Prashant Khemka is our Fund Manager of the Month. He is the Founder of White Oak Capital set up in June 2017 which manages and advises over $2.0 bn of India dedicated capital. Previously he spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, most recently as CIO and lead PM of Global Emerging Markets Equity and India Equity strategies. He and his fund won several awards including AAA rating from Citywire and Elite rating from Fund calibre among others. Prashant started his professional investing career in 1998 at State Street Global Advisors in Boston. Prashant has an MBA in Finance from Vanderbilt University and BE in Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University. He is a CFA charterholder.
When and how did you start your career in the financial industry? Can you tell us about your investing journey? Did you have any other vocation?
At a personal level I was quite fortunate to have discovered investing at a young age of 13, since our family savings were always in equities. It was 1985 when the Indian equity markets rallied by 100% following the election of Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister of the country. I was fascinated, hooked and never looked back. Prior to that the only other vocation that I was ever interested in was Cricket, and as a little kid was quite determined to become the captain of the Indian Cricket team.
I joined the US Growth Equity team of Goldman Sachs Asset Management at the peak of the dot-com bubble. t was a high performing team where I learnt a lot about investing and team building under the leadership and mentorship of Herbert Ehlers, the original founder of Liberty Asset Management which got acquired by GSAM.
I returned to India in 2006 to launch the GS India Strategy which I managed as CIO and Lead PM for over ten years till I left GSAM in 2017. During this time, I also moved to Singapore in 2013 to assume the role of CIO and Lead PM of Global Emerging Markets (GEM) Equity which I managed for nearly four years alongside the GS India Strategy.
It was a great learning experience to have built the GS India business from scratch and to have turned around the GS GEM business successfully which entailed various aspects of building the team, establishing the philosophy, laying a disciplined process and managing a balanced portfolio to deliver consistent performance. When I left, both these strategies were amongst the top rankings compared to their peer group, and the team there has continued to do well since then.
Over the last three years at White Oak I have brought to bear years of experience to build and nurture a powerful investment culture. It has again been a wonderful experience with unique insights that come from building and running an independent investment business.
When did you know you will start your own Firm one day, could you tell us about setting up White Oak Capital Management?
Starting my own firm was a childhood aspiration encouraged by my parents, much more so than my cricketing dreams. Reflecting back, I think it took quite a lot longer than I would have anticipated.
After spending nearly two decades in the corporate world, I founded White Oak Capital Management in June 2017 with the objective of building a performance centric organization with a strong investment culture. My most important accomplishment here has been to bring together a top-notch team that is driven to accomplish this objective based on a sound stock-selection based philosophy and a balanced portfolio construction approach. The biggest asset that the team has created for the firm has been the extraordinary performance since the inception of the strategy a little over three years ago.
All along we have been tremendously fortunate to receive support and encouragement from a large number of well-wishers who have rooted for our success from day one. It has been a humbling experience. I came to realize what my early mentor Herb meant when he used to say, “what goes around comes around”, and the importance of building bridges and cultivating goodwill during your life.
We have been very fortunate to have earned the confidence of our Clients who have entrusted their capital to our team. Currently we manage or advise over US$ 2 billion of India dedicated capital for global institutional investors such as sovereign wealth funds, pension plans, endowments as well as individuals and family offices around the world.
What sustains your drive within the industry? What’s your biggest challenge as the Founder of White Oak Capital Management?
Investing is like a highly competitive sport. You have to always be on your toes and keep learning and evolving your investment philosophy and process to maintain and sharpen the competitive edge. But the beauty of this sport is that your peak form is always ahead of you as long as you continue to play the game with tenacity.
Our highly seasoned team at White Oak is passionate about this sport and has chosen it as a lifetime pursuit. The biggest challenge is always to keep complacency away and ensure that we are giving it the best of our abilities and efforts at all times, leaving no stone unturned as we strive to deliver the highest returns for our clients.
What would you say is the most attractive aspect of investing in India?
The opportunity to generate sizeable alpha has always been and continues to remain the most attractive aspect of the investment case for India. There is considerable evidence published on this over the years and a recent study published by Wall Street Journal ranked India as the most attractive destination for alpha generation compared to developed as well as developing markets.
India comes out on top as the place where active managers have most successfully outperformed their passive benchmarks after fees over the last five- and ten-year time periods with strong persistency of such outperformance.