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Karyn Williams, Ph.D.

Founder and Managing Principal

Karyn Williams established Hightree Advisors following a nearly 20-year history of success in designing and implementing effective investment programs for a wide variety of organizations. Over her career, she gained a deep understanding of the benefits that can be achieved through investment programs focused on regaining and sustaining real dollar value improvements in investment performance, allowing organizations to achieve their purpose. This was the inspiration for Hightree Advisors and Karyn’s mission in founding the firm. 

Prior to Hightree, Karyn was head of client solutions at Two Sigma, a leading systematic investment manager, where she led the development of a technology for institutional clients that enables understanding of the risk factors driving portfolios and strategies. Karyn previously served as the chief investment officer of Farmers Insurance Group, a Fortune 500 company, where she oversaw the effective implementation of insurance, pension and other retirement assets. Prior to that, she was a partner and managing director at Wilshire Associates, a global leader in investment advisory and consulting services. At Wilshire, Karyn created the firm’s risk management consulting practice and was head of Total Fund Analytics, developing risk measurement tools for institutional clients.


Karyn is an independent public company director, NACD governance fellow, and holds positions as finance chair, treasurer and trustee for public and private foundations, including KCRW and Research to Prevent Blindness. She is a founding advisory board member of the Master of Science in Financial Engineering program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. She is frequently featured as a speaker at investment industry conferences, has written and published papers and has been widely quoted in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, Institutional Investor, Pensions & Investments, FUNDFire and Milken Institute Lab Report. Karyn is a graduate of Arizona State University, where she earned a B.S. in Economics and a Ph.D. in Finance.

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Henry Denton


Henry Denton joined Hightree Advisors as Principal to focus on client sourcing and education, industry engagement, and research and development. Henry brings to Hightree more than 30 years of experience in institutional relationship building and strategy.

As a strategic business consultant and institutional relations professional, Henry has had the exceptional privilege of building and managing complex institutional relationships which have included asset managers, investment consultants, corporate and public pension funds, endowments, foundations, banks and insurance companies. He has an extensive network of relationships from over 30 years and thousands of personal meetings with financial leaders in the U.S, Canada, Latin America, U.K., Europe and Asia. Relationship management, business development and strategy continue to be focal points with a passion for knowledge-based holistic solutions for success.

Prior to Hightree Advisors, Henry was Director of Strategic Development for Ironwood Investment Management, LLC where he was the leader of business and strategic development initiatives. He also served as Director of Consultant Relations for AlphaSimplex Group, LLC (affiliate of Natixis Global Asset Management) and led their institutional business development efforts. As Managing Partner of Development Associates Ltd., Henry built and managed relationships with financial sector thought-leaders and institutions across the globe, consulting on organizational change, platform development, product strategy, and sales effectiveness. Greenwich Associates was a key client for more than 25 years.  

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Lily Zhang

Quantitative Analyst

Ying (Lily) is the quantitative financial analyst of Hightree Advisors. At Hightree, Lily focuses on researching and developing portfolio risk measurement tools, as well as the design, analytics, and generation of portfolio reports. In addition to validating, refining, and updatingHightree’s models and tools, Lily also develops software to automate analytics, and brings general technical support to the team.


Before joining Hightree, Lily earned her B.S. in Applied Mathematics and B.A. in Economics from the University of California, San Diego, and her Master of Financial Engineering degree from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. 


Kim Derby

Executive Assistant

Kim joined Hightree Advisors as Executive Admin and brings years of expertise working as a C-level Executive Assistant in the finance industry at TCW, Nuveen Investments and Tradewinds Global Investors. Her excellent writing and editing skills as well as her design and website experience are a large part of what Kim adds to the team. Kim wears many hats and provides her versatile style of admin support to the entire Hightree team.


Mike Dudkowski

Managing Principal

Mike Dudkowski joined Hightree Advisors following a successful history of working with institutional investors at leading investment management and consulting organizations. Mike is a trusted advisor to investment committees, boards of directors, executives and other professionals in developing investment policy, determining asset allocation and portfolio structure, selecting investment managers and monitoring investment programs. Mike has worked extensively with endowments, foundations, healthcare organizations, insurance companies and pension and retirement plan sponsors. Over his career, he has helped many investors design and implement effective investment programs.


Prior to joining Hightree, Mike was a senior consultant at Towers Watson Investment Services, Inc., a global provider of investment advisory and consulting services, where he provided Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (OCIO) solutions including asset allocation, risk hedging, portfolio construction, and fund monitoring services.  While at Towers Watson, he gained significant knowledge and experience as well as an understanding of the challenges and conflicts investors face in using traditional and outsourced investment models. Previously, at Wilshire Associates, a global leader in investment advisory and consulting services, he was a partner, managing director and chairman of the Real Assets Investment Committee. Prior to Wilshire Associates, Mike was a director at Federated Investors, Inc., a leading global asset management firm, and a principal in the Portfolio Strategies Research Group of First Union, now part of Wells Fargo.

Mike serves on the board and investment committee of ACHIEVA Family Trust, which supports individuals with disabilities through special needs trusts. His experience and insights are frequently sought by leading pension organizations and publications including Pensions & Investments, PlanSponsor, and The Wall Street Journal. He earned B.S. degrees in Industrial Management and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.


Lisa Laird, CFA

Principal and Senior Advisor

Lisa Laird joined Hightree Advisors as Principal and Senior Advisor in order to help organizations improve investment effectiveness. She is a mission-focused institutional investment professional with nearly 20 years of experience and a passion for human services.


Prior to joining Hightree, Lisa was most recently the chief investment officer at Providence St. Joseph Health and was responsible for investment oversight of operating, insurance, and retirement assets totaling over $18 billion. Prior roles include senior level consulting positions at Towers Watson Investment Services and at Wilshire Associates. She has worked with both large and small organizations in a variety of governance and investment structures.    


Lisa is the current treasurer and past chairman of the board of directors for the Seva Foundation. Over the past 40 years, Seva-supported programs and partners have helped to restore sight to nearly 5 million people around the world. Lisa previously served on the board of directors for Active Wellness, a health services management company. She has also served as a member of board of directors’ Investment Advisory Committee for CalOptima. CalOptima administers health insurance programs for low-income residents of Orange County.


Lisa holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a B.S. from Cal Poly Pomona. She earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 2005. Lisa has been a regular contributor to industry conferences and events and was named “Woman of the Year in Investment Management” by Institutional Investor during the healthcare portion of its Roundtable for Consultants and Institutional Investors in 2017.


Rajeev Sharan

Quantitative Research Director

Rajeev joined Hightree Advisors as Quantitative Research Director and brings extensive experience in risk management and quantitative strategies spanning multiple asset classes—equity, fixed income and currency. Rajeev has worked at leading organizations including the Derivatives Exposure team at Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. Rajeev has over 18 years of analytics, risk and research experience across investment strategies and risk advisory functions.

Most recently, Rajeev managed in excess of $1 billion at Savos Investments. He was responsible for creating a multitude of products from idea to formulation and for successful management of strategies using best in the class models and techniques, thereby helping in the turn-around of Savos Investments.

Rajeev holds double masters- Masters of Financial Engineering (MFE) from UCLA Anderson and Masters in Economics (M.A.) from JNU, N. Delhi and M. Philosophy in Economics from JNU, N. Delhi. Rajeev is a contributor at EQD (EQ Derivatives) and conducts workshops for MFE students at UCLA Anderson. Of late, Rajeev has been working in the area of artificial intelligence with its applicability in quantitative finance.

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