Uniti Bhalla Co-managing Partner, STAR Capital Partners LLP

Please describe your current role

I am the co-managing partner of STAR Capital Partners LLP, a European fund manager focused on investing in strategic asset based businesses. In addition to day-to-day oversight of the business, I also sit on STAR’s investment Committee and take an active role in many of the firm’s investments, with a particular interest in energy and TMT.

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

Private Equity is a dynamic industry. I like that you get to make strategic decisions about investments in a logical and transparent way. I like building businesses, creating and growing things.

I started my career in banking, focused on the media industry. However, most of my senior career was within Investment Banking at HSBC, working with companies across Europe, Middle East and Africa to structure large and complex project financings. I was attracted to the industry because it provided me with the opportunity to advise companies to build and improve critical infrastructure – and even though I was advising them around financing I felt like I was part of something very positive. It was an incredible learning ground.

When the opportunity to join STAR arose, it felt like the right decision. I wanted to move from a larger company to a smaller one that was much more entrepreneurial. Actually, I went to the other extreme and ended up joining a start-up! The jump allowed me to become a principal, which was my goal at that time. Almost 20 years later, I’m still here and love what I’m doing.

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?

Awareness is key. The more people are thinking about it as an issue that needs to be addressed the better. Today, this means targeted and specific initiatives, but the hope is that it soon becomes second nature to those of us who are making hiring decisions, investment decisions and bringing the same ethos to the portfolio companies that we invest in.

In practice, I think it’s important to start at home. At STAR we have a very diverse team, which came about organically rather than as a result of targeted recruitment efforts. We’ve benefited enormously from the breadth of thinking that comes with the diversity of background and experiences and we plan to continue in this vein.

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

It’s an incredibly stimulating and rewarding industry to work in. But it is very intense and can be extremely challenging, so you need the courage and confidence to back yourself. It’s important to find the right environment to support you through this career – for me that meant working with very smart colleagues, of course, but also combined with a can-do outlook and a real team ethic.

Who has most inspired you in your career/who have been your mentors?

I don’t want to single out any one individual. However, I have learned a tremendous amount from my colleagues and from the talented managers that the firm has backed to build successful teams and great businesses.