman Beltranena says she had a different reaction to her circumstances. She says she became fearless and looked forward to the opportunity to be alive and make a difference.
Following her passions to read, analyze and debate early on, Beltranena absorbed the study of law and languages, transforming those skills into degrees and a diverse legal career.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, however, Beltranena decided to open her own boutique law firm, teach at a university and devote her life to making a difference to the clients and students she cared about—all on her own terms.
“As a cancer survivor I’m not afraid of getting sick or dying,” she says. “My earlier experience marked me for the rest of my life and made me brave. It also made me want to do something purposeful with the life I’ve been given.”
After more than 20 years as a seasoned specialist in corporate banking and investment issues—not to mention gaining experience in real estate and private equity issues—those on the outside looking in might say Beltranena was sitting in the enviable sweet spot of her career.
The question posed by friends and colleagues alike was, “Why take on the process of developing a new business when she could savor the rewards of her hard work?”
Indeed, after earning her degree in Licenciatura, Abogado y Notario at the University Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala in 1997, Beltranena worked at the law firm of Soto y Soto out of college, then served as a legal director in Guatemala, El Salvador and temporarily in Honduras for Citibank starting in 1998.
At Citibank she gained a variety of corporate finance experience—even overseeing transactions such as the placement of bonds for the Salvadoran government. Later, a highlight of her career would be working for Amzak, a family-owned company that primarily focuses on four investment strategies: private equity, real estate, fixed income and health care, principally in the Americas region.
Starting work with them in 2005 when it had only one asset, through her collaboration with Amzak over the past 15 years it transformed into a highly successful asset manager and private equity investor dedicated to wealth preservation and generation.
“With an entrepreneurial heritage having being founded by a family that has successfully built, managed and exited various businesses, Amzak takes an active and flexible approach to investment management,” she says.
Amassing considerable experience, she always loved training and advising young co-workers. Even so, when 2020 rolled around it was time to make a switch for herself.
“Of course there are both personal and economic benefits after you’ve worked hard and enjoy what you’re doing professionally,” she says. “But there’s also sacrifices to your health and household. It’s about striking a balance—not to mention realizing there are other contributions to make in life.”
There’s no denying that behind all her legal achievements was a desire to strike out on her own and give back in a meaningful way to her community.
“I have the benefit of being mature and wanting to focus on what defines real inspiration for me,” she says. “You get to a point where you know how you want to devote your time.”
Her plan was to teach classes based on her legal experiences in El Salvador, while building up her new business. She’s a firm believer that talent comes from different places and that for a better community people need to recognize and work on the talents in young college students.
“I want to teach students to not be afraid and to use logic to work through problems, whether it is learning English or developing mental toughness for the profession,” Beltranena says. She also wants to impress upon them the importance of lifelong learning and give students resources for that growth.
Before the pandemic hit at the start of 2020, Beltranena was counseling five close clients—family-owned companies that have investments in different parts of the world—in areas of corporate business, M&A, private equity investments, diversified portfolio investments, estate and tax planning.
“They continued with their operations and we continue supporting the new challenges,” she says. “They are great customers and are like family to me.”
Of course, few family businesses would trust their livelihoods to individuals who lacked a reputable track record. That’s why clients turned to Beltranena, she says, and why she in turn established a relationship with Miami-based Pensam.
During 10 years at Amzak, she often worked with Pensam, a diversified multifamily real estate investment company focused on equity and debt. Since 2009, Pensam has invested over $3.5 billion in 35,000 apartment units across the country.
“We worked with Beatriz for years in her capacity as general counsel and commend her experience, work ethic and pragmatic attitude to focus on the real issues. She brought value to every transaction we worked on together,” says Gavin Beekman, Pensam’s founding principal.
Often the only woman in a room full of male corporate lawyers, Beltranena says between teaching and work she also wants to write a book, sharing her legal and life experiences as a woman in what’s often a man’s world.
She would be remiss, she says, if she didn’t stress the significance of developing mentors. She credits her former boss Mike Kazma who helped shape her career. Two Citibank bankers Scot Fischer and Francisco Nunez taught her how to manage clients and establish networks.
“I hope to inspire others, especially women,” Beltranena says. “It’s important to have mentors to shape our destinies and desires. Mine happened to be men, since there were no women in my field at the time.”
Despite her earlier odds, Beltranena became the proud mother of a college-age son Jaime; a son, Daniel, who’s challenged her, she says, to think out of the box; and a daughter Maria Jose, a swimmer for El Salvador.
“This period of reflection allowed me to define the rest of my life,” Beltranena says. “The key to our strength is within us; we just have to unlock our own power. Our body is very strong; we just have to train our minds.”
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