How important is knowing a European language for Private Equity in London?

Was wondering how essential knowing a mainland European language (french, german etc) is for breaking into private equity firms in London? Obviously depends on fund etc, but lets say some of the large MF or even MM funds in London?

I've seen some cases of course of people knowing only english break in, but was wondering how disadvantaged one would be if they only knew english but was trying to break in to PE (assuming of course the typical IBD analyst background)?

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Comments (33)

Oct 12, 2019 - 10:06am

For UMM/MF it's almost a requirement. You see very few only english speaking folks working there unless they are from a top group or are seen as stellar. PE is much harder to do in Europe too but that is an other thing to discuss.

Oct 13, 2019 - 9:37am

less seats in funds compared to the US, people can recruit across Analysts to Associates level so more competition for funds (you see people that were at a local european banks that carries little name that move to GS as an associate, stay there for 2 years and go to MF PE shops) so the pool of people to go to PE is not only the number of FT analysts going to BBs that are competitive but much more than that (you can add MBBs+T2 consulting shops+ other banks etc). And in most cases funds run a process for people with specific language requirement so you may be there waiting for your shot for quite a bit.

Oct 14, 2019 - 10:52am

Can you share some insights into this? A lot of info is so US centric, it's hard to find information for EU in regards to HF, PE.

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Most Helpful
Oct 12, 2019 - 12:42pm

Quite important. It'll give you a leg up and be very practical on both day-to-day and client interaction tasks. Having seen a few English only speakers go into PE is like seeing a few non-targets get into top BBs - possible, but you'll have a much harder road ahead. Plus, you won't be competing against bi and trilingual people with mediocre grades coming out of MMs. You'll be facing people with top grades, stellar technical skills coming from BBs, EBs and other top firms. Having more than 1 language distinguishes you from the pack.

Now, do you need to know 6 languages at C2 level? Clearly not. If you can know 2 useful European languages (e.g. French, Spanish, German or Italian) at a C1/B2 level, that is already quite something.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 20, 2020 - 12:06pm

Are you actually able to leverage those skills at the B2/C1 level or will funds want to hire natives ?

Oct 4, 2020 - 11:00am

Beyond English, which would you say is the second most useful language to know? Spanish would give additional exposure to South America, while French would help with Africa and parts of Asia.

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Oct 12, 2019 - 1:59pm

Thanks both for the replies. Does seem like language is very important for breaking into PE this side of the pond. Unfortunately for me, i only speak english so in that case, do you think its better for me to focus more on the MM to smaller PE firms in London? What are some of the names of PE funds that have less strict language requirements in the UK?

Oct 14, 2019 - 5:30am

I would not limit my efforts based on the inability to speak another European language.

If you come from a top background most firms will speak to you even if they would prefer e.g. a German speaker.

English only speakers exist at all firms (virtually all US based firms have a bunch of Americans that clearly only speak English). Seen plenty of English / US based candidates come through over the years.

Obviously having extra languages helps a lot and some recruitment cycles will be focused on specific language skills (e.g. Italian). You just have to go interview and speak to HH to see where you would best fit in the current recruitment cycle.

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  • 3
Oct 14, 2019 - 4:09pm

Not sure if all of this is 100% accurate tbh. Languages play a very big role wherever you have general or industry teams. Nonetheless, you also have plenty of UK teams. Carlyle is a prominent example where due to the nature of having "country" teams, a lot of London-based people are UK. There are numerous other funds where they hire UK people to deal with UK opportunities.

Nonetheless, for PE at least (HF it does not seem to really matter as much), by having an additional language you will have access to more funds than without having one. I would suggest focusing on the EU funds (BC, Bridgepoint, Cinven, EQT) as they welcome UK people.

  • 1
Oct 15, 2019 - 3:40am

Essential. Preferable to know a mainland language and a foreign language, in order to be staffed on a broad set of deals. Popular mainland languages were French, German and Italian. Popular foreign languages were Arabic, Hindi and Korean (for smaller funds). Huge leg-up if you know multiple languages.

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Oct 15, 2019 - 4:42am

Very few Large Cap funds split the teams into country teams within London. Some funds however do have regional offices. The larger the tickets, the less the requirement to have an additional language. LMM etc., its mostly local but then its very often also not done out of London in any case. Additional language skills will always help but most true "mega funds" will not require it, at least for their London teams.

Oct 17, 2019 - 2:13pm

thanks help everyone! Did a bit of research (stalking on linkedin). It does feel like the majority of people in PE associate roles in London are from mainland Europe (or can at least speak an mainland European language).

Oct 18, 2019 - 6:54pm

The only time languages won't be important is if you apply to a UK-focused MM fund. The problem is that these funds tend to hire predominantly from Big 4, and also don't normally sponsor visas.

Oct 21, 2019 - 2:50pm

Out of interest, why do they hire predominately from big 4 (over say ibd)?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 9, 2020 - 2:09pm

Short answer: the skillsets from advisory/TAS are deemed to be equal more or less to those from IB. In many cases, the technical proficiency is actually better (ACA, Audit and all that crap).

Also, note that most BB, MM and EB banks hire from Big4 advisory when they need experienced laterals at the associate level (as opposed to hiring MBA associates). MBA hiring is more or less non-existent here.

Nov 6, 2019 - 2:01pm

Recently received and accepted an offer from a MF and do not speak another European language.

That said, didn't get interviews at other MFs so it may have been a potential obstacle (although that could have been for any number of other reasons). Plenty of interest from UMM (both international and UK-focussed) though, so would suggest it's certainly not a deal-breaker for most funds.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Nov 8, 2019 - 6:55pm

Guys, what about less "attractive" European languages? More specifically, Serbo-Croatian (official language in the countries of former Yugoslavia, region with ~20m people). Would I have any advantage during the PE recruiting process?

I also speak fluent German.

Jan 2, 2020 - 10:18am

i guess would depend on whether fund invests there. I've heard French/German/Scandi languages are most desired though.

  • 2
Jan 7, 2020 - 10:03am

Reiterate the above. From my personal experience the Balkan area is not that attractive to PE funds. There is currency risk in some of the countries and the Balkan wars are close enough that seniors remember the unstable political environment. At this stage of the cycle it's more attractive to put money companies closer to home.

Also, flying to southern Europe is more of a hassle if you are in London. It's faster and easier to get to France, Dachs or Scandi.

I don't know... Yeah. Almost definitely yes.

  • 2
Oct 9, 2020 - 2:25pm

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