What’s Next for Highland Capital Management after Retirement of Co-Founder and Front Man Mark Okada?

Business / Friday, October 11th, 2019

Highland Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar investment management company, has recently announced the retirement of its co-founder and co-chief investment officer, Mark Okada. While Okada will be retiring from the Dallas-based company by close of 2019, he will remain in an advisory position at the company.  Okada will also retain his ownership interest in the hedge fund and company assets upon retirement.


Okada: A Pioneer in the Financial Industry


Mr. Okada, who appeared as the spokesperson for Highland Capital Management on business networks such as CNBC and Bloomberg TV, founded Highland Capital in partnership with Jim Dondero in 1993. Over 25 years, the firm has evolved as a pioneer in the leveraged loan arena, building on its expertise in credit and value-based approach to investment management to expand into other asset classes.


In his position at Highland Capital, Mr. Okada has been responsible for overseeing Highland Capital’s global investment activities across multibillion-dollar alternative investment platforms, including hedge funds, mutual funds, special situation private equity, separate accounts, collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), and ETFs.


With over 30 years’ experience in credit markets, Okada is internationally renowned as an industry pioneer in alternative credit investing; he structured one of the industry’s first non-bank CLOs, and is also a leader in the bank loan development market.  Appearing as a regular guest on Bloomberg Television and CNBC, Okada is often quoted in business and financial publications.


Okada, a council leader at the U.S.-Japan Council, is also a member of the board of directors at NexBank Capital, Inc., another financial management company based in Dallas, TX.  He also serves on the executive board of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.


Committed to supporting several philanthropic and civic causes, Mr. Okada is also active in community giving, with a particular emphasis on education, faith-based service, and Japanese-American relations. He serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Dallas-based non-profit Education Is Freedom, which provides college prep services high school students from underserved communities. Mr. Okada also serves as chairman of the board at Common Grace Ministries, Inc. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society.


Mr. Okada completed a B.A. in Economics and Psychology, and graduated cum laude from the University of California Los Angeles. He is also authorized to use the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

What’s Next for Highland Capital Management?


James Dondero, Highland’s co-founder, will continue to oversee the firm’s management and operations, and will also assume Okada’s duties as co-chief investment officer, working with teammate Joe Sowin.


“We are grateful to Mark for his service, his performance, his leadership, and his personality,” he expressed in an official corporate statement. “Over our 30-year partnership, we built a lasting business that has been tested by multiple credit cycles. Mark helped shape Highland and position the firm for future growth. I look forward to working with him across our continuing endeavors.”


Mr. Okada has been preparing for his retirement for several years, during which he has been gradually transferring and delegating many of his responsibilities to other team members.  For example, responsibilities related to the credit research and structured product teams have already been relegated to other team members at Highland, and other similar transitions have been in effect in preparation for Okada’s retirement.


He will be officially leaving his full-time position by year’s end. “I’m proud of what we have built at Highland and all we achieved for our investors, community, and industry,” he stated.


Meanwhile, Highland Capital maintains offices and activities around the world, in Dallas, Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janiero. In August of 2019, the company released an announcement that it was partnering with InterContinental Hotels Group to totally renovate the Cityplace Tower, a 31-year-old landmark in Dallas.


The company was also named as a recipient of the 2018 Best Places to Work in Money Management award for the third time, as confirmed by award sponsors Pensions & Investments.  The global news source on the subject of money management yearly rewards companies for “their diligence in attracting the right talent and keeping offices happy” and identifies and recognizes the best employers in the money management industry.


Highland Capital, recognized among companies with 100 to 499 employees, has earned this prestigious recognition in 2014 and 2017, in addition to this recent 2018 recognition.


When asked to list the criteria that makes Highland Capital one of the Best Places to Work in Money Management, the firm’s employees cited the company’s superior benefits package, which includes an amazing health insurance plan for employees and their dependents that has no premiums or deductibles, or such perks as having lunch delivered to the office every day. Employees state that benefits such as these increase productivity and help them to focus more on their work.  They also boost office morale, which in turn also boosts productivity.


Employees also pointed to the firm’s corporate culture as a factor in making the firm a great place to work. The company not only makes efforts to bring people together by means of company-wide social events, it also makes a point of dismantling the traditional corporate hierarchy and giving every individual the opportunity to contribute beyond their specific role.  Employees felt that this approach to corporate culture successfully fosters a sense of camaraderie and collaboration, leading to a more relaxed and productive work environment.


“Again this year, it is clear that what makes firms great employers isn’t necessarily about money management in particular. Many firms were cited for their culture and benefits,” affirmed Amy B. Resnick, editor at P&I. “Employees at these top-ranked firms most often cited their colleagues, the firm’s culture, and the benefits as the things that make it a great place to work.”


“Our clients expect consistent performance and industry-leading creativity,” stated James Dondero. “By consciously providing the environment and support for employees to be the best they can be, we’re able to meet – and often exceed – those expectations.”


For more on Highland Capital Management’s Mark Okada visit: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2019/09/30/highland-capital-management-co-founder-mark-okada-retires-will-remain-in-advisory-role-temporarily/


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