Madison Dearborn (CHI) vs HIG Advantage (SF) vs GI Partners (SF)

Hi all - currently have offers from 2 of the 3 and thinking about attempting to accelerate the third in that list, and would love to get some insight on each shop. For some background, I'm currently an AN1 at a BB Coverage group, and am originally from the West Coast. My mentality towards PE is a bit like IB - I'm going into it for a 2-year advanced bootcamp where I can get great training on being an investor and further exposure to being an operator. While I find investing interesting, I'm not sure if I want to be a career investor, but at the same time would love to have the skillset and branding to extend that runway for as long as possible. Also not set on B-school but very open to the idea of it. Fortunate enough to come from a comfortable background and I have a great support network keeping so while comp and wlb are factors, I'm willing to sacrifice a bit on both fronts for a rigorous experience over the next two years.

 
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First of all, congrats! All 3 firms are very reputable places that are great launch pads for your career in investing and beyond!

Madison Dearborn - one of the vaunted names of Chicago PE. They had their rough patch in the mid-2000s but are now largely past that, although performance is still being dragged down by some duds across each fund (that consistently are concentrated across certain sectors). Since Fund V, the've been focused on scaling very moderately, and are currently investing out of their 2021 vintage fund ($5B I believe). They're not afraid to write larger check sizes for a fund of their size, and while they're not value-oriented they tend to remain pretty disciplined in their processes compared to a lot of other PE firms. Associates are generalists across their sectors. The culture there is very old-school and buttoned-up - there's a face time culture, very hierarchical, and it's extremely hard to stay on after your 2 years there. I've also heard that it's a tough place in terms of wlb. With that being said, it's traditionally had great business school placement and the seniors push hard for their associates when it comes to admisssions.

HIG - name brand in value PE, huge platform. Their Advantage funds are centered around a vanilla buyout strategy with a lower risk / reward profile than their MM and LBO funds. They've scaled their fundraising very quickly - the first fund closed in at ~$3B, and they're currently investing out of Fund II with a $5B target, which is still in the fundraising process but is expected to officially close very soon. Associates are industry generalists. The culture there is pretty casual for PE standards, but the associates still get grinded and it's an intense experience. Even though Advantage is HIG's vanilla strategy, a lot of the high-level emphasis is still placed on origination, and Advantage looks at a lot of opporutnities in the hopes of getting the inside scoop on less competitive processes, which translates into work for the associates. They're pretty flexible in terms of their investment mandate and have written pretty large equity checks, but for the most part they try to do more investments (I think Fund I did something like 16 platforms and 55 add-ons, which is a lot). HIG has a pretty solid track record of promoting top talent and have a A2VP track that doesn't require business school. That being said, I've heard HIG is very supportive of business school recruiting firm-wide and has great placement (from what I've seen they're especially strong at GSB placement).

GI Partners is a great PE firm. They're currently investing out of Fund VI ($3.9B), which was a decent step up from Fund V ($2.7B). Although they're primarily focused on HC, Software, and Services, I believe associates are generalists across those sectors. They're not afriad to make concentrated bets and are willing to pay up for quality assets and underwrite growth. I've heard mixed things about their culture - it's not a very buttoned-up place and seniors give associates a good amount of leeway as long as they get their work done, but apparently there's been a lot of office politics at the senior level recently and that's bled into the overall firm culture. That being said, I know that the juniors at GI Partners work very hard. I'm not as familiar with their promotion track record and policies, but I do know that they place well into business school.

 

All 3 firms are very reputable places and you really can't make a wrong decision. Not familiar with GI Partners, but I'm very familiar with MDP and HIG, and given your ties to the West Coast, if I were you I'd lean towards HIG.

MDP - old-school, very buttoned up and formal culture, associates are treated more as a 2-year resource, very interesting investments, disciplined but flexible investment strategy and mandate, there's considerable internal politics at the senior and mid-levels but associates are pretty shielded from that. Basically two-and-out but great B-school placement.

HIG - Advantage is new kid on the block, phenomenal fundraising momentum but unproven track record ($3B for a first-time fund being scaled up to $5B for Fund II despite very few exits from Fund I); more casual but no BS type of culture - people tend to be straight-shooters and demand a lot out of the juniors, but there's much less of a hierarchy. Seniors tend to invest more in the juniors (encouraged to speak and play up, get full visibility across deal lifecycle) and the fund has a track record of internal promotion, but B-school placement is also great.

Both are places where you'll be getting a rigorous experiences, and both are sweaty, but in different ways. At MDP the culture is more hierarchical and associates are treated more as a resource (and are thus worked as such), but at the same time they tend to be a bit more shielded from the wrath of seniors and internal poltics (because of the hierarchical structure and the view of juniors as more of a resource). At HIG Advantage, the culture is flatter and associates are viewed as potential partner-track from Day 1, but associates have no place to hide and are expected to own everything they do while playing up (and thus being sweaty in that way).

Just two different types of sweaty, just pick your poison.

 

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