In-House Profile: Lily Wong

Lily Wong; Partner and US General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer; Pantheon Ventures; San Francisco, California

GROWING UP QUICKLY: Originally the private equity arm of GT Management in London, Pantheon's management completed a management buyout of the division in 1988. Pantheon was subsequently acquired by Russell Investments in 2004, although it retains operational independence. Today the firm has offices in London, San Francisco, Brussels and Hong Kong, and last year opened a small office in New York. As the size of its funds and staff have increased along with the variety of products the firm offers in recent years, Pantheon has had to bulk up its back office as well. In 2002 Pantheon hired its external legal counsel, Lily Wong, as its first internal legal resource. “I think it was an easier transition because I was working with Pantheon as their external counsel for two years, and the opportunity came up in 2002 when I was looking to leave.” Since then, the firm has hired another US attorney, and two attorneys in the London office.

SHIFTING RESPONSIBILITIES: Since 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission's regulations for registered investment advisors have become more complex and rigorous, so Pantheon's legal team has had to devote more and more of its time and resources to compliance. Over the years Wong has been given more input into the decision-making process as well, which she says she enjoys. “A lot of management responsibilities have been added to my plate in the last six years, which is what I've always wanted to do,” she says. “When you're practicing outside at a law firm, you're just advising your clients, you're telling them the pros and cons of certain decisions but you're not really part of the decision making process, or ultimately it's not really your decision to make.”

LOOKING FORWARD: In the year ahead, Wong anticipates that the firm's legal resources will be pulled into the fundraising process, as the industry anticipates a tough year. “Everyone knows that it's going to be a tougher fundraising environment for next year, so we have to dedicate some of our legal resources to helping out our sales team globally to see how we can fundraise from existing as well as prospective clients,” she says. Then there is the matter of the incoming US president, who could enact new tax as well as regulatory changes that would impact private equity firms. It's too early to tell just what is likely to happen, Wong says, but keeping abreast of these developments is sure to be a top priority.