OpEx Awards 21: Meet the judges

This year’s judging panel is comprised of industry experts from around the globe.

The judges for the 10th annual Operational Excellence Awards span from Switzerland to Shanghai to Chicago. With decades of private equity experience between them, they drew on their expertise to review and score the award submissions in their assigned regions – Europe, the Middle East and Africa; the Americas; and Asia-Pacific. As always, Private Equity International would like to thank the judges for generously lending their time and insights to evaluate the entries – their input, and that of PEI’s previous OpEx Awards judging panels, has been vital to the success of the awards over the past decade.


Steven 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 co-founded the entrepreneurship programme at Booth, helping start its New Venture Challenge competition, which has created more than $10 billion in value from companies like GrubHub and Braintree/Venmo.


Veronique 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 more than 20 years’ banking and capital markets experience.


Jian 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.


Joncarlo Mark


Upwelling Capital Group

Joncarlo Mark is founder of Upwelling Capital Group, an investment adviser 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 chairman at the Institutional Limited Partners Association. He continues to serve as a faculty member for the ILPA Institute. From 2015 to 2020, Mark served as a trustee for the University of California Davis Foundation, and chaired the Finance and Investment Committee.


Michael McKenna


Alvarez & Marsal

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


Ivo 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 Southeast Asia.


Valentina Pozzobon



As a director at Humatica, Valentina Pozzobon leads complex organisational transformation projects for private equity-backed portfolio companies. She has a successful track record of delivering international carve out, merger, reorganisation and rightsizing initiatives in Europe, Asia and North America. Pozzobon holds an MSc in Accounting and Financial Management from the Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden) and Keio University (Japan), she is PMP-accredited and a Singapore Certified Management Consultant.


Antoon Schneider


Boston Consulting Group

Antoon Schneider is a managing director and senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group and leads the principal investors and private equity practice in London. He advises leading principal investors and 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 value-creation planning and operational improvement projects, and has deep experience in corporate strategy and M&A.