Let's talk PE "culture"

HireUp212's picture
Rank: Orangutan | banana points 338

What type of PE firm are you at (middle market, etc.) and what type of person would thrive there? Curious to see how different the cultures really are across firms.

I'll start. Lower middle market firm. We prefer engaging and enthusiastic over pure competence and thoughtfulness. Obviously you need a base level of competence and intelligence but, for example, James Bond and Don Draper probably wouldn't do well here. Ryan Gosling's character from The Big Short (terrible movie btw) would be a good fit. Definitely a bias for athletes as well.

Private Equity Interview Course

  • 2,447 questions across 203 private equity funds. Crowdsourced from over 500,000 mem.
  • 9 Detailed LBO Modeling Tests and 15+ hours of video solutions.
  • Trusted by over 1,000 aspiring private equity professionals just like you.

Comments (49)

Feb 14, 2017

Curious to see the responses in this thread since I have seen wildly differing accounts for culture at a PE shop.

Feb 14, 2017

I went ahead and awarded you MS for your slander of "The Big Short"

    • 1
    • 14
Feb 14, 2017

Right back at you, kid

    • 2
    • 1
Feb 17, 2017

Book was good; movie was awful. Way too many scenes of groups of people yelling incomprehensibly.

    • 1
Feb 14, 2017

the movie was damn awesome. Bale, Gosling, and Carrell all killed it.

    • 1
    • 2
Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Feb 17, 2017
CHItizen:

Book was good; movie was awful.

This. I remember when I heard they were making a movie thinking "that was a great book, but how in the hell can that be an even half decent movie". The answer as it turned out was that it can't.

    • 1
Feb 17, 2017

MM distressed industrials - rat like cunning and the enjoyment of chaos is our culture.

    • 1
Best Response
Feb 17, 2017

Also at a lower to middle middle market firm. We prefer brainy / intelligent / nerdy (not claiming to be a genius because I am not) over socially smooth; however, being able to interact well socially is important in any industry so we look for that as well. Our senior guys want us to be the ones that walk in and ask thoughtful and meticulous questions, creatively think through issues, etc. which flows down to the lower levels. An example of our culture is that one of our senior guys asked potential associate candidates what their favorite excel shortcut is vs. what their favorite drink is.

Person that would thrive here long term is someone who is both intelligent and diligent in every process (IC memos, diligence, etc.). I would personally prefer someplace a little less stringent, but it is still great training and experience nonetheless.

    • 4
Feb 14, 2017

Interesting - sounds pretty different from mine. Thanks for sharing.

Feb 17, 2017
808s and Heartbreak:

Also at a lower to middle middle market firm. We prefer brainy / intelligent / nerdy (not claiming to be a genius because I am not) over socially smooth; however, being able to interact well socially is important in any industry so we look for that as well. Our senior guys want us to be the ones that walk in and ask thoughtful and meticulous questions, creatively think through issues, etc. which flows down to the lower levels. An example of our culture is that one of our senior guys asked potential associate candidates what their favorite excel shortcut is vs. what their favorite drink is.

Person that would thrive here long term is someone who is both intelligent and diligent in every process (IC memos, diligence, etc.). I would personally prefer someplace a little less stringent, but it is still great training and experience nonetheless.

Do you find it a little stuffy because of that? I have a friend who has described a similar culture at his MM firm and he has been frustrated by it.

Secondly, what was the best Excel shortcut answer?

    • 2
Feb 17, 2017

Yeah it is definitely a bit stuffy. I had difficulty adjusting at first, but you get used to it after a while. It is a lot different than IB in terms of culture, but it also brings a significantly better lifestyle (hours, quality of work, etc.) so can't complain too much at the end of the day. Overall, it's been a really solid experience and no place is going to be perfect (grass is always greener syndrome).

It's been a while so I honestly couldn't tell you what the responses were, but it was just important to see if the candidate could think on their feet and it also gave them some insight into the culture at our place.

    • 2
Feb 17, 2017

Lower middle-market. No bullshit, "roll-up your sleeves" culture. Lots of interaction and working with management teams, and use every opportunity to get involved with portfolio companies. Jeans at a board meeting isn't unusual.

    • 2
Feb 17, 2017

So when you guys say lower middle-market, what are we talking here? In my head, I think of last fund raise of <$300MM. Was curious to see if others viewed it similarly

Feb 17, 2017

That seems in the ballpark. I put LMM to MM since everyone defines it differently.

Feb 17, 2017

We refer to LMM based on financial metrics of targets: platform deals are $30-50MM in revenues and EBITDA around $2-5MM.

Feb 18, 2017
LeveragedTiger:

Lower middle-market. No bullshit, "roll-up your sleeves" culture. Lots of interaction and working with management teams, and use every opportunity to get involved with portfolio companies. Jeans at a board meeting isn't unusual.

This. Also lower MM. We dress down for board meetings.

Feb 18, 2017

hire me

Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Feb 17, 2017

We walk around the office without shoes and feet up on table @ monday morning deal reviews is the norm. feels more like family office. partners are not afraid to dive into the modeling or data room either.

    • 1
Feb 17, 2017

What size fund are you at

Feb 17, 2017

~500

Feb 18, 2017

Anyone got smelly feet? My feet have started to smell since I started wearing dress shoes 5 days per week. Never had that problem before. Maybe no shoes at the office is the cure.

Feb 22, 2017

I started at middle market IB firm that had very strong camaraderie and went to a middle market PE firm that has almost no camaraderie. I enjoy the work at the PE firm a great deal more, but the lack of any social aspect does start to wear on you after a while especially if you are a social person. Also, the IB firm was more formal in its approach to career development which was nice although I do feel that I am learning a better skillset at the PE firm especially for what I want to do long term. How long are you planning on staying at the PE firm? It could be worth it if b-school or PE is your end goal. I would make the decision based on what you want long term. It sounds like you will have a lot of autonomy at the PE shop and that is something that you will have to be okay with as well.

Feb 17, 2017

It's bacteria from sweat. Get shoes that breathe and a dermatologist can prescribe a solution that slowly retards the sweat glands in your feet.

Feb 20, 2017

Let your shoes/feet breath at home. Be sure to rotate shoes. Never wear them back to back. Occasionally take a few pages from an old news paper, crumple them up, and shove in the shoe. Also, get a spray deodorant and spray that on your feet before you put your shoes on.

Feb 22, 2017

The camaraderie aspect only you can judge. However, the nature of the job can actually be quite "social". At the mid/senior levels, PE is all about managing advisors, portfolio company execs, meeting management teams, building relationships in the industry. If I look at the diary of a VP or above at my fund, it will typically be blocked full of appointments/meetings.

At the junior level, it can be like this, or it can be lots of solitary data-crunching depending on the working style of your fund.

Feb 22, 2017

Agree with all the above posts, but will mention one other thing. If you truly feel that your "personality" will not be a good fit for the job, team, environment, etc. I would be very careful about making the jump. Yes, PE is much more of a loner environment, and I oftentimes miss my bullpen. But, this doesn't really effect me that much because the work is so much better. You spend 12+ hours a day in the office - nothing worse than being miserable for all that time. IMHO, if you truly feel like ou won't mesh in the environment, don't do it.

Feb 17, 2017

Interesting.

Feb 22, 2017

If you have friends in PE, they'll most likely know the rep for different shops (as they also probably have friends in PE). If not, best way is to feel them out during interviews. Focus on getting as many 1st rounds as possible and then ask the questions you want answers to during the interview. If you advance, grab coffee with an associate and ask even more direct questions about hours, lifestyle, type of work ,etc. Associates are generally going to be straight forward about this kind of stuff.

Feb 22, 2017

It really is a matter of asking around through your work friends and colleagues that are more senior than you. More often than not, they'll either know a guy or know a guy who knows a guy that works at any given PE firm. The world of high finance is incredibly small when you actually get down to it, and it's extremely interconnected.

Feb 22, 2017

What about headhunters? Do they actually have value added in regards to fit or is it all bullshit?

Feb 22, 2017

Mostly the latter

Feb 22, 2017

Perfect

Feb 17, 2017

This is actually a great thread. Specific parts of other firms' cultures is not something you can easily find out through normal channels but makes a huge difference in your happiness there, so helpful to hear these tidbits (even if not with the firm name attached)

    • 1
Feb 18, 2017

Megafund. Miserable, toxic, cutthroat culture. Not a single happy junior employee, just varying degrees of depression.

    • 2
    • 1
Feb 18, 2017

Care to elaborate?

Feb 20, 2017

What about being an athlete makes the biggest appeal to you? I am currently a collegiate D1 athlete and was curious about what would make it sound best on my resume

Feb 20, 2017

Athletes are typically sociable and hard-working, having balanced massive time commitments and (presumably) a rigorous academic courseload they managed to not only excel, but lead in.

Feb 14, 2017

What Maximos said but honestly (even moreso) it'll also just help with the small talk if the senior guys were also college athletes.