The judges for the 11th annual Operational Excellence Awards have collectively seen several decades-worth of private equity value-creation strategies at play. They have worked with private equity firms and their portfolio companies across geographies, sectors and deal types, from carve-outs to turnarounds, covering everything from digital transformation to M&A. They each brought unique perspectives to the judging panel, spanning academia and consulting work to in-house roles at portfolio companies.

For the judging process, each member of the panel was asked to review and score the entries in each of their assigned regions – the Americas; Asia-Pacific; and Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Private Equity International would like to thank them for the time they dedicated to this task, and for sharing their valuable insights and expertise.

Veronique Lafon-Vinais

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 at 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, co-director of the BSc in Sustainable and Green Finance programme and a project director of the MSc in Global Finance programme.

Lafon-Vinais is a seasoned financial markets professional with more than 20 years’ international banking and capital markets experience.

Steven Kaplan

Steven Neil Kaplan
University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Economist 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.

Kaplan 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 $8 billion in value from companies like GrubHub, Braintree/Venmo and Simple Mills. With Paul Gompers, he is the author of Advanced Introduction to Private Equity.

Joncarlo Mark

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 its finance and investment committee.

Ivo Naumann

Ivo Naumann
McKinsey & Company

Ivo Naumann is a partner with McKinsey & Company, where he leads the private equity and institutional investor practice for Greater China, as well as the RTS service line, a unit that delivers a proven approach for transformational change.

Naumann has more than 20 years’ experience in supporting shareholders and management to restructure and improve the 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.

Lian Hoon Lim
Lian Hoon Lim

Lian Hoon Lim
AlixPartners

Lian Hoon Lim is a managing director at AlixPartners, and boasts 30 years of experience split between consulting and management at the C-suite level across Asia. He works with clients to achieve rapid and major changes in operations – whether for transformational or turnaround reasons.

Lim’s work predominantly involves adapting organisations, including their geographical footprint and supply chains, to achieve significant EBITDA improvements. In turnaround situations, it also involves developing business plans, financial modelling and debt negotiations to optimise balance sheets. These he has accomplished both consensually and via in-court processes on debtor and creditor sides. He has a PhD in electrical engineering from Imperial College London.

Valentina Pozzobon

Valentina Pozzobon
Humatica, HVD Partners

As a director at Humatica and HVD Partners, Valentina Pozzobon leads complex organisational transformation projects for private equity-backed portfolio companies. Currently acting as the CFO of SAMP Group, she enjoys mastering the business challenges of turnarounds and restructuring cases.

Pozzobon has a successful track record of delivering international carve-out, merger, reorganisation and restructuring initiatives in Europe, Asia and North America. She holds an MSc in Accounting and Financial Management from the Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden) and Keio University (Japan).

Michael McKenna

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.

McKenna’s primary area of focus is finance operations, driving improvements in liquidity and working capital management, strategic analytics and performance management.

Antoon Schneider

Antoon Schneider
Boston Consulting Group

Antoon Schneider is a managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. 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.

Lisa Weaver-Lambert
Lisa Weaver-Lambert

Lisa Weaver-Lambert
Private Equity Technology Podcast co-host

Lisa Weaver-Lambert is an experienced data and digital results-driven leader with over two decades of professional experience. She works in close partnership with companies to develop technology-enabled strategies and commercial solutions. This data-driven approach has helped deliver significant business change, optimising performance and earning the respect of a broad range of clients.

Her extensive portfolio includes private equity build-ups and corporate carve-outs, as well as public and privately held B2B and B2C companies across multiple sectors and international markets. She is a Private Equity Technology Podcast co-host and advisory board member of Private Equity International’s Operators Forum.