Do's & Dont's - 1st Year Private Equity Associate

There are a lot of posts on WSO about IBD, the internship, the do's & don'ts, how to handle PE recruiting, etc.

I feel like there is a lack of material on the do's and don'ts of being a new PE associate. I felt like this definitely would have helped me handle the transition, so just throwing some items out there - please pile on.

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1. It's not banking but it still kind of is.
Chances are all the people you work for are former bankers; take pride in your slides when you put together memos, etc. People may say they don't care about formatting, but they do. Answer promptly with "sounds good" - it always sounds good. In the first few months, a little bit of FaceTime (not too much) doesn't hurt.

2. PortCos
Having a good relationship with your portfolio companies is paramount. They have much stronger ties to the senior deal team members, and in many ways can be an easier bridge to impressing more senior decision makers at your firm. You can also learn how companies actually work from them, which will make you a better investor.

3. Shuddup (at first)
For the first few months, it is better to listen. Even if you were a rockstar analyst, no one wants to hear your opinion. Keep quiet and learn your team's quirks and the new political layout. There have been posts on here about the importance of being vocal early. I would caution against making that blanket advice. Know your own strengths and weaknesses here.

Pile on monkeys.

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Comments (41)

Sep 18, 2017

Totally disagree on 3. Depends on where you're at. You need to be opining early.

Yea 1 will depend. I've pasted slides off primers before and gotten chewed out for it and I've reformatted cim slides and was told I wasted my time. Would much rather work for the latter kind of people but you don't always choose.

On 2 this is big. Definitely spend time here.

  1. Come up with ideas. It's tough but it'll differentiate you.
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Sep 18, 2017

Sounds like 3 & 1 depend on where you're at.

4 is a great addition.

Sep 18, 2017

The key thing about #3 is knowing when to voice an opinion. The overriding philosophy should be a less is more approach.

Similarly, 2 years of the analyst life isn't much more than the development of technical skills so don't view your past as a treasure trove of wisdom to draw on when looking at PE deals.

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Sep 18, 2017

Agree with this. Couldn't have said it better: less is more. +SB

Sep 18, 2017

True statement

Sep 18, 2017

Definitely would be interested in hearing more about this!

Sep 18, 2017

Regarding #1, I find it's been more lenient, and people are generally supportive of using whatever tools are available to speed things up.

I was able to subscribe to LinkedIn Premium, LogoIntern.com Premium, and BamSec all on my corporate card and no one cared.

You still do occasionally get the sticklers though who get anxious before committee and want everything perfectly formatted and reformatted. That's rarer though.

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Sep 18, 2017

My experience as well. People get that formatting stuff is not the best use of your time.

Definitely still some facetime though. People wouldn't admit it, but it's there.

Sep 19, 2017

My firm is pretty strict when it comes to preparing materials for committee. The excessive formatting there used to really annoy me, but we've standardized some of the pages more recently, which has made it better.

I also have been trying to get up to speed on macros, and LogoIntern has been a time saver as well.

Sep 18, 2017

"Even if you were a rockstar analyst, no one wants to hear your opinion." Not true.

For the first "few months"? Not even close. You don't need to be a douche..., but you need to opine when you know you can add value.

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Sep 18, 2017

I think he meant it more in reference to the fact that a new environment (people, quirks, etc) generally means while you are saying something correct, it might not be according to the ideal that our firm is after (PE funds may compete in same industry as other funds, but what makes them unique is there makeup).

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Sep 18, 2017

I don't work in PE, but when I did, this is solid advice. PE was good fun ..

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Sep 18, 2017
pe-b1tch-hehe:

1. It's not banking but it still kind of is.
Chances are all the people you work for are former bankers; take pride in your slides when you put together memos, etc. People may say they don't care about formatting, but they do. Answer promptly with "sounds good" - it always sounds good. In the first few months, a little bit of FaceTime (not too much) doesn't hurt.

Do people tend to get a little sloppy in PE with formatting? I feel like this is at least somewhat true in corp dev. People see that they are no longer in IB, so they let their guard down (a mistake if you ask me).

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Best Response
Sep 18, 2017

Like everything in the industry, it varies.

From my personal experience, I've found that there is a strong preference for speed over highly polished formatting when it comes to preparing documents for internal team review (say, with your principal and/or MD). In other words, you don't need it to look like a GS sell-side CIM/CIP. That being said, everything should still be formatted with consistency such that poor formatting doesn't distract someone from reviewing the material.

Any type of serious presentation going to IC gets the full formatting treatment from me. These pages look just as good as the pages I was putting together as an analyst at a bank. I can't say I was explicitly told to do this, but people from my deal teams certainly appreciate how polished the product looks when going through internal team reviews.

Personally, my biggest challenge when it comes to presentations is making them "IC friendly" where the key points on each page are easy to identify and people aren't going to get lost in a sea of numbers. This is a valuable skill that obviously goes far beyond just being a PE associate. Getting better at this took some time for me because of how I was "brought up" in banking. I came from a very technical-focused M&A industry team whose leadership took pride in producing very dense books. Further, the leadership always iterated on pages with the mentality that the deck should be able to "stand on its own" without voice-over, so final work products were always text- and numbers-heavy. Even the content on "executive summary" pages were total overkill when I consider my new standard today for the first (and most important) 5-15 pages of a presentation. There is a place for dense pages like that (see: appendix), but developing the skills to simplify the main body of pages was one of the most valuable skills I picked up during my first year as an associate in PE. One way I forced myself to get better at this for summary pages -- always keep in mind the majority of the IC is made of up people who have not been living and breathing this deal for the past few weeks/months.

Regarding lazy paste-ins from other materials (e.g., research reports or CIMs) I'll admit I have done this before, but only after being told from someone senior that there is no use in wasting time to recreate these. This typically happens when we are trying to get the IC or some part of the IC up to speed on a deal we are working on before we go off and start spending some more material time/money/other resources on the deal. In these cases we may include as an appendix some more detailed overview pages on the company/industry etc. which I may just snip from another source without recreating myself in powepoint.

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Sep 19, 2017

This is good detail +SB.

Definitely agree with your comment around making the key points easily digestible. And I came from a banking group with a similar approach to pitch decks. I still find myself having to fight the urge to cram more detail (thank you banking) on the page.

Sep 19, 2017

@RX - do you get frustrated with the internal formatting? Pisses me off because it's not an external client driving it... Leads me to think the grass is greener on the HF side of things.

Sep 19, 2017

What liar says they don't care about formatting?

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Sep 19, 2017

Lol truth.

Sep 21, 2017

I actually got chastised for "inconsistent formatting" earlier this week. It felt like I took a time machine back 2 years ago.

Sep 21, 2017

The ones who are testing you to see if you are foolish enough to listen and deliver something that looks like shit.

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Oct 3, 2017

Spent this AM profiling the board members for the seller in a process we're not going to win. #banking

Sep 22, 2017

Would you be interested in moving to a portfolio company eventually? What is your opinion on positions there, particularly in regards to exit opps, etc?

I ask as I currently work at one, respected in its industry (enough that MBB interviewers I've had surprisingly recognized it from its 'brand'), and would describe my role as 'Junior Operating Partner'.

I know that prompts a roll of eyes since Operating Partners are senior people, former CEOs for the most part etc, but I literally lead many things on both corporate strat and business operational fronts, working directly with senior/exec management every day.

PE/VC are interesting to me but I don't really see why I'd leave this place any time soon, but I've seen in previous WSO posts that exit opps from portfolio companies aren't unheard of but not exactly 'a thing'. Like I said, I'm happy where I am as the trajectory keeps moving upward but would be curious to see what you or others here think.

Sep 25, 2017

Probably not interested in moving to portco to be honest. Definitely some cool opportunities, but not for me at this stage.

Curious about HF opportunities, and similar roles at smaller PE funds.

Sep 27, 2017

I've heard that some HFs, especially the larger ones, can be just as hierarchical...

I think the only way to escape it, for pretty much any finance role (PE, IBD, HF...), is to go to a smaller firm.

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Sep 24, 2017

Completely agree with 1 & 2 but think 3 is an "it depends". Generally concerning your opinion, yes, it doesn't matter. But if you WANT it to matter - which, you do - then keep it to yourself but ALWAYS have one. And think through the Big-Picture implications. An opinion that incorporates small details into big-picture view is very valuable indeed, and is the sort of thing that seniors WILL enjoy hearing when they do ask you, "So, what do you think?" So don't offer it at first, but know what your opinion is on a particular matter, and when it is voiced then make it count. As former IB VP, nothing more pleasing than hearing an intelligent, well-reasoned view from my analysts and associates. At that point, that's when I started bringing them into client meetings.

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Sep 25, 2017

This is a good way to put it, and based on some of the backlash above, let me qualify point #3.

In general, I think it's better when starting out to learn the lay of the land before speaking out a ton. You don't know yet what the personalities are above you; you probably don't have a firm sense for the culture, etc.

It is important to have an opinion though and to interject it when possible. As others have pointed out, this is important for demonstrating your VP-ability and advancing.

Culture varies dramatically firm-to-firm, but personally I've been disappointed by the stuffier-than-expected culture at mine.

Sep 26, 2017

Mine is stuffier than expected as well. Formatting, facetime and insecure people above me...

Sep 28, 2017

Interesting to hear different perspectives. At our fund it's common to see associates and senior associates debating with partners about the merits of an investment or bid strategy and generally opining.

Sep 28, 2017

That sounds like a dream compared to mine. Are you hiring?

Sep 28, 2017
miscer:

Interesting to hear different perspectives. At our fund it's common to see associates and senior associates debating with partners about the merits of an investment or bid strategy and generally opining.

fortunately this is the same at my fund. we have a great time with it, too.

Sep 28, 2017

I made the move from a MM PE fund to a long-biased HF, to get away from the third-party nonsense/BS formatting work/unnecessary bidding/legal crap/"100 day plans" etc. Personally, the move was a blessing on many different levels including getting my personal life back. While the HF world has several of its own drawbacks (I have a laundry list of them), I do feel it is relatively more meritocratic and I genuinely am getting compensated to think. Will probably do an AMA at some point if there's interest.

For the poster of this thread - I feel like you have it worse than the average experience of a PE associate elsewhere. I recommend you consider looking or evaluating other career options. I worked at multiple PE funds for 5+ yrs and came to the realization that no matter where I was, as long as I was part of a transaction driven environment, my life would suck. Having gotten away from IB and PE, my life thankfully improved dramatically.

There's a lot of ways to make money, gents. You may not get fuck you money rich soon, but you also don't need to grind for 90+ hours to validate your existence doing crap like what the OP above described. Anyway, this is a longer rant than I intended to go on, but the point to the OP was get out of your current firm and go pursue something else- whether its PE or whatever else is out there.

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Sep 30, 2017

Great post +SB

Oct 1, 2017

Interested in hearing about your experience.

Oct 1, 2017

Interested in hearing about your experience as well, would definitely be interested in an AMA

Oct 1, 2017

Second this.

Oct 2, 2017

Likewise

Oct 2, 2017

Cool I'll plan on it - likely in the later half of the month

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Oct 3, 2017

I'm sure this varies from shop to shop, but #3 is the opposite at my firm. Associates are expected to speak up, voice their opinions, and drive discussions as much as possible (so long as it's contributing and not just to get your 2 cents in). The reason for this is that we are closest to the data and materials so our perspective helps inform the team on bigger picture issues / ideas and connect dots that otherwise they otherwise wouldn't be able to. It's a very collaborative environment which I know isn't the case at all places.

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Oct 5, 2017
Oct 6, 2017
Oct 6, 2017