OpEx Awards: Meet the judges

With decades of experience in the private equity industry between them, this year’s judges combed through the awards submissions across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA.



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.


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 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.


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.



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 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.


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.



Bureau of Asset Management, NYC Comptroller’s Office

Katja Salovaara is a senior investment officer – private equity in the Bureau of Asset Management at the NYC Comptroller’s Office. She works closely with the head of private equity in making investment recommendations and helps manage the approximately $22 billion PE portfolio, as of 31 March 2020, of the five New York City retirement systems. Salovaara was previously senior portfolio manager – private equity at Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company in Helsinki, joining in 2000 to establish its PE investment programme. Prior PE investment experience includes Shell Pensions Management Services and Pantheon Ventures in London.


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.


Independent chairperson

Lisa Stone joined Mercury Private Equity in 1999, shortly before the creation of HgCapital, of which she was a founding partner. Over a career at HgCapital spanning 19 years, the firm grew AUM to €10 billion with more than 120 people. While at Hg, Stone established the portfolio support model which evolved to become today’s leading Portfolio Support team. She also participated in building the partnership, sitting on the operating, investment and portfolio committees, as well as the board. Since leaving Hg in 2018, Stone has worked as the chairperson of a number of private equity-backed businesses.