Huntsman Alumna Featured as a Hedge Fund Rising Star

Jennifer Lai (’08) Featured in Institutional Investor

This year the bar to become an Institutional Investor Hedge Fund Rising Star was higher than ever.

Dalton Investments’ Jennifer Lai has had the entrepreneurial bug since she was in kindergarten, when she sold cereal box toys so she could buy Tootsie Rolls. In high school she was an active trader of cosmetics on eBay — engaging in what she calls “arbitrage” — and while in college she bought and resold used textbooks.

“I was always fascinated by business,” says Lai, who along with her parents, both engineers, immigrated to the U.S. from China when she was four.

Not surprisingly, Lai focused on business in college, graduating from the Huntsman Joint Degree Program at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in international studies and a business degree from the Wharton School. The program, which requires knowledge of a foreign language, also enabled her to explore her Chinese heritage by studying in Beijing for one semester. After stints at the Boston Consulting Group as a consultant and at Bain Capital working on a team that did leveraged buyouts, Lai joined Dalton Investments in 2014.

Today Lai is a co–portfolio manager for Dalton’s greater China strategy and emerging-markets strategy, specializing in undiscovered companies benefiting from China’s growth. She spends most of her time focusing on companies with market capitalizations of between $1 billion and $5 billion that are led by entrepreneurs rather than state-owned companies.

Lai says her knowledge of Mandarin is a benefit. It allows her to enjoy a closer relationship with management teams, which appreciate that they can communicate in the language, and she can ask more questions without a translator in the way. She can also understand cultural trends better.

“I am having the time of my life,” says Lai, who goes to China roughly every other month. “I travel and meet interesting people. I never met a boring entrepreneur, and I learn about many different types of businesses.”

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