Meet the judges

An influential panel of industry experts from across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA assessed the merits of the submissions.

For the full list of winners, click here.

For all our coverage in one place, click here.


Steven KaplanSteven Kaplan
University of Chicago Booth

Steven Neil Kaplan is the Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His research focuses on private equity, venture capital, entrepreneurial finance, corporate governance and corporate finance. He is co-creator of the Kaplan-Schoar PME (Public Market Equivalent) private equity benchmarking approach and cofounded the entrepreneurship programme at Booth, helping start its New Venture Challenge competition, which has created over $10 billion in value from companies like GrubHub and Braintree/Venmo.

Joncarlo MarkJoncarlo Mark
Upwelling Capital Group

Joncarlo Mark is founder of Upwelling Capital Group, an investment advisor that provides capital solutions to premier institutional investors. He was previously a senior portfolio manager in the alternative investment management programme at the California Public Employees Retirement System and was also chairman at the Institutional Limited Partners Association. He continues to serve as a faculty member for the ILPA Institute. Mark is currently a trustee for the University of California Davis Foundation, having served as chairman of the Finance and Investment Committee from 2017 to 2019.

Michael McKennaMichael McKenna
Alvarez & Marsal

Michael McKenna is a managing director of Alvarez & Marsal’s Private Equity Performance Improvement group. He works with private equity investors across the transaction lifecycle to identify and execute transactions, accelerate portfolio company performance and provide a smooth investment exit. His primary area of focus is finance operations, driving improvements in working capital management, accounting and treasury operations, and reporting and analytics.


Veronique Lafon-VinaisVeronique Lafon-Vinais
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Veronique Lafon-Vinais is associate professor of business education in the School of Business & Management of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where she is the executive director (career development and corporate outreach), associate director of both the undergraduate and World Bachelor in Business programmes, and a project director of the MSc in Global Finance programme. Lafon-Vinais is a seasoned financial market professional with over 20 years of banking and capital markets experience.

Jian LiJian Li

Jian Li is a managing director at AlixPartners’ Shanghai office. He is a senior management consulting professional with extensive experience in supply chain management and large-scale operations transformation in Asia. He has worked with clients in the consumer goods, industrial goods and logistics sectors. Prior to his consulting life, he was with P&G and ExxonMobil in China in the area of operations and supply chain management.

Ivo NaumannIvo Naumann
McKinsey & Company

Ivo Naumann is a partner with McKinsey & Company where he leads the Private Equity and Institutional Investor practice as well as the RTS service line, a special unit that delivers a proven approach for transformational change, for Greater China. Naumann has more than 20 years’ experience in supporting shareholders and management to restructure and improve performance of underperforming businesses in Asia. He has acted in multiple management roles and served on various boards of directors in China, Japan and South-East Asia.


Pablo EchartPablo Echart
Scale Capital

Pablo Echart is a private equity investor and operating partner. He worked for 3i first in London in the active partnership group and then as head of the Spanish Office, focusing on business services, consumer and industrial sectors. Prior to his investment career, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company focusing on value creation and operations improvement in various industries around the world.

Ludovic PhalippouLudovic Phalippou
University of Oxford

Ludovic Phalippou is a professor of financial economics at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. He specialises in private equity funds and focuses on issues such as risk management, liquidity and measurement of returns. Phalippou’s research in this area has been published in leading academic and practitioner journals.


Antoon Schneider

Antoon Schneider
Boston Consulting Group

Antoon Schneider is a senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group and leads the principal investors and private equity practice in London. He has advised leading principal investors and more than half of the 50 largest private equity firms globally on a range of deal sourcing, due diligence and firm strategy projects. He has also worked extensively with their portfolio companies on 100-day value creation planning and operational improvement projects, and has deep experience in corporate strategy and M&A.

It’s about creating value

It has never been more important for firms to demonstrate their value-creation credentials if they want to stand out from the crowd. Now in their eighth year, Private Equity International’s Operational Excellence Awards 2019 celebrate the achievements of the industry’s best-in-class operators.

Every summer we ask managers to submit their best examples of how they deliver operational value as owners. To be eligible for this year’s awards, an investment had to be either fully or partially realised after 1 June, 2018. Entries are invited from three regions – the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, Middle East and Africa. There are three awards per region and, for the first time this year, a further three awards recognising Outstanding Achievement in ESG, in Growth Strategy and in Innovation.

All entries go before a judging panel comprising some of the leading scholars and operational experts in the private equity industry. Competition is tough and returns form only part of the criteria. GPs are also expected to provide specific details of the changes and the initiatives they had undertaken, from product development and acquisition activity through to supply chain improvement and management enhancement.

These details are backed up by evidence. While exit numbers are looked at closely, the Operational Excellence Awards recognise those managers that go beyond the numbers and conduct genuinely groundbreaking work.

As ESG has become ever more important, the Outstanding Achievement in ESG criteria took into consideration factors as diverse as management and workforce training, fixed asset investments, board and operational guidance, as well as a host of idiosyncratic examples such as reducing accident rates or reducing energy consumption or waste, as indeed our eventual winner did.

The Outstanding Achievement in Growth Strategy award was based on the building or adding of product lines and channels, as well as headcount growth and expansion into new countries and territories. The Outstanding Achievement in Innovation was judged on criteria such as product innovation, innovative approaches to management, the intelligent use of technology and digital go-to-market strategies, and investment in R&D.

As always, our winners are a varied lot. Automation is clearly a sector where innovative approaches can create real value, with EQT Partners picking up two awards – and IK Investment Partners, one – for work with portfolio companies which specialise in automation. Our winners also include everything from honey manufacturers to affordable housing finance providers, from sellers of paediatric cough solutions to the manufacturer of titanium casings for the aerospace industry.

The multiples achieved by the winners and the range of growth strategies employed are testament to the impressive operational expertise the private equity industry has developed over the last three decades.

It has been another very strong year for entries. Thanks to all the GPs who entered and congratulations to all of our worthy winners.