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Industry Spotlight Profile: Dana Haimoff, Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, Private Equity Group, JP Morgan Asset Management

At an early age, Dana Haimoff (pictured) was fuelled by ambition, which would go on to serve her well in her career as one of London’s leading female private equity executives. Her desire was simple: to move away from the school her parents sent her to, and enrol in Punahou. 

“When my family lived in Lahaina on Maui I went to Sacred Hearts, a Catholic School made up of single-storey buildings with tin roofs,” says Haimoff. “The school didn’t have many facilities. Punahou on Oahu, on the other hand, was an immensely well-resourced school with a rich academic tradition on a large campus in Honolulu.

“It offered an amazing opportunity to study, expand my horizons and to travel. It was, and is, an inspiring multi-cultural learning environment and I remain committed to helping young people get similar opportunities.” 

The stage was set for Haimoff to nurture her ambitions and thrive in an environment that proved inspiring and rewarding in equal measure. Indeed, such has been the importance of the school that in 2015, Haimoff established a financial aid fund to celebrate her 25th Reunion at Punahou, in honour of her three children. 

The scholarship intends to give access to an excellent education to gifted and talented children who may not have the financial backing. “The school has made huge strides in its bursary offerings which, I believe, has led to better outcomes and experiences,” she says. 

After graduating from Punahou in 1987, Haimoff studied Business and Economics at Skidmore College, following which she took the first steps of her professional career as an associate at Prudential Securities.

Then, in 1995, she studied for an MBA at Columbia University. Half way through, she took a role at Merrill Lynch in the investment bank’s private equity placement group. It was here that Haimoff cut her teeth in the private equity industry, before moving on to become a portfolio manager with J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM) in 2002. 

“Like many, I ended up in the (private equity) industry more by luck than design but am happy it worked out that way. I stayed because I enjoy the challenge of investing. I began looking at private equity transactions when I worked for Prudential Securities in New York in the early 1990s, and later switched from being an agent to a principal when I joined JPMAM in 2002,” says Haimoff. 

In her day-to-day role, she is responsible for sourcing, recommending and monitoring private equity funds, direct investments and secondary investments on behalf of institutional clients of JPMAM. The Private Equity Group (PEG) sits within JPMorgan Global Alternatives, the alternative investment arm of JPMAM. With more than 50 years as an alternatives investment manager, it oversees USD145 billion in assets under management (as of June2020). 

Meeting GP deal teams face-to-face, as well as visiting portfolio companies and their respective managements are an important part of JPMAM”s private equity group, in respect to sourcing managers, conducing bottom-up due diligence and ongoing portfolio monitoring. All of which conspired to make 2020 such a strange year. 

Nevertheless, while Haimoff and her team spent far more hours doing video conferences and far fewer on planes, the dislocation created by Covid-19 has, she says, “thrown up some really compelling investment opportunities for our clients. I’m really looking forward to getting back to seeing our clients and the investments in a post-vaccine environment.”

Haimoff also sits on the PEG’s Global Investment Committee, EMEA Global Investment Management (GIM) Committee and represents SMCR (Senior Managers and Certification Regime) for EMEA’s Alternatives.  

When asked to describe her leadership style, Haimoff is quick to emphasise the virtue of leading by example and being effective: “We hear often about the generation of people looking to ‘crack the code’ through networking and face time but, in my experience, success comes with effort and hard work. You get opportunities to do more if you do a great job at what you’re given.

“It is very rewarding to support people who have not yet been recognised for their performance and are doing an excellent job and, where I can, help people onto their next career challenge. 

“Sometimes mentoring is about preaching patience and persistence, as well as preparing people for new problems and helping them with prioritisation.  I have had the pleasure to collaborate with many amazing and talented young women at JP Morgan, Level 20 and across my wider network.”

In such a high pressure role, with countless demands on her time, it is perhaps not surprising that Haimoff says the time has flown by, since she joined JP Morgan. She left briefly to work for a smaller organization, “but I soon missed the firm’s scale, culture and supply of opportunities. 

“I returned to JPMAM 12 years ago. In addition to my portfolio manager responsibilities, I now also sit on the board of JPMAM’s International business, which is bigger and more diverse than many of the private equity LP investment boards I’ve sat on. The role gives me an opportunity to understand our business from a different vantage point and I hope to make a positive impact on JPMAM’s future success.” 

As Haimoff alludes to above, part of her work is connected with Level 20, a London-based not-for-profit private equity organisation she co-founded with 11 other women in private equity in 2015, to help inspire more women to join and to succeed in the private equity industry. 

Level 20 enables real change in female participation in the European private equity industry and as Haimoff explains: “When we set up Level 20 in 2015, female representation in senior investment positions was less than six per cent. Through sponsorships from nearly 70 private equity firms, Level 20 now has full time staff with a dynamic CEO and Chair and over 2,500 members across 12 European chapters. We support mentoring and development, networking and conduct research. We’ve made a lot of progress but there is still a lot of work to be done.” 

In her view, gender is just one of many dimensions of diversity that needs to be addressed within the financial industry; especially in private equity.  

The industry is, she says, missing large pools of talent, fresh insights and new investment ideas: 

“We also need more diversity at leadership level because this provides both inspiration and action. Changing the extent to which the industry reflects society as a whole will take time, so we need to be purposeful and persistent. I strongly believe this will ultimately generate even better investment outcomes.”

As well as giving her time and input as a board member of Level 20, Haimoff also champions and encourages women to enter the PE industry in her role as an LP Advisory member to the BVCA, and via her association with the Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurs (CfIFE). All of these initiatives are, she hopes, “a way to help keep moving all of us forward”.

Asked whether she has had any notable mentors that have helped guide her in her career, to date, Haimoff says that has not been the case. But she does credit a variety of people who have supported and sponsored – not to mention inspired her – during the course of her working life, who have taught and shared experiences that she found useful.

“I have a number of very close friends who have been a constant source of wisdom and encouragement as we’ve made our way forward in our professional and family lives.  Perhaps the most important unconscious influence has been my mother – my father was a jewellery designer but it was my mother who ran the manufacturing and retail business. I grew up watching my Mom call the shots and make business decisions – it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t do the same,” she says. 

Like most working mothers, having a hobby is something that Haimoff aspires to. Most weekends are filled with transporting and attending her children’s various sports activities, and family walks with the dog. Still, one unexpected twist, as a result of Covid-19, has been weekday family dinners, when we all come together to laugh and exchange stories of the day.   

“Keeping up with friends and family is a full time job but has been a welcomed silver lining this year. We are planning for another reunion back home in Hawai’i,” Haimoff concludes.  

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