2021 Knowledge Brokers

Heidi Poon

Heidi Poon is a managing director on Aksia’s investment research team and has more than 20 years of financial markets and investment research experience, including over 10 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 sectors, as well as private equity funds based in Asia. In the words of one pension CIO, “She is a total rock star, and so smart,” with a deep background in tech equity research.

Prior to Aksia’s acquisition of TorreyCove Capital Partners, Poon was a senior vice president, joining the firm in 2013. Previously, she was an investment officer for San Jose Retirement Services’ Investment Group. She was primarily responsible for the hedge fund, fixed income, and private equity investment activities at the city’s two pension plans. Before that, Poon was an equity research analyst, covering the semiconductor industry for investment banks including Thomas Weisel Partners, Piper Jaffray, and Robertson Stephens. She serves as a board member of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM).

Poon graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder and has earned the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designation.

CIO: What new qualities do you look for in a manager/service provider given the pandemic’s financial and economic impacts?

Poon: Much has already been written about how COVID-19 has exposed economic pain points and how some traditional industries and businesses are still significantly under-penetrated in terms of digitization and/or automation. The pandemic has put to test managers’ ability and expertise to help their portfolio companies adapt and pivot, to go from survival to thrive mode.

Another aspect is that, obviously, a lot of capital has been raised in private equity and many managers are deploying at a rapid pace in order to not lose out. What separates the top-tier general partners (GPs) 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 while passing on the companies that are growing very fast but more on a temporal basis, especially in the venture and growth space. Specialization is not new, but it is increasingly critical in this environment. Right now, I’m spending more sourcing time on managers that could be well-positioned in the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), life sciences, and health care, for instance.

CIO: What changes are you making to your asset allocation advice?

Poon: In this type of fundraising environment and where we are in the cycle, I am working with clients to prioritize more proven managers that have invested (and harvested) over multiple cycles, but also to supplement with newer managers with unique specialization either from a subsector or geographical perspective.

It is not unusual to see client portfolios overexposed to technology, media, and telecom (TMT), for instance, after the strong run the sector continues to have, so new capital allocations to TMT-centric managers would have an even higher bar. Structured equity could be considered tactically given the valuation environment, trading some upside for downside protection. It’s a bit portfolio-dependent, but we’re also bringing more to the forefront environmental, social, and governance (ESG) consideration and assessment in portfolio construction and manager selection.

CIO: What do you think will be the biggest innovation in your industry in the next 10 years?

Poon: I think we could see the continued democratization of private investing access. There are clearly significant implications to return expectations, but from a distribution perspective, the potential adoption of a data-driven, automated portfolio advisory is also something we need to prepare for.

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