Frances Lim

Director, Global Macro and Asset Allocation, KKR Australia


“We don't just provide capital, but roll up our sleeves as owners, and work with management teams thinking about how to build a better business.”

“We don't just provide capital, but roll up our sleeves as owners, and work with management teams thinking about how to build a better business.”


What attracted you to private equity? 

My journey into private equity was about taking opportunities that would allow me to grow and take me a step closer to where I wanted to go. Each job taught me valuable lessons and skills that ultimately led to my career within private equity. 
I come from a modest family and have two younger brothers. At a young age, I was warned that family resources would be reserved for my brothers to go to university, and I would have to chart my own course after high school. Determined to continue my education, I obtained a scholarship that allowed me to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in the United Kingdom. After graduation, I initially worked in a number of jobs including commercial banking, retail and manufacturing in Malaysia, but felt something was missing. So, I decided to move across the world to New York City. Within a week after arriving in the Big Apple, I secured a position at Morgan Stanley, and began my career on Wall Street. There I focused on market strategy and asset allocation and found the work invigorating and challenging. This was one of the stepping stones that led to my career in private equity. When the opportunity at KKR came my way, I found the missing piece, a sense of purpose in my work that is bigger than what I do.

What is unique about private equity as a career path? 

My role at KKR is somewhat unique. While private equity investment is about understanding the nuts and bolts of companies, my team actually provides a top-down macro perspective for our investment teams as they look to make new investments, run portfolio companies, and exit investments. For example, before entering a new market, I help our teams study the local economy and map the potential macro risks. Alternatively, if we are entering a new industry, I might help identify macro revenue drivers that can inform the investment thesis of a potential investment. 
What’s also unique is the investment horizon. While most of Wall Street focuses on the next three to twelve months, we focus on the next five to seven years. This means my analyses are based on longer-term fundamental factors, as opposed to shorter-term technical market factors, which I find far more interesting.
 From within private equity, I am impressed at how my colleagues work alongside companies to improve them. We don’t just provide capital, but roll up our sleeves as owners, and work with management teams thinking about how to build a better business. From a macro perspective, it gives us the opportunity to create jobs, help companies become more efficient, and contribute to productivity improvement across the economy. At the same time, we are playing a role in boosting retirement savings for people like my dad, a government pensioner. This is incredibly important to me and gives my work added meaning and purpose.

"At this firm, you are judged on what you do and how you do it - not when you do it."

How do you find your work/life balance? 

I’ve worked in many different types of roles, from manufacturer to housing developer, on both the sell side and buy side, and what I’ve found is that I have much greater flexibility here at KKR than in my previous positions. At this firm, you are judged on what you do and how you do it - not when you do it. If we need to go to the gym, leave the office to take care of family members, or rearrange calendars around school schedules, we can choose to do so, and many of us, both male and female, do exactly that.
However, flexibility is a two way street. While the firm enables me to have a meaningful work life balance and to be there when my children or parents need me, I’m also accessible at unconventional hours of the day. As my team spans the United States of America, Europe and Asia, flexible work-life isn’t a luxury, but a requirement. Striking the right rhythm and balancing priorities takes time, but I’ve reached a place that my family and I are happy with. For example, I’m willing to travel any weekday, but during the weekends my three children are my top priority.
Most importantly, it’s okay to ask for help. There won’t be more hours in a day, but you can get help with some of the regular routine things you have to manage at home. For every questionable look you get from other parents at your children’s school, there will be others who wish they had your life.
Secondly, be present. My little ones are the best at calling me out for not being present. If I’m checking email while dancing with them or thinking about work while we play, they know I’m not really with them. I’ve learned to be more present now, soaking up all the knowledge and lessons they have for me when I’m with them and not try to multi task.

Why do you think there aren’t currently more women in the industry? 

I think a lot of young people don’t know what private equity is really all about. I was also in that category before I started at KKR. By assets under management, it is a much smaller industry than traditional asset management and investment banking. If there are fewer people in an industry, there are fewer opportunities to encounter professionals and learn about it.
If more young women were exposed to private equity at the time they’re exploring career opportunities, there would be more women interested in pursuing a career in it. In my role, I have the opportunity to study many different countries, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that women are extremely entrepreneurial. In fact, in many emerging countries, it’s the women who drive business. As an industry, we should encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and proactively reach out to women at the earlier stages in their careers.


If you were starting in the industry now, what would you want to know? 

Firstly, don’t believe everything you see in media. Instead, talk to people in the industry. Most are very open to young talent exploring the industry.
Secondly, private equity is more people related than you think. It’s not a desk job. Regardless of rank or title, my colleagues are constantly out there meeting people. In fact, it is rare that you find everyone in the office as there is so much to learn about businesses, industries, policies and personalities in the region.
Thirdly, you don’t need to have all the answers. The world is changing rapidly. Business models of yesterday may not work tomorrow. What you do need, is a creative mind, intellectual curiosity and the ability to think around the problem, to find solutions, to address the key issues and create value for business owners, stakeholders, and employees. My colleague once framed this as “doing well, while doing good”, and as business owners, we are all about seeking solutions that have a broader purpose.


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