Healy Hunt provides specialist recruitment in the Alternative Investments space led by Director, Orlando Whippy. He has advice for people exploring new opportunities within Private Equity or trying to build a career in this sector.
Moving Up the Private Equity Ladder
Our practice is best known for placing candidates at the more senior level within Private Equity funds, typically into investment teams from Investment Manager through to Partner level, but also across the GP and within their Portfolio C Suite. The majority of candidates we deal with are making lateral moves from other funds, having established a strong track record in the sector. Employees in Private Equity are always academic high achievers who have excelled in all aspects of their career and education to date. At the senior level, an individual needs to demonstrate a track record of successful investments and a strong balance of EQ and IQ. Intellectual curiosity and exceptional analytical skills are essential attributes.
They need to have developed relevant networks within the industry. A successful candidate will also research the hiring PE fund in-depth, understanding the industry focus, size of investment and geographic mandate of the fund, and develop a good understanding of the fund strategy and portfolio. PE firms are far less structured and rigid than banks so cultural fit also becomes even more important. Sometimes our clients are seeking very narrow backgrounds and skill sets; this could include finding someone tri-lingual with a background in medicine, through to a Partner who has led and exited a number of successful deals in a specific sector.
Moving into Private Equity
Further down the seniority scale, there is more scope for moving into the sector and we run a number of associate hiring programmes for some of the world’s most well-known PE Funds. Private Equity is a specialist and unique industry though, so walking in with a Financial Services background or an MBA, is unlikely without demonstrating authentic motivation and having worked for the right firms in appropriate roles. You will also need to demonstrate that you are in the top cohort of your peers both academically and in terms of performance at work.
Too many applicants fail to do enough to understand the industry they are trying to enter as they assume it is a ‘rite of passage’ after training in Investment Banking or Management Consulting.
“You really need to do your homework on what PE funds actually do. How they make money, what they look for when buying businesses…”
Orlando Whippy, Director, Alternative Investments
Someone entering PE will typically have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in maths, economics, finance or accounting from a top-tier university and typically at least 2-3 years’ professional experience during which they have built up their financial literacy, market understanding and professional network. Mergers and Acquisitions or broader Corporate Finance teams within top Investment Banks, or Commercial Due Diligence for the top Management Consulting firms are the most traditional routes into Private Equity. Funds are now hiring even earlier though and taking exceptional candidates with 12-18 months of experience in Investment Banking or Strategy Consulting. While not being a ready-made investor, the candidate must understand PE’s place in the market compared to Venture Capital or Hedge Funds. Every fund wants to know you have really done your homework on why they are the place for your long-term career. It is very beneficial to work on LBO modelling exercises to get a feel for the mechanics of what you will be doing. Modelling exercises and case studies are key components of all interview processes in PE, so specialist online programmes like the Private Equity course from Financial Edge provide an excellent grounding and helps to prepare you.
Private Equity is an incredibly tough and competitive industry to get into. The hours are long and the work is detailed and demanding. It is very rewarding though and a fabulous career path for people who love analysing and investing in businesses. One of our team, Maria Tobolewska, wrote an excellent piece about the challenges of increasing the diversity of PE teams, a move that is known to improve overall fund performance, and we work with our client partners to support their DEI initiatives.