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Exclusive Q&A: Geeta Kapadia, Senior Investment Strategist, Yale New Haven Health System

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Geeta Kapadia is a senior investment strategist at Yale New Haven Health System. Previously, she was an investment strategist within the same organization. Previously, Kapadia worked at Mercer Investment Consulting in London in Edinburgh, and Capital Metrics & Risk Solutions in Pune, India, and Stratford Advisory Group in Chicago. Kapadia holds a master's degree in financial markets and trading from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a A.B. in mathematics from The University of Chicago.

Ms. Kapadia was recently named on Trusted Insight’s ranked list of the Top 30 Women Rising Stars in Institutional Investing. She graciously spoke with Trusted Insight on August 17, 2016. The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Trusted Insight: Your first job was at the University of Chicago Hospitals. You later moved on to jobs at financial advisory firms. What attracted you back to healthcare?

Geeta Kapadia: Yes, I started out in the clinical setting. I was working in cancer research with phase one chemotherapy studies, which was very rewarding. I enjoyed working in the healthcare setting, but as I thought about longer-term plans, I wanted to use my educational background more, which was focused on math. I ended up starting out my career in investment consulting at Stratford Advisory Group in Chicago, which is now Pavilion Advisory Group. I was fortunate enough to work on quite a number of healthcare clients as an investment analyst and then as a consultant. It was really a good combination of my interests in healthcare and finance.

Trusted Insight: You've been in the finance industry for many years with different types of firms. What's your observation in terms of gender balance in this industry?

Geeta Kapadia: As you can imagine, the numbers don't look particularly encouraging right now, given the fact that although quite a number of women are actually investors, but unfortunately there are not as many women in decision-making positions such as heading up investment management firms, sitting on boards, holding positions such as CIO or CEO. When the data shows that women contribute significantly as far as institutional investment returns and obviously to the dialogue, it can be discouraging. But I think it's important for those of us in the industry to fight the good fight and to encourage the younger generation to embrace careers such as ours to attempt to address that imbalance going forward.

Trusted Insight:  What do you think the industry could do more to change this?

Geeta Kapadia: There are a number of changes the industry can make, and in some instances, is already making to change this balance. I spend a significant amount of time working with and volunteering for the CFA Institute, which recently launched a “Women In Investment Management Initiative”. This has been a good way for me to contribute to that process.

There are a number of things that we've been working on, such as working with universities and junior investment professionals who are just starting out their careers in a mentorship role, to be able to encourage them to consider all of the options available to them as they start off their careers.

I’m glad that the Institute is focusing on this initiative as a significant and important endeavor at this time. It's encouraging to see such a strong participant in the market highlighting this issue. At the local level, I recently attended an event at CFA Society of Philadelphia, which is where I live, that was very well attended by a number of engaged men and women, who really believe in the initiative and are working to achieve some of the long-term objectives.

Trusted Insight: One of your previous jobs was in UK and another was in India. Tell me about your experiences abroad? Did people treat women any differently in foreign cultures?

Geeta Kapadia: In India, as you can imagine, they continue to have a historical and cultural bias towards women in a lot of industries. I was actually quite encouraged because my office in particular had a very even balance between women and men, so from that standpoint I think the younger generation is not allowing some of those historical stereotypes to continue to be pervasive in the business environment, which is great.

There are still a number of cultural concerns with regards to women working full-time, especially once women get married and have families, as it becomes more challenging for them. It’s encouraging that in the younger generation a lot of women continue to work even after they have children. I believe that from when I was there over ten years ago and now, things have changed quite a bit in the right direction.

In the UK, I would say it's much more similar to the U.S. At least when I was working in London and in Edinburgh, we had wonderful female leaders on the investment side as well as on the greater corporate side at the organization I was working for, Mercer. For me, that experience drove home the importance of working for an organization where women were well represented. And even today at my organization, where I've been for almost eight years, our CEO and a number of other female executives serve as wonderful role models for everyone in the organization.

Trusted Insight: Let's move back to the topic of hospital investing. Hospital is not a very widely covered organization type in institutional investing news. What's the goal of an investment office in a hospital?

Geeta Kapadia: Obviously we are different from a lot of organizations because our overall goal is to provide patient care as opposed to working for an investment firm where your goals are centered on investing and finance. In some ways, this is a good thing because our objective is to facilitate the excellent care of our patients and our community. Although my team is not providing care directly, we are making it possible for those very skilled medical professionals to do just that.

I remember talking to my CFO once about our investment initiatives and he said, "Your team makes this all happen; you make it all possible. Without the investment portfolio, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing." It really put things into perspective for me because our team is a small team, but our responsibility is very significant and has a lasting impact on the health system and the community. It is a very rewarding job for me as I can contribute to the overarching mission of the organization even though I’m not on the front lines of delivering medical care.

Trusted Insight: How is your performance relative to your return goals?

Geeta Kapadia: We have a number of different portfolios which have different objectives. For example, our pension goal is to fund the pension plan and our endowment goal is to generate a certain investment return, and our operation portfolio is meant to generate enough return to be able to fund particular operations. Each investment portfolio has a strategy that's meant to link up with that goal depending on what the term and the longevity and liability of the portfolio.

We've been very fortunate from a team and a department perspective to be able to achieve our investment objectives. So from a return perspective we've generally met or outpaced our benchmarks over the long-term. From an big picture view point, it's more than just being able to generate a certain level of return, because we want to take into account the risk level and make sure that we're properly monitoring and understanding what makes our managers perform the way they do. We measure success of the portfolio in not only performance, but we also ask questions like “are we meeting all of our professional objectives as a department to be able to feel like we've been successful in a particular fiscal year and over the long-term?”

Trusted Insight: How has the portfolio evolved from seven years ago when you first joined to today?

Geeta Kapadia: When I first joined, I think it had just reached $1 billion mark. Today we have, including operational, defined benefit pension, and endowment assets, just over $2 billion.

The growth was not solely due to investment performance. When I was first joined, it was right after the financial crisis of 2008. I remember feeling a bit apprehensive, thinking, "Oh, boy. What am I walking into right now?" We have been fortunate to come out of that period stronger and better resourced than ever. The portfolio growth has come from a combination of investment returns and contributions from the system and its operations.

Trusted Insight: Tell me about your investment team. Are they more of a generalist team or a specialist team?

Geeta Kapadia: As it relates to investments, the treasurer of our system is the head of our team, which also includes me as the senior investment strategist and my two colleagues, who are investment strategists.

We all are generalists, but we have our own areas of specialty. For example, given that I've lived and worked overseas for a number of years, I focus on international equity investments as well as domestic equities. One of my colleagues has worked on private equity for quite a long time in a research capacity, so she focuses on private capital alternatives.

Trusted Insight: What unique challenges do you think hospital investors face?

I think the younger generation is not allowing some of those historical stereotypes to continue to be pervasive in the business environment, which is great.
Geeta Kapadia: I can speak in particular as it relates to us. We face quite a lot of municipal challenges as it relates to the state of Connecticut. One of the things we are most concerned with as one of the largest healthcare providers in the state of Connecticut is managing and working with budgetary changes as they come from the state and the federal level. As the state reduces funding and Medicare reimbursement, our system budget can be significantly impacted. On a very simple level, if one of our hospitals or our health system wants to build a new building, it needs to be able to be funded. If state funding is cut to systems such as ours, that affects our bottom line and so that makes it even more challenging for the investment team to figure out how are we going to help the system achieve its goals whilst recognizing that suddenly we are facing a more challenging environment.

We've had quite a number of our executive management team to testify at the state and federal level to try to drive home the impact that changing fluid budgetary decisions make, not just on us from a system perspective but more importantly, on the population of the state of Connecticut that relies on us for their health care needs.

Trusted Insight: What's your strategy in controlling your overall risk in a volatile market environment like now?

Geeta Kapadia: It's a very challenging environment and there are a couple of things that we try to adhere to as we work through volatile times. First, we are very strict about sticking to our investment philosophy and process. We're relatively mechanical about very boring things like re-balancing, performance monitoring and evaluation.

Just as a portfolio manager or an investment analyst can fall in love with a stock, we don't want to fall in love with managers and avoid changing managers if it's warranted regardless of performance. At the same time, when we see managers performing very well, we also want to be sure to rebalance back to a neutral position, as it states in our investment policy statement, because we don't want to fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, this is performing well. Let's keep it going." We tend to be very boring and very rigid about that.

The second thing is we don't react strongly to short-term performance; we tend to be very long-term, value-biased investors. Our natural tendency as investors is to focus on more value investment managers to our investing for the long term, as defined by five or more years. It’s possible these managers could underperform by significant margins at times relative to a benchmark, as they are often benchmark agnostic. We’re comfortable with that. We're fortunate that our investment committee is very sanguine about these things and doesn't react to poor quarterly performance or poor short-term volatility because they appreciate there is a long-term strategy in place.

Trusted Insight: What do you think you would do if you weren't working in your current job?

Geeta Kapadia: Oh, that's a good question. Well, I did want to be a physician when I was a kid. That's actually why I started out working in healthcare in the first place because I had hoped to go to medical school.

Trusted Insight: You're not too far from hospitals, at least.

Geeta Kapadia: Exactly; I’m very happy with my position in health care. I think if I was able to have a second career, I would probably try to work in the medical field in some capacity. When I used to work at the University of Chicago Hospitals, I worked with a doctor who had been a teacher for many years and then gave it all up to go to medical school and become a physican. He was a good role model for me because I thought, "Wow. You can still do it even if it takes a little longer." I enjoy what I'm doing right now so I don't see that in the future but you know you never know! I'll probably end up being a volunteer in a hospital rather than going to medical school. I do enjoy working in the hospital with patients as it’s very rewarding.

Trusted Insight: What advice would you give to the younger generation who wants to go into institutional investing, especially women?

Geeta Kapadia: I think one of the biggest things is to find a mentor, even though I think it can be a very difficult thing particularly when you're first starting out in your career, because you don't necessarily know the organization well enough or where you fit in. It's challenging to figure out the lay of the land. I would say once you feel like you know enough about what's going on and you feel comfortable, work towards identifying a mentor or mentors. Someone who can really contribute and give you unsolicited advice can be a real key to success. I've been fortunate enough to have a number of strong mentors in my life, both women and men. Those people can be credited with providing me with the tools to find my way through and be successful at my job. Finding those people along the way is really vital to feeling like you're succeeding and doing your best.

My second piece of advice would be to never stop learning. Particularly for somebody like me… I've been at my organization for almost eight years, and it can be easy to get complacent without even realizing it. I think continuing your education - if it's going to conferences, going to events, taking an exam, whatever it might be - is really what sets apart the people who do very well and who inspire me as an investor to be better at what I do.

Trusted Insight: Sheryl Sandberg said in her book that mentorship should form naturally instead of people actively asking someone to be their mentors. Do you agree with that?

Geeta Kapadia: Yes. I think that idea helps you recognize your potential mentors as you naturally work with people, as opposed to just identifying somebody you admire and going up to them and saying, "Hey, I think you'd be a good mentor for me." Because sometimes it's the people you don't think about who end up being great mentors.

To learn more about women in institutional investing, view the full list of Top 30 Women Rising Stars In Institutional Investing.


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