Carla Brooks is doing something entirely new and yet she's following in her grandfather's footsteps. Brooks, who helps runs a $150 million private equity portfolio of community banks at Commerce Street Capital, is pioneering a nascent but growing sector of private equity investment in financial institutions. But considering that she buys banks for a living, she hasn't strayed far from home: in the late 1930s, Brooks' grandfather bought a small community bank in Iowa.

"It was always a mess counting the money from the local donut shop, as it always had sugar all over it!" she jokes. Brooks' father took over the business in the 1970s but sold it 10 years later when his daughter decided to take a different path. "My father and grandfather were on the operational side of things, but I like dealing with the spectrum of banking," says Brooks, explaining her decision to pass up the opportunity.

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