Please describe your current role
I am a senior partner of CapVest Partners LLP. I was one of the founding members of the firm and am an Investment Committee member. I chair and/or sit on boards of various of existing and prior portfolio company investments. I am involved in all aspects of our business. CapVest Partners LLP is an international mid-market PE fund we established 20 years ago and we are currently investing our 4th fund.
What attracted you to a career in private equity and how did you get started?
Private equity is an industry where you have access to an amazing variety of experiences. PE essentially combines investing, financing, being deeply involved in business and working with talented people, whether it be in the advisory or financing community as well as top leadership teams of companies in various industries.
The mid-market is a sector where you can have high impact. The ethos of what we do is to transform companies, and you play a key role in shaping that journey. Its exciting to do your research and author an investment thesis, develop the relationships and the tactical plan to win a deal at the right price (no skill in paying the highest price) and then working hand-in-hand with top managers to shape strategy, build organisations, allocate capital, and improve operations in order to transform the size and scale of a company in a relatively concentrated time frame. And then you need to optimise how you sell – which is tied intrinsically to all of what I mentioned before. Evidently, it’s a super interesting place to be – the emphasis is more on thinking than just doing (you do live with the decisions you make) and you have to be adept at influencing and motivating teams across cultures to deliver what’s needed.
I like the fast pace and the challenge. No day is the same with a high learning curve – even after 20 years.
I trained in South Africa as a Chartered accountant with Deloitte. Came to the UK in the late 90’s and joined an investment bank (Bankers Trust) for basic training with an eye of getting into Private Equity, which I did at the bank within 18 months.
What were your motivations behind starting a new private equity firm?
I am entrepreneurial and enjoy building businesses. I was part of a small team that left BT Capital to establish CapVest (which I did as a principal). I saw joining CapVest from the beginning as a great opportunity to be part of building our business from the ground up and having a meaningful role in contributing to the development of our business model and future.
What were the key challenges in starting a new firm?
Starting a business is challenging as its naturally the hardest point at which to attract capital, talented employees and for management teams to choose you. You need to demonstrate you are prepared to back yourself with your own capital and as you build a strong (and replicable) track record, the rest follows. Hot fund-raising markets aside, investors are slow to decide and you need to deliver what you undertake over several funds to build a deep and loyal investor base.
Finding good people has also been a challenge. It’s a mix of intellect, commercial savvy, strong work ethic and base skills that we’ve found a bit hard to come by. For every hire we make we’ve interviewed many candidates. Over the years we have refined our hiring process and hire at lower levels and grow our own.
What advice would you give women interested in a career in private equity?
This is an amazing industry to be part of. Diversity is currently on everyone’s agenda (including ours at CapVest) and therefore, the reality is that it’s a good time to join the sector. I would be ready to match and exceed on the basic elements of the job, and aim to be a thought leader to differentiate – I’d not be the one to speak the loudest, but be the one that brings insights, aims to bring a view or new perspective that can be additive to a situation or a decision.
Managing work-life balance:
Children into the equation does change things – and in the early years its tough. Private Equity is not the most forgiving industry in this regard – 3 days a week won’t cut it. Getting organised is the key. Setting up the right support structures at home is critical to sustainability. Pay what you need to get third-party support right and support that gives you flexibility – you’ll need to get over not knowing what sports kit is needed for which day. You should ensure you get your IT systems organised and a spare (quiet) space at home so that you can link in, as needed, post bed times in the evening or weekends – it should your office away from the office. And you need a partner who will take up the slack in the inevitable peaks and troughs.
If you deliver, the rest will take care of itself. I believe being able to successfully manage the work life balance is the key to removing the gender gap.