As part of our commitment to recognising role-models and Inspiring Women working across many different areas of the Private Equity and Venture Capital Industry, we introduce Andrea Davis who operates in a value creation role.
Please describe your current role
I am a Managing Director and lead the Operating Group for Investcorp’s European Private Equity business and serve as COO of that group.
How did you get started in private equity/venture capital and what was the career path to your current role?
I have always held a passion for understanding what distinguished great companies from their peers. After earning my MBA, I spent more than 25 years as a CEO and CFO of multiple operating companies, some of which were PE owned. I formally entered private equity after my last trade sale when I was approached to utilize my expertise and background to “help run the companies.” Six years later, I remain just as excited by the opportunities and experiences of the operating partner role.
What attracted you to the industry?
I feel fortunate to have led businesses that were PE-backed, public and family owned. I believe that PE is a great space to be in and offers significant benefits for all parties involved. With the right PE partners, management teams are able to reach their full potential, from having access to growth capital or utilizing the PE firm’s operational expertise and industry networks to employ best practices. We view our investments as partnerships, not ownership, and we are there to help shoulder the responsibilities with our portfolio companies, but also provide them with the autonomy to execute on their strategic plan. PE is a great place to grow businesses and help organizations institutionalize and scale. It’s been a privilege to sit on both sides of the table.
What advice would you give women considering a career in private equity/venture capital?
Do it! It’s a great job and like any great job, you have to strive to get it. But it’s worth it.
I occasionally lecture at Private Equity courses at London Business School and IESE in Barcelona. I am greatly encouraged by the diversity of students on those courses. I hope that working with the schools, we can inspire them to take it out of the classroom and follow the career.
What do you think it will take to improve the gender imbalance in private equity/venture capital and do you think we will see significant change in the coming years?
I believe that visibility is key. As an industry, we have acknowledged that we must do better to promote greater gender diversity, which is not only the right thing to do, but also translates into higher returns, as multiple studies have found. We need to work harder at attracting women to private equity and retaining them. The industry has suffered by a misperception and a lack of understanding about what we do. We, the women of the industry, need to go to schools and better communicate what private equity is all about and the exciting opportunities it offers. The dynamic nature of combining research, finance, marketing, operations, strategy and utilizing these skills to grow and improve companies is an excellent career path. This is where you can learn the most about what it takes to build and run successful companies. The process does not start at recruitment as retainment is even more critical. We need to support women mid-career. That’s partly parental leave but also some of the mid years can just seem like hard slog. We’ve all been there, wondering how we balance all the pressures of life and we need to coach them through it. A successful career is a lot about stamina.
How does portfolio value creation work differ from deal execution and are there different skills required?
Deal execution and value creation are partnerships on the same journey. The skills overlap but I would try to summarise as within the portfolio, we spend more time thinking about the How. How do we make this happen? How is the management team operating together? There is arguably more of an instant gratification in the deal closing but everyone knows that’s not where it ends. The ultimate value creation comes from how you improve and grow the business post-acquisition. This could be five to seven years away but you won’t have a successful exit unless you have positioned the company on a sustainable growth trajectory. I enjoy the partnership aspect and the process that we undertake with our portfolio companies to define where we want to go and then seeing it through to fruition.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy each step of the journey – personal and professional.