Best PCA/Secondary Advisory Groups

Hi all, I'm currently a bit over a year into a role working at a small international boutique placement agent doing private client advisory (GP fundraising & secondary advisory). I'm looking into applying for some roles in the same area, leaning more towards secondary's, but still very open to more fundraising focused seats.

I'm trying to get as much info as possible on the different groups across the street. I know PJT Park Hill, Evercore, and Lazard are probably the best players in this space and I'd love to get some insight on hours & culture for those groups.

Outside of the EB's, I'm a bit more in the dark as to who the best players are. More focused on banks here rather than independent boutiques (I know who most of these firms are and I'm more interested in getting experience on a bigger platform).

Any input from the community around comp, culture, hours, and best shops in the space are greatly appreciated. WSO needs more info on this space as it's an awesome vertical to work in while having relatively little information & discussion on the market.

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Comments (105)

  • Principal in PE - Other
Aug 31, 2021 - 2:37pm

Below are my thoughts as a secondary market buyer (principal) in the space. I work with all of the groups and think of them as follows. If you want more details, please let me know:

Tier 1:

Evercore - Has become the highest volume group but quality is a bit behind Jefferies and Goldman

Goldman Sachs - New group that's ex-Lazard. Strongest sponsor coverage and execution capabilities

Jefferies - The 'brand name' in the business. Team is ex Greenhill (who were #1). Priority is GP stakes but they still do LP baskets

PJT Park Hill - highly regarded group. A bit behind jefferies and goldman in quality but still tier 1

Tier 2:

Campbell Lutyens - A bit behind Jefferies, Evercore, Lazard, but well respect and strong deal flow

Lazard - A step behind Jefferies, Goldman, Evercore. Have some staffing issues and going to focus more on GP-leds now.

Tier 3:
Afidity - Similiar to M20 but better quality.

Axon Partners - Similar to Cebile but slightly better quality. Low volume.

Citi - Pretty limited deal flow, not really a player

Credit Suisse - Pretty limited deal flow, not really a player

Duff & Phelps - Hairy/exotic transactions - more of a valuation advisory shop

Eaton Partners - Placement agent that sometimes does GP-leds. Good quality group.

Elm Capital - Similar to Cebile but slightly better quality

Fairview Capital Group - Placement agent that sometimes does GP-leds. Not as good quality as Eaton or Sixpoint.

Greenhill - Asia-Pac team is only group remaining. They're pretty much just doing LP-trades. Think they'll go under soon.

M20 - Just a hair above Cebile in quality. Still not great.

Melting Point Solutions - Similar to Cebile but slightly better quality

Rede Partners - Placement agent that sometimes does GP-leds. Dealflow isn't as strong as Sixpoint or Eaton. Good name for fundraising.

Sixpoint Partners - Placement agent that sometimes does GP-leds. Good quality group.

Triago - Similar to Cebile but slightly better quality

UBS Alternative Funds Advisory - Pretty limited deal flow, not really a player

Upwelling Capital Group - Similar to Cebile but slightly better quality, limited deal flow

Tier 4:

Brant Street Capital - Pretty much the same business as Setter Capital. High volume but low quality.

Cebile Capital - High volume business but pretty sloppy execution. More of a brokerage shop. Recently acquired by Raymond James - word is the acquisition isn't going well.

Mozaic Capital Advisors - Low volume. Not the best quality/name.

Setter Capital - Very high volume business but pretty sloppy execution. More of a brokerage shop. Poor reputation and generally disliked in the industry

Other:

Guggenheimn - Seems dead after the false start and exodus to Jefferies.

Rothschild - Not sure if going to get off the ground. GP led shop.

Houlihan - Not sure if going to get off the ground. GP led shop.

Tradition Private Markets - Not sure if going to get off the ground. GP led shop.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2021 - 3:10pm

At a competitor so no horse in the race but would swap GS and LAZ. Has GS even closed any deals yet? Lazard has always focused and done well on the GP side and we frequently pitch against/lose mandates to them. That said, I definitely do not see them as a serious competitor on the LP side. Regarding Jefferies, I'd disagree they're the brand name in the space (that's EVR). Cogent (Greenhill) dominated the LP side of the market but it's probably fair to wait and see how well they do targeting the GP side. Appreciate the info on the smaller players as we never really cross paths.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Aug 31, 2021 - 3:20pm

Appreciate the view - it's obviously very subjective. Here are more of my thoughts:

1. Until COVID, the GP-led market wasn't really a thing (comparatively speaking). The vast majority of deal flow was in plain vanilla basket sales and Greenhill had the best connections and best execution capabilities by a mile. When COVID hit and valuations went out the window the GP-led space boomed and coincidentally the fees for these super diversified LP sales were getting pretty thin (especially from the likes of pensions, it is a race to the bottom). On the other hand, GP-leds pay way fatter fees.

2. Evercore is a sweatshop. Their volume is phenomenal but volume isn't everything. Everyone I know at EVR is freaking miserable and they still are understaffed despite having an army of associates.

3. GS is unlike any other group in that they have full integration with their M&A and Sponsor coverage groups. Imagine having a single unified pitch to a GP to see your full suite of exit options as opposed to being solicited by 3-4 different verticals within the same IB, all competing for the same business.

4. LAZ: Just not really a fan of some of the staff there, to be frank. Find them pretty arrogant. I've always preferred working with other shops...also they have a staffing hole right now.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2021 - 3:53pm

I appreciate you writing all of this out but your list is colored in some very particular ways that I would not at all say are reflective of industry sentiment. Goldman literally just entered this space and I have not heard of a single deal they have printed. To put them above places like EVR/PJT and even LAZ is pretty questionable as you're essentially ascribing more value to hype than results.

Similar story with JEFF. They are currently essentially the former GHL LP team under the same roof as GP-focused leavers from other more established shops. I agree that the team is very strong in its constituent pieces, but as a combined unit they are very much still proving themselves. Pretty biased IMO to suggest that these guys and Goldman are the best in any way. It would be as if McKinsey opened a restructuring IB practice tomorrow and you put them above PJT on the rationale that McKinsey is really good at the other stuff they've been doing this whole time.

Ask anyone who is a practitioner right now and they likely respond that EVR is enjoying its moment in the spotlight, having successfully capitalized on the COVID dislocation to bring forth good single asset and multi asset FCV deals. This doesn't make them the "best", but it does reflect the current (transient) state of play. 
 

Goldman and Jeff on the other hand are very much two of the umpteen new entrants to the field - all of them betting big on secondaries while aggressively poaching top talent from the EVR/PJT/GHL incumbents.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2021 - 4:15pm

isn't GS secondary advisory just 2 ex-Lazard guys? haven't even built out their team yet 

also, can you speak to culture and upward mobility at EVR/GS/JEF/PJT/LAZ? taking it those are the 5 main players

  • Principal in PE - Other
Aug 31, 2021 - 4:22pm

They are all going to have similar pay and mobility if you're coming in as an associate. The reason why I harped on Jefferies being T1 quality comes down to reputation of the principals. As of late I have seen Evercore F-up auctions where they get 30+ buyers to do DD and stage a multi-round process and then allow an aggressive buyer to circumvent the entire process - it's pretty disrespectful and those kind of actions spread negatively around the industry. I have worked for 10 years with the staff at Jefferies and that kind of behavior doesn't get tolerated.

In terms of culture, it depends what's important to you. Evercore has the highest volume of deal flow so if you want to learn then that's probably your best bet. At the same time, they are under-staffed for their volume and it's incredibly busy and stressful.

Lazard is slightly better (from what I am told) - they focus way more on GP-leds, which are pretty interesting, but you won't get the same experience if you're only covering that part of the market.
 

Most Helpful
  • Works at Evercore
Aug 31, 2021 - 6:00pm

I'll bite; which auction did you get mad at?

I could argue that we got the best possible outcome for our client? I can't think of a GP-Led deal I worked on in the last year where a buyer circumvented the process with premium terms and ultimately took down the entire deal; we've always syndicated out / attempted to at the highest terms.

As to your comment about the quality of deals, I'm willing to venture a guess you're not talking about the quality of the GP or assets but whether or not the deal has good assets with quality terms? I haven't seen the deal flow from the other side, but I have a tough time believing that there is better quality on the GP-Led side at other intermediaries. I'll concede the LP argument, we suck there, and it isn't a focus for reasons you've described in the thread.

We are definitely busy, but I work less than my traditional IB counterparts, namely weekends. We get emails from all of the competitors you've mentioned, and no one has been able to match or beat my comp, so I think you might be underestimating the figures.

  • Principal in AM - Other
Sep 1, 2021 - 12:00am

So I am not the only one feeling the same way about Setter? I think its like a modern day version of a boiler room in there. 

Kinda sad to see what happened at Houlihan and Greenhill, the former was the name when it came to hairy GP-leds when Jeff Sanabria led the team. Greenhill was the name in LP-leds until that team left. Both are as good as dead now. Goes to show how competitive the war for talent in secondaries is. Must be good to be on the PCA side at one of the Tier 1 shops. 

  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 1, 2021 - 8:42am

I'm in NY and every time I go to a networking event one of the topics of conversation is how sh*t Setter is - terrible approach of showing fake deals to buyers, super sloppy pitches, no execution support, egregious fees - the list goes on and on. We now have them go direct to our junk mail box.

Isn't Houlihan now being run by the guy that ran CS? Not much faith in him? Just curious.

  • Teller in IB-M&A
Sep 1, 2021 - 11:16am

Definitely sad what Houlihan's become. They used to have a cooler name too I feel like before (something like Illiquid Financial Assets group?) They worked on the most complex, hairy stuff. Good for those ex- co-heads though. They now head Manulife's secondary investing efforts and probably make carry and bank. Those co-heads left and their "head" person is just expired and molded breadcrumbs of secondaries advisory 

  • Teller in IB-M&A
Sep 1, 2021 - 9:32am

CS is definitely a Tier 3 and have been for quite some time. The person that left for Houlihan was a lame duck Director with a poor reputation, attitude and appearance who was constantly being nudged to leave. He had never brought in revenue and yet complained for years that he couldn't get promoted. He's amongst the oldest dudes in Secondary Advisory and there's a high competition for talent that Houlihan just brought him in as they had no other options.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 1, 2021 - 2:10pm

UBS private funds group. The most low key group in that bank. Does primary and secondary transactions across PE And RE. Lots of deal flow. On par with EVR.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2021 - 5:17pm

lmfao quit capping - you just got screwed over in the placement process bud. i've been there

try to lateral to a top player in a year and you'll be in a cushy spot. good luck

Sep 11, 2021 - 4:09am

One of the smaller shops on your list but can give some color: HL's private funds group seems pretty active now. They also just hired a minority-GP principal from Stonyrock / Carlyle to help build out a stronger GP platform

  • Principal in AM - Other
Sep 1, 2021 - 12:05am

Do the people on the PCA teams doing GP-leds actually find the work intellectually stimulating? Since you will mainly be dealing with sophisiticated financial sponsors on those transactions, how much value can you add past the transaction execution process? I would think the GP has a good idea where the business or portfolio can trade for and if not, wouldnt the industry banker at the IB be the person doing the heavy lifting around valuation and deal pricing?

  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 1, 2021 - 8:19am

Not sure about intellectually stimulating but their bank accounts look far richer!

Some of the fees for these GP leds are ridiculous. Recently I saw:

-2/20 fee structure with 30% carry after a 2x MoC (lol - if I am doing a GP led I expect a minimum 2.5-3x tbh).

-150 bps upfront fee to GP (why?!?)

-400 bps structuring fee (probably to cover the IB costs, but still, that's high for a 500m+ deal)

  • Principal in AM - Other
Sep 1, 2021 - 8:56pm

Wait a minute, the management fees and carry go to the underlying GP, not the broker running the deal. I imagine the PCA groups are making a few points on the NAV of the transaction. Very good and I'd say fairly easy money to make since a lot of these deals are quite large and can easily be placed with secondary buyers if the GP and assets are high quality. But yes, the carry structure on some of these deals to the GP is insane, again, goes to show how competitive the space has become.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2021 - 5:11pm

Lost some talent recently but so has every good shop. One of the preeminent franchises in secondaries and I'm sure they'll pay you well.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 3, 2021 - 3:52pm

Not very ESG friendly. To be fair, I always find it weird when they put lawyers on that list, or anyone from an allocator like CPP - praise for committing to a $800m co-invest which was brought to you directly by the likes of Ardian or Strat Partners = skill.

Let's award the folks digging for gems themselves.

  • Works at Lehman Brothers
Sep 3, 2021 - 3:57pm

Would not be surprised if you were a young gun yourself with all these shots being fired 🔫🔫

I can appreciate a good secondaries lawyer tbh. In my experience these deals can demand some legal creativity/commercial understanding from time to time and I'm down for that to be recognized.

But let's also be honest, the whole thing is a also a popularity contest.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 3, 2021 - 3:54pm

I take it you are referring to a GP-led, most likely restructuring or continuation fund? Well you could always tie their carry to outperformance and not a BS number like an 8% IRR. If I'm doing a single asset deal, or frankly any kind of GP-led deal I'm expecting returns well north of a 2.5x MOIC and 25%+ net IRR. If I delivered a net 8% on a deal I'd get fired.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 3, 2021 - 4:03pm

Understandable - feel like market terms are very GP-friendly right now though given how hard people chased FCVs during 2020. How much traction do you get with that approach?

Also interested on the LP side if you have any thoughts. Obviously the underwrite is less surgical and higher level but curious whether and how buy side leverages their historical fund reporting to sensitize the (sometimes insane) projections made by the underlying GPs.

  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 9, 2021 - 12:20pm

I have spoken with many current and former employees at EVR on the PCA team and the feedback is that the pay is obviously exceptionally strong, as is the deal flow and your access to speaking with top quality GPs, buyers, and sellers. However, they were all pretty consistent in saying that the average tenure on the team is very short and this is due to a widespread 'toxic' culture: extremely overworked, often short staffed, constant gaslighting. A group you may want to consider is Campbell Lutyens. They're smaller but the treatment will be better.

Sep 9, 2021 - 5:41pm

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 11, 2021 - 2:54am

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  • Principal in PE - Other
Sep 14, 2021 - 3:39pm

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