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  • April 2024
  • 4 minutes

Private Debt and Equity | Howard Liao

Howard Liao
In Brief

In this Inside RGA Q&A, Howard Liao, RGA’s Senior Managing Director and Head of Private Debt and Equity, talks about RGA’s unique approach to investments, the importance of mentorship, and what it feels like to scale the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

What first got you interested in business – and the financial side of business – as a young person?

My introduction to the business world began with my father’s career as a finance executive for a large multinational manufacturing company. His job brought us to the U.S. when I was a child.

I grew up in New Jersey, and then attended Georgetown University, where I majored in finance. Coming out of college, I wanted to work in a fast-paced and challenging environment where I could learn the ins and outs of mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. I was fortunate to receive an  offer from Lehman Brothers, one of the bulge bracket banks, and joined the firm as an investment banking analyst.

I spent the next 15 years of my career at Lehman working on mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and corporate financings. I was drawn to the complexity of investment decisions made under conditions of imperfect information, which led me to the investment side of the business. I joined the private equity division, where I evaluated private equity opportunities and became a founding member of Lehman’s inaugural private credit fund. The Lehman bankruptcy presented a unique opportunity as I joined a team that managed the complex restructurings and exits of the bank’s private equity and debt investments. This period of my career enhanced my investment acumen by providing valuable experience on how to manage credit investments during economic downturns.

What are you most excited about as you start your career at RGA? 

Joining RGA marks an exciting chapter of my career because of the company’s strong entrepreneurial culture. You don't get many opportunities in your career to truly leave a mark on an investment group, so I am excited about leading RGA's Private Debt and Equity (PD&E) team and contributing to RGA’s momentum and success. 

Additionally, I am impressed by the depth of skills across our investment groups. There is an incredible wealth of investment knowledge here. When paired with RGA's collaborative culture, it creates an environment where we can leverage that expertise to generate attractive investment results.

A team gathers in a glass conference room to collaborate.
RGA Private Debt and Equity offers a unique value proposition through its two-pronged investment strategy.

What is unique about RGA’s involvement in PD&E and our opportunities in this space?

RGA’s approach to private debt and equity investing is unique because of our commitment to developing long-term partnerships with middle-market private equity firms. Unlike many other private debt managers, our relationship with private equity goes beyond providing debt financings. PD&E’s approach generally begins with thorough diligence as a limited partner in select private equity funds. We deepen these relationships by offering tailored debt financing solutions to the portfolio companies of our private equity partners. Lastly, we can extend our support to the private equity firms by providing portfolio financing solutions. 

In summary, RGA is not just a lender to private equity-backed companies, but a committed partner to private equity firms by providing a broad array of financing solutions. This approach is what sets us apart in private debt and equity investing.

What experiences have shaped you the most as a leader?

My leadership philosophy has been shaped by the generous mentorship I received from senior leaders early in my career. Their investment of time and patience accelerated my professional growth and instilled in me the critical role of mentorship. This has been a key element of my leadership approach. I make it a priority to invest in the development of others and it has been incredibly rewarding to witness the success of these individuals. The cycle of mentorship and achievement reinforces its value and demonstrates the importance and value of fostering the next generation of talent.

What are your passions outside of work?

My wife, Emily, and I have summited several peaks since we began alpine mountaineering in 2018. We started with Mount Rainier in Washington state and have made several trips to South America to climb mountains in the Andes.

In 2022, we had the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, Argentina's Aconcagua. It took two attempts, actually. Severe weather conditions thwarted our team's first summit attempt and made us return to Mendoza, a city tucked into the eastern foothills of the Andes. The day before our flight home, the weather forecast suggested a short window conducive for a summit attempt. I cancelled my flight and hauled my gear back to base camp to attempt an ambitious four-day summit plan. Four days later, my team reached the top of Aconcagua at 22,841 feet. 

Mountaineering demands my full focus and resilience against freezing temperatures, high winds, sleep deprivation, and thin air at high altitudes. The mental and physical challenges encountered during a climb are the reasons why I am passionate about mountaineering. And the views are pretty cool, too.

Howard Liao summits the 5,897 meter stratovolcano Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

Above: Howard Liao ascends the 19,347-foot summit of the stratovolcano Cotopaxi in Ecuador.


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Howard Liao
Howard Liao
Senior Managing Director – Head of Private Debt & Equity