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Flying High in the Investment World

How dreaming big has paid dividends for Deborah Orida


If you’re going to ride a rollercoaster similar to the one zipping through financial markets earlier this year, it’s a lot easier if you’re as prepared as Deborah Orida. Orida, Law’92 (Artsci’89), Managing Director and Head of Private Equity Asia for CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) in Hong Kong, has weathered the ups and downs of two turbulent periods in the financial world, 2001–2004 and 2007– 2009, and emerged unscathed. “I credit that to the diversity in my background and the training I got as a lawyer.”

Working in capital markets through those two cycles, she feels, provided her with great perspective. “In some ways, we all anticipated this volatility. As we’ve made our investments since then, we’ve tried to keep in mind not only diversity of industry but also diversity of timing. In private equity there’s a concept of pacing, meaning you don’t want to invest your whole fund in the first year. We’ve tried to be very conscious of pacing as we’ve built our own private equity portfolio over the past couple of years.” The Toronto native has a career most people can only imagine. While with Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto for eight years, her work with investment banks on cross-border transactions opened her eyes to the global potential of the job, so she added business to law (MBA Wharton) and then landed a job at Goldman Sachs in New York in 2000. From there she joined CPPIB in early 2009, working for Scott Lawrence (Com’96) to create the “relationship investments” strategy in which CPPIB makes significant minority investments in public companies. In 2012, she accepted an opportunity to lead that initiative into Asia, successfully growing it from one person and zero dollars to a team of six handling several billion dollars. She was then given added responsibility for a small team in Europe as well.

“From Hong Kong it’s fascinating to do business across so many different cultures and in so many different countries at such different stages of development.”

Today Orida’s job in Hong Kong involves managing an $11-billion portfolio in private equity funds as well as making direct investments. While all this might sound intimidating, she insists it’s not. “At CPPIB we take a crawl, walk, run approach to managing businesses.” In addition to the job’s career satisfaction, Orida has had the opportunity to see the world. Her territory stretches north to Japan, South Korea, and China, south to Australia, and west to India. “I’ve become very good at sleeping on planes. It’s fascinating to do business across so many different cultures and in so many different countries at such different stages of development.”

She says her accomplishments definitely stem from dreaming big dreams, a habit acquired from her classmates while at Queen’s. “I was from a working- class family in Toronto, and the people I met atQueen’s and remain friends with were a big inspiration to me. They had real ambitions andfrom day one were fixed on Wall Street careersafter graduation. I’d never really thought of those opportunities until I lived with and studied with them.” “Aside from the mental discipline of how to analyze and think through a problem, my training and experience have also given me balance to assess both risk and opportunity. Law teaches you about risk and how to mitigate it; business teaches you about opportunity and how to pursue it. I think having that balance has allowed me to be a careful but successful investor.” And, of course, a skilled rider of those rollercoasters.

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