Juan E. Alva, W’92, E’92
Opening a Los Angeles office was an easy decision for New York-based Fifth Street Capital LLC, a middle market private investment firm that wanted to expand its presence in the active Western U.S. region. The hard decision was choosing to bring in an outside partner to head up the office. The new partner would have to be not only smart and proven, but someone who could be trusted as a good cultural fit.
Fifth Street Capital’s founder and managing partner, Leonard Tannenbaum, W’93, WG’94, turned to a fellow alumnus — Juan E. Alva, W’92, E’92. Partner for Fifth Street Capital’s Western Region since January 2007, Juan already has an impressive 15-year record as an investment banker and CFO behind him.
Juan’s own decision to join the firm was made easier, knowing that while he was undertaking a new project, he was also joining an old friend and colleague.
“I’ve known Len since college,” says Juan. “We’ve been friends for a long time. Philosophically, the way Len built the firm has been through hiring people he knows, whether by working with them for a long time or being friends and tracking their careers.”
Before joining Fifth Street Capital, Juan was a senior investment banker at Trinity Capital, where he focused on small-cap transactions. He had earlier spent seven years with Goldman Sachs in New York and Los Angeles, when he first benefited from his Penn education. Juan is a graduate of the Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Program (M&T), which combines a Wharton Bachelor of Science in Economics with an undergraduate engineering degree.
“When I came out of school, I was adamant that I wanted to pursue my career uninterrupted by graduate business school,” he says. Although most Goldman Sachs career paths require an MBA, Juan was able to bypass that on the strength of his Wharton curriculum. “At Goldman they were comfortable that my Wharton undergraduate education gave me a foundation as strong as any MBA.”
His next career move came via Wharton as well. “I was recruited by another M&T guy who had been a lab rat with me,” he jokes, referring to David Liu, W’93, E’93, another M&T grad who had been his partner in several engineering classes. Liu, a Managing Director of the Jefferies Broadview technology investment banking group in Silicon Valley, was looking for a chief financial officer for one of the technology companies he had backed.
“That’s when David called me and asked if I’d consider it,” Juan says. “I wanted to try something different than investment banking, and it was a good fit.”
Juan stays involved with the School as a member of the Wharton Private Equity Network, and he frequently interacts with other alumni professionally. “At this point in our careers, we are partners and managing directors of our respective firms. Therefore, we are in decision making positions and can choose with whom we work. There’s a level of trust and enthusiasm for working with other Wharton and Penn grads, even if we didn’t know them at school,” he says.
After serving as fundraising co-chair for his 1992 graduating class, in May 2007 Juan returned to Philadelphia for his 15-year reunion, accompanied by his pediatrician wife, Annica Lin, C’93, and their twin infant daughters, Sophia Isabella and Alivia Katherine.
“Overall, Penn and Wharton have had an immensely positive impact on my life and my career. I really feel great about the time I spent here,” he said, remarking that the Wharton network has served him tremendously well in his career.
“I even met my wife through mutual Penn friends,” he continues. “So that’s another benefit of the network.”