IR folks

Can anyone who successfully made it in IR do a recap of how they got to where they were?

I get the basics and that it's a sales job, but the top IR people in my firm are um, pretty lacking in people skills. They own 1-2 very large accounts and that's it. They apparently goof up major LP calls alot too, their juniors (with better EQ skills) or the investments team sometimes have to save them.

The rest of the LPs have been brought in by the senior management team / senior investment professionals, which makes sense - if you're a senior partner / senior MD at a firm with ~$7-8bn per fund, you've probably worked with these LPs for a lot of both your careers and they trust you.

I'm curious if being the head of IR really just means that you went to the right school / played golf with the right people. even if you're a complete doofus

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Moonshallow, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Unlike IB, consulting, law, etc., there is no traditional track for IR. Most folks (including me) didn't even know this was a viable career path when graduating college and I honestly associated IR with individuals (mostly women) who worked at large public companies, fielding calls during quarterly update sessions. In reality, IR in the alternatives/PE context primarily consist of folks who raise capital from a broad range of LP types (pensions, E&Fs, SWFs, family offices, insurance companies, and increasingly retail in recent years) while also focusing on client servicing in the form of coordinating, maintaining and updating existing LPs and keeping them happy so they'll re-up into future funds. There are various iterations of this function across megafunds to first-time funds, with the Blackstones, Apollos and Brookfields of the world dumbing this down into separate siloed functions, with cordoned off sales teams, project management teams, product specialists, etc. At smaller shops, including mid-sized firms and obviously in the case of first-time funds, all of these functions are rolled up into one. 

In my opinion, if a PE firm doesn't have a good (or even existent) IR team, it won't kill you. But when you have a kickass IR team or IR head, it will make a night and day difference. One reason is that no one starts a fund because they're good at fundraising. They start a fund because they were previously the best deal guy at firm X, whether it be in healthcare, software, etc. They've probably sat in on 10-15 LP onsites and think this is the general gist of fundraising. And oftentimes these folks go on to raise very successful funds. But some do struggle. And the ones that have the foresight to see that it could be potentially challenging typically hire a third-party advisor/fundraiser in the form of a Private Funds Group (Evercore, CS, UBS, Lazard, are just some of the banks that still have these divisions that specializing on raising capital for private funds) or a placement agent (Monument Group, Campbell Lutyens, Asante, Rede Partners, etc.) to help them strategize, canvas and convert LPs into the fund. These specialist fundraising firms then charge a success fee (usually one years' worth of mgmt fees, so ~2%) for bringing LPs into the fund. 

There are a number of firms that have grown big as a result of strong founders with a stellar track record, who have leaned heavily on placement agents while also having weak IR teams (Clearlake, Veritas, Thoma Bravo). These firms have historically taken the view that in-house IR is 'meh' and that they'd much rather outsource it (at least that's been the case to-date). Many other firms now are recognizing the need for hiring IR in-house though, especially in this market. Unfortunately, when working with placement agents (name for these fundraising specialists), they often field anywhere from 15-25 funds at any given time. When a salesperson shows their summary of offerings to an LP, the LP will often only show interest in one, so these other funds will fall by the way side and not receive adequate attention. In instances where the IR person is in-house, if they don't sell the one else will. 

That said, circling back to OP's point, there are a lot of shitty IR folks. And unfortunately a number of these folks come from the old guard, who 'owned' 3-5 large pension accounts, as OP said, and golfed and bullshitted their way into a decent career. I would say that the IR field has become increasingly competitive, and there will be more and more demand for better quality IR professionals, especially in tough fundraising environments where you can't bullshit your way to an LP commitment win anymore. You will have to show that you can connect LPs and build relationships from scratch, actually find ways to better navigate the LPs' internal process so that they actually WANT to commit to your fund because you've made it so easy for them, and demonstrate simultaneously that your fund is far superior than your friendly competitors (which you can only do not through shit-talking but actually scrounging for the necessary intel to compare and contrast your fund from these other ones). It's a job that's far from technical and relies heavily on EQ and just general sensibility. You often have to be the adult in the room, making sure everyone stays coordinated and organized and on message when meeting with LPs. You will have to be able to work well with others internally while being the face of the firm externally. 

I would also argue that IR in particular is highly valued in newer geographic regions of expansion such as APAC or Middle East, where there's a severe shortage of good fundraising talent. US firms have a competitive advantage in being able to draw on an IR candidate pool of literally thousands of people while APAC has hundreds for example. As a result, those IR folks who can prove their mettle in APAC will definitely go on to do very well. 

Know this is long-winded but in short, I agree with OP in that there's a lot of shit IR folks. But it's a promising field and certainly a career that's off the beaten path. 

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This is fantastic, thanks so much for the write up!

Been busy so a late reply.

Moonshallow, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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