The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
Katie Kornel is a partner in investor relations at Linden Capital Partners, based in Chicago. She brings 15 years of institutional coverage experience to Linden. Prior to joining Linden in 2020, Kornel was a managing director at Credit Suisse where she managed relationships with institutional investors for the firm’s Private Fund Group. She held roles in equity sales and foreign exchange sales at Credit Suisse before joining the Private Fund Group.
Kornel holds a B.A. in economics from Harvard University. She lives in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago with her husband and two young children.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Katie Kornel: Over the course of my career, I have worked across asset classes and raised capital for a variety of investment strategies. Unlike the complex foreign exchange instruments I was pricing and selling earlier in my career, PE is relatively straightforward: Invest in companies and change them for the better.
At Linden, we own a portfolio of leading, midmarket healthcare businesses. Each of our companies occupies a needed niche in the healthcare ecosystem. We aim to buy great businesses and then invest our resources to make them stronger.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
KK: Diversity is more than a feel-good word or a box to check. It is good for business. There was a BCG study completed a few years ago that showed diverse workforces were more innovative than homogenous teams. As it is human nature to hire people that mirror yourself — e.g., skin tone, gender, socioeconomic status — the responsibility lies with leadership to fight that trend.
Preqin came out with a study earlier this year showing that less than 20 percent of private equity professionals — and less than 10 percent of senior professionals — are female. I worry the pandemic will exacerbate this disparity. September jobs numbers highlighted that women are leaving the workforce at four times the rate of their male peers, likely given the additional stress of managing child care or remote learning in addition to a full-time job.
That said, I remain hopeful that 2020 will normalize remote work and employees will have the flexibility to get their work done whenever/wherever is most convenient. I may choose to take my daughter to her annual checkup one afternoon, but then log back on after the kids are asleep. It is my view that providing this level of flexibility will disproportionately benefit working parents, particularly families with two working parents.
Q: What advice do you have for young women looking to break into PE?
KK: Figure out what topics intrigue you and then leverage that curiosity to steepen your learning curve. Throughout my career, I have been drawn to the relationships built within finance. This has led me to pursue roles within client coverage and relationship management. I have found real joy in figuring out how to add value to my clients’ portfolios over the years. If your passion lies in a specific sector, research the best deals completed in that sector, read books written about investing in that sector and reach out to people working at the best investment firms in that sector.
Another piece of advice is to find advocates, male and female, and then actually use them. Successful people in finance are generally happy to be a resource or sounding board, but the onus lies on the mentee to drive the conversation. Find ways to make yourself valuable to your role models.
Q: Why is it important to invest in women-led companies?
KK: At Linden, we strive to invest in the best businesses, many of which are led by women. Over the firm’s history, we are proud to have backed seven female founders/chief executive officers. We pride ourselves on the quality of our people, both internally and within our portfolio companies. Linden’s human capital program is highlighted as a competitive advantage whenever we talk about the firm’s strategy. Our view is that by spending money to hire the best teams, we set ourselves up for success. Since 2008, it has been firm policy that all senior executives undergo a multi-hour assessment before any hiring decisions are made. As a relatively new partner to the firm, I can personally attest to the thoroughness of this process. Significant time and resources are invested in each hire as we want to get it right and hit the ground running. We believe our structured process has uncovered some extremely talented candidates, and I am confident we’ll back many more women in the years ahead.
To contact Katie Kornel, email [email protected].