2021 Industry Innovation Awards

Consultant of the Year

Aksia

Heidi Poon, Managing Director, Head of Asian Private Equity, Growth Equity and Venture Capital
Heidi Poon

This top Aksia consultant knows tech, and her expertise is a boon for her firm. Heidi Poon, CIO’s consultant of the year for 2021, trained in industrial engineering at Stanford. But an internship at a tech firm, now part of Cisco, was not enjoyable. Early in her career, she was an equity research analyst covering semiconductors, marrying technical knowledge to her interest in finance. As one pension CIO said, “She is a total rock star, and so smart.” 

Poon now is a managing director on Aksia’s investment research team, using her more than 20 years of financial markets and investment research experience, including over 11 years primarily focused on the private markets. She is responsible for sourcing, conducting due diligence, evaluating, and monitoring funds in the venture capital and growth equity areas, as well as private equity funds based in Asia. 

After getting an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she held a series of financial jobs, where she honed her specialty, serving as a chip analyst at such well-regarded investment houses as Piper Jaffray, Robertson Stephens, and Thomas Weisel Partners. She got a taste for institutions as an investment officer for San Jose Retirement Services’ Investment Group, in the heart of Silicon Valley. She was primarily responsible for the hedge fund, fixed income, and private equity investment activities at the city’s two pension plans.

She joined TorreyCove Capital Partners in 2013, where she worked as an investment officer. Aksia acquired TorreyCove last year.

Asked what qualities she looks for in a private equity (PE) or similar provider, during the pandemic, she responded that “what separates the top-tier general partner may ultimately be the ability to identify and commit to stretching entry valuation for companies with the potential to grow into 800-pound gorilla market leaders.”

Among the things she looks for in asset managers is canny specialization. This “is hardly novel, but is increasingly critical in this environment,” she said. At the moment, for instance, she is focusing on “managers that could be well positioned in the convergence of artificial intelligence [AI] and life sciences and health care.”

As a result, she said, she aims to “prioritize more proven managers that have invested and harvested over multiple cycles, but supplement with newer managers with unique specialization either from a subsector or geographical perspective.” She finds that many portfolios are overexposed to tech, a sector that has done well in the market in recent years. Thus, new allocations to managers tilting toward TMT (telecom, media, and technology) face a “higher bar” with her. At the same time, Poon is also employing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) assessments to portfolio construction and manager selection.

What will be the biggest innovation in her industry over the next 10 years?  Poon said it’s the continued democratization of private investing access. In her eyes, “The potential adoption of data-driven, automated portfolio advisory is something we need to prepare for.”

Larry Light

Consultant of the Year Finalists

  1. Cambridge Associates
    Celia Dallas
  2. Meketa Investment Group
    Allan Emkin
  3. Aon
    Russ Ivinjack
  4. RCLCO Fund Advisors (RFA)
    Taylor Mammen
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