Apax Partners’s David Kim, nearing mandatory retirement age, reflects on IR career

David Kim and Emilio Voli will be stepping down this June as partners and co-heads of investor relations at London and New York-based buyout firm Apax Partners as they bump into its mandatory retirement age of 60. An internal candidate has been tapped to take their place, but the firm does plan to hire several mid-level to senior professionals over the next several months.

Late last month we caught up with Kim for a Q&A feature. In it he reflects on a career that took him from the U.S. army, where he served as an officer in Operation Just Cause in Panama, to Apax Partners, where over a 23-year career he helped build the IR team and raise some $40 billion for investments. Kim also spoke about the foundation that he and his wife started to provide scholarships for the children of fallen soldiers.

David, how did you find your way into private equity?

After I got out of the service, I went to business school. I came from a family that was not engaged in business. So I went around to my classmates and asked them about their career plans. What’s investment banking? What’s consulting? Private equity, which came up in those conversations, sounded appealing for a lot of different reasons. I started in 1994 at a firm called Butler Capital, doing middle market buyouts, and then moved to Apax Partners in 2000.

What about private equity appealed to you?

I saw a number of parallels between private equity and the military. There’s a perception that in the military you just shout orders and things happen. That’s not how it works at all. In both the military and private equity, you have to figure out how to work with and influence a broad variety of people. That’s a very important skillset to develop. Number two, it’s intellectually stimulating. You have to master so many different disciplines in the private equity world, from investment strategy to deal execution to interpersonal relations. Number three, there’s a real sense of accountability. You make investments, and you have to live with them long term good or bad. I found that very interesting and satisfying.

How did you get into fundraising?

I spent the first 15 years of my private equity career doing deals. By 2009 I was a partner in our consumer group at Apax Partners, when our CEO decided he wanted to build up our fundraising team. He wanted to recruit experienced deal people who could relay to investors the nuances of how and why we’re doing transactions. I ended up looking after North and South American investors out of New York City, while my counterpart in London, Emilio Voli, looks after Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I really enjoyed the transition. Moving to the investor relations side gave me a completely different perspective on private equity—more of a strategic view into the industry and our role in it and the interweaving effects of macroeconomic developments. I also really enjoyed the interpersonal aspects of it. I’ve always enjoyed getting out from behind the desk and sitting down with people and learning from them. A lot of our investors I also consider to be good friends.

What inspired you to start your foundation?

Sergeant William Delaney Gibbs and I were in the same army unit in 1989 when we got deployed to Panama as part of Operation Just Cause. The goal was to remove Manuel Noriego from power. I didn’t know Sergeant Gibbs personally but he was the only member of our unit killed in action. It was a few days before Christmas. He was only 21 and had a baby daughter due that March. That was a tough one for all of us. I kept thinking about his daughter and the thousands of other kids like her out there. How could we help take care of her? I learned that there are government programs to help these kids, but they do not cover the full cost of college. There’s a $25,000 gap. The foundation my wife and I started in 2002 is called the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. Our mission is to provide college scholarships to the some 25,000 military children from all branches who lost a parent in the line of duty so that they can graduate debt-free.

What have you accomplished so far?

I’m pleased to say that we’ve made a good start. We’ve provided over $65 million in support to about 3000 scholars. We did a study and found that every dollar of scholarship support lifts the lifetime earnings of our recipients by $16—or some $400,000 in total. About 40 percent of the students we serve are the first in their families to attend college. A third are minorities. They don’t necessarily understand the world of private equity or investment banking or consulting. So we conduct career seminars. And we help students find internships and full-time jobs. We feel this is the best way that we can honor the sacrifice of the people who died. It’s about helping the kids of fallen veterans achieve the dreams and lives that they would’ve wanted for them.

Learn more about the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation.

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