In conversation with Zeina Bain
Managing Director, European Subordinated debt & equity team, ICG


Please describe your current role

Managing Director covering the UK/Benelux and Nordics for ICG’s European Equity and Subordinated Debt Fund VII and Head of Industrials Coverage for Europe. Involved in all aspects of deal making and private equity.


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

I started my career in investment banking and after two intense years, left to seek my fortunes in the tech venture world. I got my timing woefully wrong as I joined a small firm just as the dot-com bubble burst. Nonetheless, I loved the buy-side aspect of the industry (I got to meet some pretty wacky start-ups) and went to Carlyle’s European leverage buyout fund namely because they were the only ones who laughed at my jokes during the interview.

I stayed for 18 years and then joined ICG in September 2019 [drawn to their differentiated proposition (hybrid capital/flexible mandate) approach and rapid growth.]


Why Private Equity?

I’m passionate about private equity because:

It challenges so many skill sets including the judgements and analytics of people, facts, strategy and tactics, project management and most importantly – people skills from forming relationships from the powers of persuading people to do things. You never stop learning.

It usually leads to the transformation of business for the better when the alchemy of right business, right people, and aligned incentives work together.

Seeing a deal through inception to successful monetisation and a happy management team is a brilliant experience – the ownership, and the responsibility that comes with it, means the level of engagement is so high.


What advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?

It may feel daunting but what makes you different is exactly what can make you successful in this industry. Drive, hustle and courage of conviction.

In the early years, taking on responsibility, problem-solving and forming an internal network are important for making it up the ranks. An internal network sounds cliched, but it makes you visible, gives you an appreciation of the wider aspects of the industry and can open up opportunities within your firm.  In subsequent years, progress depends on full ownership of the deal from cradle to exit, figuring out how to make things happen and developing your external network. I believe for some, that is often the bit that feels hardest to transition towards. Even harder may be the juggling of that with a family.

There is no one right way on either front, bar team work (both at work and home), discipline in how you manage your time,  self-belief and again most importantly, ability to connect with people.


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 am seeing more and more formidable women coming up the ranks (usually from my vantage point by the coffee supply at women’s networking events) and firms taking proactive action in recruitment and training and being vocal on inclusion and diversity. Nonetheless, I have often found that it was difficult to recruit women in the first place which is why we need to demystify the industry.  

The next piece is getting women to stay on and that’s about allowing for more flexibility which is pertinent for men too – that means trusting people to manage their time and lots of communication (often not at standard hours). Finally, it is at investment committee, where one needs the right tone and culture for women to feel they can make it there and get their points across in their own way. Having other women there or around is helpful for reinforcement.  The other thing could be more support through managerial training and career coaching to figure out how to work on upward management. All initiatives Level 20 is thankfully working hard on, among a number of others.