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@example.com.
Michelle Fang Jordan is a principal at Athyrium Capital Management, a healthcare investment firm with $4.6 billion in committed capital. She joined Athyrium in 2015 and has played a key role in the firm's structured credit and equity investments in specialty therapeutics and payor and provider technology and services. Previously, Fang Jordan was a consultant at L.E.K. Consulting, where she performed commercial due diligence and strategy projects for healthcare companies and PE investors. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in health and societies with a concentration in healthcare economics and a minor in biology.
Q: What was your path to PE, and what attracted you and concerned you about this career?
Michelle Fang Jordan: I did not have a straight path to PE. My parents were first-generation immigrants who taught me a ton about hard work and determination and gave me every opportunity they could. They wanted me to become a doctor, so that was my original plan. In my senior year studying biology and healthcare economics at the University of Pennsylvania, I had an itch to try something else before committing myself to medical school. I landed at L.E.K. Consulting doing healthcare strategy and due diligence. This gave me great exposure to the business side of healthcare and investing, which I found fascinating.
I loved the fast-paced and analytical nature of consulting and found it intellectually stimulating, but after a few years, I found myself yearning for greater accountability and a long-term view of the decisions and companies that we worked on, which led me to PE. I chose Athyrium because the firm has a very flexible investment mandate, investing in private equity and credit across healthcare, which I thought would provide a diverse learning experience. I also thought the people were wonderful. They seemed like smart, intellectually rigorous and low-ego people. Eight years later, my experience has exceeded all my initial expectations.
My greatest concern was about the learning curve, as I hadn't studied accounting or finance in school or in my first job. It turned out to be a steep learning curve to nail the financial modeling and technical skills and get my arms around different types of transactions across the capital structure. I am grateful for the great people I learned from as well as the senior team's foresight and patience to see the potential in me and allow me to get up the curve.
Q: What is your favorite part of your current role?
MFJ: I get to dive deeply into subsectors and develop investment theses around companies in these subsectors. I can also invest very flexibly and pursue any investment structure with attractive risk-reward. Whether it's a controlling stake, a minority investment or a credit-related opportunity, the breadth of the mandate allows me to tailor our approach to the unique dynamics of each situation.
I love when we can leverage our deep knowledge, relationships and track record in a space to create attractive opportunities. For example, we have been very involved in investing in the shift of the healthcare system from fee-for-service to value-based care. This is an area where our team's depth of experience led us to identify compelling assets ahead of others, resulting in investments in companies like VillageMD, MMM Healthcare/InnovaCare, Longevity Health Plan and Complete Health.
There are also times when things do not play out as you expect them to. Those can sometimes be the best learning experiences. Ultimately, investing is an apprenticeship business that requires a tremendous amount of time and experience across market cycles to master. I am always learning, and I love that about this job.
Q: What is a lesson that you have learned concerning what's required for success in PE?
MFJ: In the beginning of this career, it's important to build a foundation of robust technical, analytical and synthesis skills. As I progressed to the vice president and principal roles, in addition to honing investment acumen, I had to step up my communication skills and develop my own style of influence. Figuring out how to manage expectations, build trust and credibility, and influence different stakeholders continues to be a learning curve.
It's also important to observe and learn from others, but ultimately develop a style that feels natural to you. I have worked with colleagues who are much more outspoken and assertive, while I am more reserved in comparison, and I have figured out ways to be effective in my own way.
Q: How do you believe women of your generation will be able to influence the PE industry, particularly as the career path continues to evolve?
MFJ: We are seeing a huge shift in the industry's awareness and commitment to diversity and inclusion, which will open up more opportunities for all underrepresented groups, including women. Within the industry, there are many amazing people who embrace progress and change. I was the first investment team member to ever go on maternity leave at my firm, so I had to be my own advocate, but I had tremendous support from a network of women who gave me advice and benchmarks in our industry. In the end, the leadership at my firm was incredibly accommodating and supportive.
I have also taken a leadership role in recruiting. We focus on recruiting excellent talent and promoting our firm culture, where different perspectives are truly valued and where different types of people can thrive.
We are in a privileged position to impact our portfolio companies by making our voices heard and influencing the placement of talent in management teams and boards. This is especially important in businesses where women are the key stakeholders, whether it is in consumer health where women are the primary customers, or in healthcare delivery where women comprise most of the workforce.
Reflecting on one of my early investments in a company where all the patients were women, there was not a single woman on the board or C-suite. That would be unfathomable today. Hiring the best talent with a diversity of experiences is easier said than done, as backing familiar people with a track record from existing networks is the path of least resistance. Instigating change involves continued advocacy and commitment.
To contact Michelle Fang Jordan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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