In conversation with Beth Houghton
Partner and head of impact fund, Palatine Private Equity


Please describe your current role

I am currently a Partner and Head of the Impact Fund at Palatine Private Equity.  Palatine was founded in 2006 and is a Manchester-headquartered, mid-market PE house. In addition to traditional buyout funds, Palatine raised a £100m Impact Fund in 2017 to invest in companies that can deliver both market-rate private equity returns and social or environmental change. The Impact Fund has invested in five companies to date.  I sit on the Investment Committees for both the buy-out and impact funds.


My role consists of sourcing and completing new deals, sitting on the boards of existing portfolio companies and working on exits.   As head of the Impact Fund I take a leading role in fundraising and investor relations, spending time with existing investors updating them on the progress of the fund and plans for future fundraisings. I also meet with potential investors who are interested in committing to new funds.   In addition, I have led Palatine’s ESG programme over the last ten years, for which we have won eight industry awards.   As well as generating profits, companies should be good corporate citizens, so increasing my knowledge in this area and working alongside the BVCA and PRI to raise awareness of ESG and responsible investing in the private equity industry has been a highlight of my career to date. I am lucky that with the impact fund I have been able to combine my passion for private equity with creating a difference in society.


What attracted you to a career in private equity and how did you get started?

I do not have a typical background for Private Equity, I started my career as a computer programmer working on global SAP projects in US, Asia and across Europe.  After ten years of consulting I wanted a career back in the UK so studied for an MBA at Manchester Business School.  In 2006, as part of my MBA, I did an internship at Palatine Private Equity, Palatine were raising their maiden fund and after the first close they offered me a job; I was the first employee outside of the founding partners.  The company has grown from five to 36 people in 12 years and we have raised four funds (including the impact fund).  


I was attracted to a role in PE because of the variety it offers.  I love getting to know new sectors, new companies and new management teams.  The skills you need for the role are also varied from analytical, legal, commercial and people skills so you never get bored.  


What advice would you give women interested in a career in private equity?

Now is a great time to be entering the private equity industry as senior PE professionals (both men and women) are starting to realise the benefits of diversity and recruit accordingly.  It’s important to target a GP with the right culture, the partners at Palatine have been very supportive throughout my career and my career progression has been based on results not gender.  When I was preparing to become a partner, Palatine provided me with a business coach who taught me to focus on my strengths and create my own personal brand (which is very different to the stereotype of a male PE professional). This gave me a lot of confidence for when I was promoted to partner and also when I went on to raise the impact fund.      I would advise women to concentrate on their strengths and what unique skills they can bring to the industry.  


What do you think it will take to improve the gender gap in private equity and do you think we will see significant change in the coming years?

I think we need to see more flexibility in investment roles including part-time and flexible hours for both men and women so the role can be adapted around childcare and other needs. I think the private equity industry is changing – it is great that GPs have started to introduce more diversity into  junior investment roles – but it is vital we support these women to progress to senior roles, to become partners and raise their own funds.  As we get more senior women in the industry I hope the pace of change will increase.