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PE firms adapting to current trends

Jensen Partners: Best Recruitment Company for Executives & Best Recruitment Company for Investor Relations & Asset Raising – As private equity firms expand across geographies, strategies and sectors, there is a growing need for professionals with specialised skillsets and relationships and relationships in emerging markets. Further, the focus on diversity and impact investing is marking a shift in the industry which is also coming to terms with the transition to virtual platforms.

Sasha Jensen, founder and CEO of Jensen Partners, outlines: “The private equity industry continues to grow in size and prominence. The combination of an economic crisis and record levels of dry powder have private equity firms positioned to take on an ever-greater share of the global economy, particularly in some of the areas hardest hit by Covid-19.” 

“We have seen fundraising volumes and demand for experienced PE marketers remain at high levels throughout most of 2020, with only a brief blip in hiring activity in the first quarter as the entire world hit pause.”

Jensen notes how PE firms have been expanding across geographies, sectors and strategies: “What used to be an industry defined by buyout firms concentrating mostly on the US and European markets has transformed into a truly global industry that touches almost every corner of society. We have seen an increase in demand for marketers with relationships in East Asia and South Asia, two fast-growing regions with massive potential financial markets.”

There has also been a rise in demand for marketers with specialised skillsets, such as product specialists who can go into the technical details of how a particular investment strategy is designed to work.

ESG and impact investing is also surging as several PE firms launched impact funds in the past couple of years. Jensen remarks: “We expect this trend to continue as market and regulatory forces put sustainability at the centre of all business and investment decisions. In 2019, we started tracking all ESG and impact marketing moves, and our data shows that there is more demand for these specialists than ever.”

“We are still in the first wave of private equity firms launching impact funds, and if these funds continue to attract capital and generate attractive returns then there will undoubtedly be second and third waves coming soon. Private equity firms can play an important role in transforming our social and environmental systems to the forefront by integrating ESG and impact into their investment decisions.”

Diversity map

Jensen Partners remains focused on building a data-centric model for executive search. The firm believes the combination of quantitative and qualitative data is essential to finding the ideal candidates and building the right team. The increased attention given to diversity and the growing demand for marketers with specialised skillsets confirms this belief, with many private equity firms now looking at their marketing and distribution teams with new eyes.

Later this year, the firm plans to introduce a powerful new tool called the “Visual Diversity Map.” Jensen explains: “This tool will allow us to illuminate the gender and racial background of each marketing candidate across private equity firms, private credit firms, real estate investment firms, real asset investors, infrastructure equity and credit managers, hedge funds and private fund placement groups. We will also be able to track and illustrate the level of diversity on a distribution/sales platform, with details on recent diverse hires, departures and promotions.”

“In addition, thanks to this tool, we will be capable of identifying the diverse rainmakers and rising stars among marketing, business development, investor relations, institutional sales and product specialist professionals across the alternative investment space.”

The creation of this tool is aligned with the changes being observed in client needs. Jensen notes: “There is an increased focus on diversity at all levels of private equity organisations, particularly in regards to hiring people of colour and giving these employees more opportunities for development and advancement.” 

“We have been tracking the diversity of all marketing moves since 2018. We use this data to help spotlight how private equity firms are doing at addressing the gender and racial gaps in their organisations. This data is shared both with private equity firms and with the market as a whole so that we can all see what progress is being made and what challenges still remain.”

According to Jensen, the process of addressing diversity issues within the PE firms themselves and also among portfolio companies is an uphill struggle: “This is not a battle that will be won in 2020 or 2021. However, PE firms can take important steps now by reporting on their current diversity metrics and making pledges to increase the representation of women and people of colour. The key will be to follow through on these pledges with action, either by setting hiring targets and quotas or helping nurture the next generation of talent through mentorship and entrepreneurship programmes.”

Transition to a virtual world

She goes on to identify the additional shift which has taken place in light of the Covid-19 pandemic: “It has altered how many private equity firms approach fundraising and hiring. Raising capital from institutional investors and meeting with potential employees both require a personal touch, something that is difficult to achieve over Zoom.” 

“But rather than slow down fundraising or hiring, many private equity firms have pivoted and embraced a more decentralised model that allows people to meet and decisions to be made without the typical levels of bureaucracy. This is a welcome change that is likely to persist beyond the pandemic, so marketing candidates should get comfortable now with a Zoom-heavy future.”

The persistence of a virtual world will continue to put pressure on marketers. Jensen observes: “Private equity firms, just like the rest of us, are trying to adapt to a new normal. This is especially true of marketers, who are used to traveling around the world to meet with investors in conference rooms and hotel ballrooms. These meetings have almost entirely shifted to a virtual format, putting increased pressure on marketers to be able to build and manage relationships even at a distance.”

She mentions how although many of the characteristics that define a successful marketer remain the same in this new scenario, some factors have undoubtedly changed: “For instance, marketers today are expected to be tech-savvy and comfortable running meetings and calls via virtual platforms like Zoom and Skype. Marketers must also find a way to keep their team members motivated and investors comfortable from a long distance, which requires strong interpersonal skills.” 

“We evaluate all marketing candidates for their track record and investor relationships, but also to ensure they are well-positioned to succeed in a post-Covid world. Our 360 Investor Referencing methodology is particularly helpful in identifying candidate strengths and weaknesses, providing private equity firms with a greater degree of confidence that they are making the right choice.” 

Sasha Jensen
CEO & Founder, Jensen Partners

Sasha Jensen, Founder and CEO, launched Jensen Partners in 2012 with the focus on solely identifying the pre-eminent human capital talent for raising capital within the alternative investment industry. In fact, Sasha was described as “the most successful executive recruiter for asset gatherers” by Institutional Investor magazine. In 2020, Jensen Partners expanded its team to Europe with the addition of two senior professionals. In February 2020, Peter Mayer, previously a partner from PJT Partners, was appointed Head of Europe. The following month George Lewis was named Managing Director, Infrastructure practice in London. Over the last five years, Sasha’s firm has received several rounds of institutional funding, experienced transformational growth and expanded to 14 professionals located in New York and London. Further, Jensen Partners’ executive recruiting model applies a ‘big data’ approach to mapping out the entire fund distribution teams at the largest alternative investment platforms, totalling more than 600 firms.

Uniquely, Sasha’s experience recruiting distribution specialists spans nearly two decades. She was previously the Director of Alternative Asset Management Recruiting for The Gerson Group in New York and London. Before joining Gerson Group, Sasha served as the Global Head of Fund Distribution for Kinsey Allen International. Sasha was previously an investigative journalist and latterly worked as Head of Investigations of the Sunday Independent and Saturday Star newspapers in Johannesburg. Sasha graduated with an upper-class double-honours in Philosophy and Literature from University of Warwick.

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