Best PE Firms to Work For? (Associate Level)

Title more or less says it all. What do you guys think the best PE firms are, with regard to culture, prestige/exits, comp, etc, for the associate experience. Really don't want a banking 2.0, but want something that provides similar career progression potential.

Appreciate your guys' time.

Comments (49)

Jun 6, 2020 - 11:25pm
DiscountedSplashFlow, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I appreciate the question but I think in reality there are soooo many PE firms out there (seriously there are hundreds) that there really isn't a "best" fund as a generalization. It really depends on what you're interested in and what you're looking for in terms of city, industry, deal size, lifestyle, etc. Obviously the most commonly talked about MFs are probably the best for prestige and comp, but it's a trade off for lifestyle most of the time.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jun 7, 2020 - 12:16am

Appreciate the reply. Currently working at a top EB M&A (EVC/CVP/PJT). Looking at NYC and SF. Looking primarily at MF, and to a lesser extent, UMM. Lifestyle is the big question. Don't know too much about lifestyles at these firms, though I've seen that recent Apollo thread. I want something that'll offer a better lifestyle than banking (i.e. less than 90 hours a fucking week). Not going to lie though, comp is a big factor for me. I want to maximize my cash flow when I'm young, so I can do something I'm more passionate about in my late 30s/early 40s.

I would say my ideal firm would have 60-80 hour work weeks on average (understand that certain times will require 100+), be either in NYC or SF, and not have a cultural rep of being up your ass 24/7 (want a more collaborative environment).

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 7, 2020 - 12:26am

FWIW you're looking at two things (comp and hours) that IME are almost linear tradeoffs at the megafund level. For banking, know EBs offer a much better deal - hours are similar if not better, comp is also much better, but from the research I did 2 years ago when looking into MF PE, increased comp has a high correlation with worse hours. Helpful to decide which of those you care about more.

One other strategy would be to sort firms by comp, take the minimum you'd be happy with, and diligence those firms specifically. Would help to eliminate the UMMs that pay ~250 and the Apollos that pay ~400.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jun 6, 2020 - 11:31pm

Anyone have an idea of which UMMs have the best culture? I've heard AEA is really solid.

Most Helpful
Jun 7, 2020 - 12:34am
earthwalker7, what's your opinion? Comment below:

the best PE firm is the one where

  • you get along with your supervising manager,

  • where there's a good culture of collaboration,

  • where there is a decent brand,

  • where there's a culture of promoting from within, where there's clear path to that promotion,

  • where there's a shot at getting carried interest sometime in the forseeable future

  • where you like their sector and methodology (ie. you love healthcare growth capital deals they do, you like their TMT buyout strategy, where you love their value-add methodology, etc.)

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jun 7, 2020 - 1:28am
  • where there's a good culture of collaboration

  • where there's a culture of promoting from within, where there's clear path to that promotion,

  • where there's a shot at getting carried interest sometime in the forseeable future

Feel like these points, above all else, epitomize what I'm looking for. Curious to the UMM options (just took a look at Linkedin, seems quite reputable). Would you say, since they're smaller in size, promotions would be more linear (and with that, the potential for receiving carry later on)?

Jun 7, 2020 - 4:59am
earthwalker7, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hard to say, but maybe. Though I don't think UMM would as an iron-clad rule have the best options. I think you're just going to have to spend time with people, kiss a lot of frogs, and ultimately try to find someone you believe will have your best interests at heart. It's more about the people than the overall firm, and it's certainly too much to ask for a call on the whole of UMM. But at least you've got your eyes peeled looking at the UMM and not just the more famous buyout shops, which broadens your field. I'd ask for friends to refer you to shops and people that they know, and where you'll hopefully 'click'. Chemistry with people and is what you want. If you have a manager that will be in your corner, that's 70% of the battle right there.

Jun 7, 2020 - 1:32am
jhemming2020, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agreed wholeheartedly with earthwalker. I know you're probably looking for actual names of funds, but I would always encourage you to network before you recruit in order to get information first-hand. There is no better way.

With that said, if you want to think about megafunds, yes, I have also consistently heard terrible things Apollo. More than other firms. On the other end of the spectrum, I've heard pretty great things about Bain Cap. Think Advent also is supposed to have a better culture than most. (This often seems to correlate with the number of ex-consultants vs bankers.) But it needs to be reminded that every firm lies somewhere on a spectrum, and that spectrum will be different for each person depending on how you personally get along with the people there.

  • Associate 1 in HF - RelVal
Jun 7, 2020 - 9:12am

Can you please stop calling everyone man? Not everyone on this forum is a guy.

Jun 7, 2020 - 9:25am
yiggyyaller, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No one's great. A few of the better large cap funds based upon current and former associate anecdata below. Note that these places will still have their tough moments but they seem to be more livable. The only pattern is non-HQ offices

AdventLeonard GreenApax (excluding NY) EQT (US only) Hg (US only) Welsh CarsonTA Associates (excluding Boston)

  • Analyst 3+ in Consulting
Jun 7, 2020 - 10:29am

I've been looking for more information on Hg. There was some good stuff not too long ago but wondering if you have anything to add, especially around recruiting?

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 8, 2020 - 8:57am

I understand Apax has a great culture for a MF / large cap buyout fund. Still work hard (its large cap PE...) but much nicer and global (shared carry) culture than some its peers, encouraging collaboration between colleagues. Given British / American co-HQs, doesn't culturally attract the same douchebags as other large funds with more brutal reputations (Apollo, H&F etc).

Caveat is the Associate programme is structured by industry teams - so obviously varies by team.

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Jun 9, 2020 - 12:39am

Can confirm Apax is sweaty in NY across most teams. My roommate typically don't get home till midnight consistently.

Jun 7, 2020 - 6:20pm
atlanta678, what's your opinion? Comment below:

do any of those places do off cycle recruiting?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 7, 2020 - 10:13pm

Anyone have any thoughts on the other MFs (CG / WP / TPG)? Feel like the others get discussed so have a good idea of the hours at those shops but less aware of how lifestyle is at these places.

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Jun 7, 2020 - 11:04pm

TPG (especially growth) is pretty chill. Warburg and Carlyle are generally sweatier

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 8, 2020 - 9:54am

Thanks, helpful. Any idea what sweatier means for those two? Trying to compare to my time in banking (~80 / wk).

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Jun 9, 2020 - 8:47am
Also, question for the group because I don't really know the answer, but are some sectors sweatier? Imagine software, industrials require longer hours than tech/growth equity for example.. and probably infra is on the lower side as well..?

Infra at least at my firm gets crushed. Way too many macro factors to sensitize and think through, in time periods from 2 months - 30+ years. The most complex operating models I have seen come from our infra assets; even with things that I would think would be relatively straightforward (trains, toll roads).

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jun 9, 2020 - 3:01am

heard apollo has some great hours/culture, wonderful thread on it recently

  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Jun 9, 2020 - 9:32am

Apollo is the promised land. Good hours, great pay, respectful seniors and strong dealflow :)

Feb 12, 2021 - 6:07pm
PPMadrid12, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Jun 10, 2020 - 11:04am
Macronmania, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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