Director, investments, JH Investments
Lindsay SiuWhen the U.S. government bailed out Citigroup in late 2008, Manica Gautam was working in its London office as an associate with the global consumer and retail investment banking division. “I was probably fortunate to be cheap enough not to lay off,” the casually dressed Gautam jokes at the smart downtown Vancouver headquarters of JH Investments, the private holding and investment company of the Houssian family. Citigroup’s near-collapse turned out be a blessing for Gautam, who gained responsibilities when the firm cut most of its midlevel investment bankers.
Today at JH, she heads the private investment and venture capital portfolio of Joey Houssian, son of Intrawest Corp. founder Joe Houssian. Gautam’s other current gig is overseeing the wind-down of venture capital fund Campfire Capital, where she’s a partner with John Currie and Christine Day, former CFO and CEO, respectively, of Lululemon Athletica. The Toronto native moved to Vancouver in 2014 to launch Campfire and lead its US$32-million raise. The Houssian family were investors in Campfire, and Joey Houssian sits on its advisory committee, which led to her role with JH.
Gautam, who laughs easily, was always good at math, so she earned a commerce and finance degree at the University of Toronto. In 2005, with encouragement from informal mentor Kevin Li, who is still a friend and now heads U.S. investment banking for CIBC Capital Markets, she pursued a career in that industry, landing a job with Toronto-based Westwind Partners as an analyst. Around that time, the boutique investment bank had opened an office in London, where Gautam worked before moving to Citigroup in 2007.
Returning to Toronto in 2010, she did a brief stint as an associate for BMO Capital Markets and joined the investment team of ONCAP, the mid-market platform of Onex Corp. She spent almost five years with the private equity giant, including two as director of fundraising at Onex Partners. “If you think about the private equity investing cycle, it all starts with fundraising,” says Gautam, whose skills in that area and as an investor caught the attention of her future Campfire colleagues.
Joey Houssian invests in a variety of early-stage ventures in consumer products, real estate, and travel and tourism. He recently launched Vallea Lumina, created with Montreal’s Moment Factory, a global leader in video, lighting, sound and special effects. “It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to work in so many different areas,”
Gautam says of JH, which has five staff. Gautam sees plenty of women go into finance. Keeping them there is another matter. “Retaining that talent is the challenge we all face,” she says. “As you progress along and climb the ladder, there are fewer of us here at the top.”
When it comes to mentoring, Gautam keeps things informal. Besides sitting down with people introduced to her through a mutual connection, she sometimes responds to cold meeting requests on LinkedIn. “The younger generation’s doing a great job of reaching out on their own,” she says. —Nick Rockel
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