The interview below is part of a yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity. To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ya Tung is a partner at GCM Grosvenor, a global alternative asset management firm with more than $50 billion in assets under management. She focuses on PE fund investments and is responsible for deal sourcing, investment due diligence and execution, and client relationship management. Previously, Tung was a vice president with the alternative investments and manager selection group of the investment management division of Goldman Sachs, where she was the strategy lead for U.S. middle-market PE. She earned a B.Sc. in operations research from Columbia University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Ya Tung: PE is a dynamic field that allows me to take action on my views of the world and reflect it in the investments we make. When one invests in a PE manager, numerous inputs play a role in the evaluation, from macro events to local events, to the behaviors of individual fund managers — and it's all relevant. As long as the world keeps changing, these factors will continue to change and that makes my job exciting, complex and fun.
Q: How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in PE?
YT: It's important to remember that more women pursuing careers in PE benefits both the individuals themselves and the organizations to which they contribute. We can encourage more women to pursue careers in PE by first developing current women in PE so they stay in the industry and thrive in their careers. When women hold positions at all levels of an organization, there is a better opportunity for women to support one another. We can support women by touting their accomplishments if they aren't doing it themselves. Then, when women can look to others for inspiration to become leaders, a virtuous cycle can be created.
With this in mind, our firm actively recruits and expands employment opportunities for women and is committed to training, retaining and promoting women at the firm. We have a formal internal women's networking group, and the informal network created by having more women that I mentioned is also valuable.
Q: Why do you actively support providing capital to women in PE?
YT: PE investing benefits from diversity of viewpoints. To me, the need for diverse viewpoints seems greater now than ever, as the pace of innovation and change in our world accelerates. While PE is a huge beneficiary of these changes because they spur new business formation, PE also runs the risk of becoming a landmine for myopic investors who find it difficult to process or absorb new information. Diversity of backgrounds and more women in an investing environment can be additive to the business intelligence of an organization, as well as the team dynamics and culture.
While we are now seeing an increase in market demand for alternative investment firms led by diverse individuals, investing in diverse managers has been a core part of GCM Grosvenor's business since 2007. The firm believes there is a strong business case for investing in these platforms. Consequently, it has committed over $4.8 billion to diverse managers, including women-managed firms, to date.
Q: What advice would you provide to a woman-led PE firm interested in securing capital?
YT: Spend time putting yourself out there to meet limited partners, with the understanding that building these relationships can be a long-term process. Use alternate paths like joining women's organizations, leveraging PE events and participating at industry conferences to help form connections with LPs.
For example, as part of GCM Grosvenor's commitment to small, early-stage, diverse and women alternative investment managers, the firm hosts two events annually — GCM Consortium and GCM Small and Emerging Managers Conference — that help raise the visibility of managers.
And last, do your homework on the LP with whom you are meeting to understand their objectives. We are in an environment where an increasing number of LPs recognize the importance of supporting women-led PE firms and are putting capital and resources behind the advancement of women. While full gender parity has faced some headwinds in the past, I'm inspired by the changes I see in our industry and the tailwinds these changes are bringing.