Dr. Kara Tan Bhala is Chief Executive Officer of Seven Pillars Consulting, LL.C., an Asian financial markets consulting firm. Kara is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, England’s Royal Society for Asian Affairs and The Oxford Business Alumni. Kara is a Lecturer in Finance at the University of Kansas School of Business.
From 1992-2000, Kara was Managing Director and Senior Portfolio Manager of the Merrill Lynch Dragon Fund and Emerging Tigers Fund. As head of these two Funds, Kara was responsible for managing nearly $2 billion on behalf of about 50,000 shareholders around the world. At the height of its assets, the Dragon Fund was the second largest Asia (ex-Japan) fund in the world. The Funds were dedicated to the Far East (excluding Japan). Kara worked extensively in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and China. She also worked in India and Turkey. In 1993, the Dragon Portfolio won the Micropal Award for being the third best performing fund in a group of 177 funds in the Global Mixed Sector.
As the CEO of Seven Pillars, Kara’s clients have included the Kansas City-based Jayhawk China Hedge Fund and Kornitzer Capital Management (KCM). From August 2006-2007, she advised the Hedge Fund on investing approximately $400 million in companies with operations in China whose shares are traded on stock markets around the world. From August 2007-2008, she advised KCM on investing a $30 million international mutual fund.
Kara is fluent in Cantonese, Malay, and Indonesian, and conversant in Mandarin. She has published articles on Asian investment in the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Financier, and the Journal of the Royal Society of Asian Affairs, and a chapter in the widely acclaimed The Handbook of Portfolio Management. She has appeared on television many times, including Adam Smith’s widely-watched program, Money World. Kara was the first woman invited to be the keynote speaker at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Society of Asian Affairs.
Before joining Merrill Lynch in 1992, Kara was the Vice President, Institutional Investments, for Fiduciary Trust International, a New York City money management company. There, she managed the Pacific Rim (excluding Japan) investments in various mutual funds. She also managed the $450 million portion of the $10 billion United Nations Pension Fund devoted to Southeast Asia. From 1986-90, Kara worked at James Capel, Inc., the securities subsidiary of the Hong Kong-Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). At Capel’s New York office from 1988-90, Kara worked as a Vice President for Far East equity institutional sales. At Capel’s Singapore office from 1986-88, Kara was a Senior Investment Analyst, where she specialized in the Singaporean and Malaysian economies and stock markets.
In 2009, Kara completed her doctoral (Ph.D.) degree in Philosophy at the University of Kansas. Her dissertation, entitled “Fortifying Virtue Ethics,” provides a stalwart defense of Aristotle’s approach to ethics, and particularly the Aristotelian concepts of happiness (eudaimonia) and practical wisdom (phronesis).
Kara received a Masters degree in Management from Oxford University. There, she wrote her thesis on marketing strategies for declining industries and using Britain’s door-step milk delivery industry as a case study. While at Oxford, she was awarded an Overseas Research Scheme Scholarship by the British Government for academic excellence. Kara was Treasurer of the Trinity College graduate student association.
Kara earned a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from New York University, where she specialized in philosophy and wrote her thesis on Nietzsche’s concept of the heroic man. She did graduate work in Philosophy at Catholic University, completing courses on Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Aquinas. Kara obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Systems and Management, with honors, from the City University of London. Kara attended high school in her home town of Johor Bahru, Malaysia, at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.
Kara is a Board Member of the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City. She is also a Board Member of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center Foundation at the University of Kansas. Kara is a Trustee of Bishop Seabury Academy, a private college preparatory school in Lawrence, Kansas.
Kara lives in Kansas with her husband, Raj, an international law professor at the University of Kansas, and their daughter Shera.