MM PE Europe vs. MENA SWF

Hi all, 

Would appreciate the inputs from this forum on a career decision situation. Considering two offers in two complete different geographies and need to send through the definitive response in the coming days and have difficulties making up my mind. Would be great to hear your thoughts. My own background: Current Associate 2 at GS/MS/JPM (or Associate 1 in the old system) in London, originally from Sub-saharan Africa, not seeking to return to my home country nor stay in London as both of my parents and my GF have passed away in Covid and I have no connection to UK nor my home country anymore. I have no geo preference and can consider to live in Continental Europe and Middle East.

Offer #1: Continental Europe MM PE, focussing on DACH, Benelux primarily

Emerging manager (first-time fund), sizeable fund size for being an emerging manager (think c. 0.8 - 1.2Bn EUR), closing in 1.5 months with 95% of capital fully committed. Traditional MM PE buyout strategy.

Positives: 1) Associate carry around 50bps (assuming 2x MoM, 20% fee, that translates into carry-at-work at approximately 1 million EUR), this will naturally increase as one gets promoted. 2) Salary is okay for Continental Europe buyout (expected total cash comp 180K EUR excluding carry). 3) Very solid work hours (9-5 when things are not heated, with occasional weekend work). 4) Great culture (I have met everyone from the firm, fantastic people). 5) Team consisting of very senior MF PE veterans, however some of those seem to be quite far away from the deals (think ex-Members at KKR/BX/Advent/Cinven type of fund who are 60+ years old and haven't really been deep into the details for a while)

Negatives: 1) MM PE with more hands-on experience given less institutional resources, no pre NBO DD advisors, typically no M&A banker invovled in deals, Tier 1.5 lawyers / consultants used rather than Tier 1.0 advisors. 2) Cash comp progression is pretty weak, expected comp after 3-4 years (total exp. = 6 - 7 years) is around 280K EUR excluding carry. Maybe this gets better when they raise another fund and gets more scalable but compared to LDN / NY / HK it is of course not so great 3) Zero brand name 4) High tax jurisdiction (think DACH, Benelux, FR) with moderate COL, so take home comp (including carry) is 60% of Gross Income. 5) MM PE work less on headline grabbing and "cool" transactions? We are talking about deals that are typically 80 - 120 million EUR in EV

Offer #2: MENA SWF, Direct PE Investments Team focussing on Emerging Markets exc. Asia, so pretty much MENA, Sub-Saharan, South and Central America, CIS & Mexico. However I heard 90% of the deals in this team is in the MENA region

One of the MENA SWF (think ADIA, ADQ, Mubadala, PIF, QIA) 

Positives: 1) Excellent cash comp considering the hours (9-17 or 9-18 from what I heard from previous associates and VPs, 5 weeks of vacation, ramadan month being 9-15 from what I heard), more than the one that my friends currently have at Advent (>270K USD). Post tax (0%) pay is of course significantly higher than anywhere I can get in UK / Europe. 2) Headline grabbing mega transactions. 3) Institutional resources (Often have JP/GS, MBB, Tier 1 lawyers on early-stage transactions). 

Negatives: 1) No upside given SWF structure. 2) From what I heard the work seems to be a bit more on the boring side given a lot of work is outsourced to the bankers and so on, but that in turn yields a great lifestyle. 3) Have to work a lot with local hires with no banking / consultancy backgrounds, and got in through family connections. 4) Moral / ethics issues given I will be working for a highly repressive regime

Thank you all for your inputs in advance,


Comments (6)

Most Helpful
gsssa 2050, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congratulations, these are 2 really great offers. 

Your concerns about the Gulf SWFs are somewhat valid, especially point 4 if that is a particular issue for you as well as factors which have recently been in the news which you haven't listed. My understanding of the structures of these funds (especially ADIA and Mubadala) is that 'less experienced' employees do not cause issues in revenue generating areas, like direct PE, although do play a role. The corprate structure of these funds often contain a group of connected locals and then another group of highly qualified and experienced foreigners in senior leadership. Unfortunately, you must also consider that if you do not have a UK passport, and only one from your home country, you will be paid less in general and treated worse although the difference is not what it once was.

On the upside, comp is great, COL is low. You could easily save 85%+ of base salary if you wanted to. Travel is easy,  6hrs to most of Europe and South Asia, 2 of the best airlines in the world. Personal safety is pretty much the best in the world, walking at night, it is common for cars to be left with keys in the ignition and running while parked. Roads are most  perfect quality. Weather is never cold and it rains 3-5 times per year normally.  Tax situation is very desirable with 0% capital gains tax in US and 15% income tax on dividends from Irish domiciled US ETFs or 30% on non-qualified earnings within the US, on top of 0% income tax in Gulf.

The European job sounds like it is probably a better fit for you TODAY, but stability, deal quality and quantity and top level connections could make the SWF job the better fit in the future. You cant make a 'wrong' decision here but you're primarily weighing up living in Europe and comp at the end of the day. (I'd take SWF but again, 99% of people would be very happy with either)

  • 3
gsssa 2050, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I dont know about OP but normally cash payment is 75-80% of US equivalent for FO/non-operations equivalent roles, higher % for BO roles if you are American or European. Benefits are very generous but vary. Normally cash equivalent of 2 return flights to city of origin, oftentimes business class depending on fund and seniority. Housing allowance can be up to 40% of base salary so often easily 140+USD, most firms halve amount if there are no dependents, some put limitations requiring you to spend it on rent, most dont. Highly generous health coverage. School fees for kids. Retirement varies but 1 month of salary per year is norm to my understanding. No tax unless you're American in which case the IRS will charge taxes at a decreased rate. This does not scale well into higher level roles at these funds as comp packages vary greatly at those levels.

zgzg914, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Quis deleniti fugit mollitia dolorem et numquam voluptatem earum. Labore facilis soluta modi facere rerum.

Ea repellat dicta quisquam commodi. Assumenda quis sit molestias adipisci dolor omnis. Occaecati consequatur neque aut. Quia assumenda dolor consequuntur autem perferendis alias suscipit. Rerum unde et et odit.

Architecto ut laudantium pariatur provident laboriosam esse voluptatem. Doloremque hic ut qui nemo sit inventore.

Start Discussion

Career Advancement Opportunities

March 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Warburg Pincus 98.9%
  • Blackstone Group 98.4%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

March 2023 Private Equity

  • Ardian 99.5%
  • The Riverside Company 98.9%
  • Blackstone Group 98.4%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Professional Growth Opportunities

March 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Bain Capital 98.9%
  • Warburg Pincus 98.4%
  • Blackstone Group 97.9%
  • Ardian 97.4%

Total Avg Compensation

March 2023 Private Equity

  • Principal (8) $676
  • Director/MD (22) $599
  • Vice President (85) $362
  • 3rd+ Year Associate (86) $276
  • 2nd Year Associate (192) $264
  • 1st Year Associate (372) $228
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (28) $157
  • 2nd Year Analyst (79) $133
  • 1st Year Analyst (227) $122
  • Intern/Summer Associate (30) $80
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (288) $58