Non US/Europe IB/PE Overview
Hi All -- I've made various posts in different threads about IB/PE in non-US/Europe markets and also have been answering a number of PMs from prospective bankers / PE associates on it, but thought I would consolidate some of that in a single thread for all those who might find it beneficial. I hope others with experience in these markets can add their views / any information they've gathered over the years as well and make it into a productive thread or forum for discussion. The major markets missing from below are China / East Asia (Japan + Korea), Latin America, Australia/NZ and East / Central Europe, which I consider a bit separately from the rest of Europe (usually covered as an EM along with Turkey) if others can add details on these markets and the landscape there earthwalker7 for China for example. Hope this is helpful for some of you, and feel free to post any questions on specifics regions / countries etc and will answer to the best of my ability.
I've said this in several places, but the Middle East is an extremely shallow market, both on the IB side as well as on the investment / PE side. Living in Dubai, or Bahrain etc can sound exciting, particularly as a fresh grad, and there are definitely upsides to living in these places, but it's a bit of a career suicide at a junior level especially. The economy of the region has historically been based on oil, real estate and travel / tourism, all of which are suffering for various reasons, which has resulted in a complete slow-down of the economies. Mainly I see people evaluating the Middle East at 2 points -- fresh grads looking to move into an IB role (either from Dubai originally or interest in the region) and IB analysts looking to move into a PE role. I'm not very optimistic about the region over the next 3-5 years and would probably steer clear of it if you don't have a strong reason (personal) to be there.
Pretty much all of the BBs have an IB presence in Dubai along with some of the boutiques (Moelis and PWP, though the latter may have shut its office). The other big players from an advisory perspective are the local banks (Mashreq and others) and the Big 4 (KPMG, PWC, EY, Deloitte) which are fairly active. There is limited deal-flow in the region, particularly are larger transaction sizes, which results in significant amount of pitching for the handful of high value deals. The deal teams are quite small, with most of the international banks having less than 5 analysts, and culture at most could be described as sweaty. Yes, IB almost everywhere has long hours and a sweaty culture, but there is definitely something more painful about sitting in the office until 2am consistently on pitch-books vs. working on live deals. Would urge anyone who has an option to work in London / NY / HK IB to do that before Dubai. If you've worked as an analyst / associate in a larger office and know you want to be a career banker and be in the MENA region, then consider moving at a VP level into one of these firms.
Private equity in the region is probably equally as shallow as banking. I would break it into sovereign wealth funds, family offices and corporate private equity, since they operate quite differently. At all there is some preference for local language speakers (Arabic), but the depth of quality Arabic speakers is limited, so it isn't too much of a challenge to overcome.
- SWF: On the SWF side, you have a few large players, specifically ADIA, QIA, Mubadala, KIA and PIF and then a long tail of smaller sovereign wealth funds, a number of them in Dubai / AD specifically. The 5 I named tend to hire through more structured processes, with a number of them using global recruiters and hiring from US/UK investment banking programs, and thus having a good number of foreigners at an Associate / VP level. Compensation can be pretty attractive, more or less in line with a MM/UMM US fund but with limited taxes (0 for non US citizens, and even from the US the effective tax rate ends up being pretty low). These organizations are all extremely hierarchical, however, with decision making driven by senior level management, almost all of whom are locals. There are nuances in terms of how they are structured, strategy, etc, and not all of these funds are the same, but the point on red tape and hiearchy extends across all of them.
Be prepared to also have juniors working with you with virtually no experience, as almost all of them have a local national program (i.e. program for Emirati, Qatari, Saudi nationals). They invest both in the region and globally, often with region / sector specific teams, and a number of them have specific US / Europe strategies as well. Most of the associates I've seen in this funds stay on for 2-3 years before moving to a US or UK MBA program, and MBA exits are ok, rarely H/S but Wharton or other M7 is realistic. For whatever reason, even the people I know who have worked at US investing strategies within these funds tend to have a lot of trouble moving back into US/European corporate private equity -- the experience working at ADIA or Mubadala is heavily discounted because it is a niche region, irrespective of the actual deal experience. From what I understand, the deal teams are extremely large, and an entire deal process might involve 8-10 people directly, so the individual responsibility of an associate is quite low.
Family Offices: I've put this second only because there are a large number of them. This basically means working at the (largely) unorganized investment set-up of a rich Emirati or Saudi. They can have a lot of capital under "management," but that doesn't necessarily translate into active deals / investing. Smaller investment teams but very key-man heavy, i.e. the promoter / founder ultimately makes all of the decisions. Probably wouldn't recommend looking at any of these as they aren't professionalized, will be unknown outside of the region and the overall experience is unlikely to be great. Comp can be all over the place from below IB to extremely high if you find the right opportunity.
Corporate Private Equity: There are only a handful of corporate PE set ups left in the region, almost all of them in Dubai / Abu Dhabi, along with InvestCorp out of Bahrain. Abraaj was really the dominant player in the market from every perspective (capital raised, size of team, brand strength etc), so it being out of the picture has made a big difference. The 2 names that would be worth looking at are Gateway Partners (Dubai) and Investcorp (Bahrain), which have relatively professionalized teams, work on good size deals and have some level of stability. Standard Chartered PE has spun out into its own fund with a large presence in Dubai as well, and the quality is pretty good at least in terms of people. The other more "domestic" funds are NBK, Waha Capital, Gulf Capital and a handful of other smaller ones. They've struggled immensely to raise capital, are fairly "local" (expect to have your colleagues speaking Arabic to each other in the office), and performance has not been great. At all of the corporate PE funds the investing is all domestic (investing in the region), which generally includes Turkey, Egypt and North Africa as well. Pay at the associate level will be decent -- think $120-140k USD base with a bonus between 50-100%.
- A bit across the board, but I see a fair amount of activity in Education, Healthcare, Energy and Financials
India is a country where almost every global bank or PE fund has a presence and has been there for 8-10 years or more (on the PE side), but the performance has been quite poor across the board, in terms of advisory work and returns (on the PE side). On the earlier stage side, a lot of US funds were very active in the late 2000's and have pulled out of India altogether (Summit, Kleiner Perkins), but there have been a recent string of strong exits, showing the viability of the VC strategy. The economy is in shambles due to COVID (but where isn't?), but overall I would say it's a promising and growing market.
All of the BBs have a presence in India along with a handful of boutiques (Lazard, Moelis, Rothschild and even Raine and Lincoln). Notable firms without a presence are Greenhill, Evercore, PWP and Centerview along with RBS, RBC (if they are present they are so extremely inactive they might as well not be).
On the advisory side, fees are extremely low and deals extremely competitive, so it becomes difficult for the global players to compete on any deal below about $50-100mm, which there simply aren't that many of in a given year. The result is 1) Limited deal flow / deal experience for analysts and 2) A number of the banks in India serve as support / execution teams for other offices, specifically UK / Europe. It isn't uncommon to see 2-3 banks on the same deal (i.e. get a teaser on the same opportunity from 2-3 banks), with companies letting anyone run with a deal and giving it to whoever can bring in an interesting party. As you can imagine, as an analyst / associate on a bank, this results in a huge amount of useless pitching for non-committed mandates. The area where there are a lot of deals is in the sub $10-30mm range, and for these you generally find a large number of local players of varying quality. In terms of hiring, it is a strange mix at the junior level. Some of the elite colleges will send grads directly into investment banking roles at BBs, but the education system in India has a lot of people directly going into MBA programs and joining post MBA as an analyst at these firms.
On the private equity side, all of the MFs have an India office and are fairly active in the country, despite returns that have been in the 5-10% range (in USD) even at the top quartile. In addition to your MFs, players like Advent, Apax, CVC, Brookfield, CPPIB, CDPQ, General Atlantic, PAG (Asia), Barings (Asia), Actis, TA Associates are all active. Some of these invest out of dedicated Asia vehicles, whereas others invest out of a larger, global pool of capital. The IC structure will differ accordingly (regional ICs and global ICs depending on the fund). On top of this, there are a number of domestic funds, some of which have managed to raise decent amounts of capital ($300-500mm funds), which are active in the mid market. Generally they hire Pre-MBA analysts / associates with 1-3 years of banking or consulting experience, and consultants tend to be in equal to higher demand vs. bankers. Comp runs in the range of $60-70k USD base and 100% bonus at the MFs and slightly lower ($40-50k base + 50-100% bonus) at the other global firms for the Pre-MBA level. Domestic fund comp would be much lower, but on a purchasing power basis, it is all quite high. Post MBA hires are relatively infrequent, and most firms are quite strict about requiring an MBA.
At a global fund you can expect to see a fixed base post MBA at $150k+ with bonus + carry, which translates to a huge amount in local terms. Tax rates are high (30-35%). The experience as a junior PE professional in the market can really vary from fund to fund. At some funds (particularly the ones that have very 2 and out programs) you are a pure excel monkey, rarely given the opportunity to join in for meetings, interact with companies / management and expected to put in a lot of face time. These funds would not in any way see you as a potential senior hire, and so they are ok to work you to the bone. This is changing a bit, but historically it wasn't uncommon to see a Warburg or Carlyle hire someone from E&Y with extremely strong technical skills from an accounting / modeling perspective. At other funds it is much better and even the analysts / associates get quite involved. Across corporate India, Saturday historically was a working day or half working day. While this is no longer officially the case at most places, the willingness of an MD / Partner to schedule meetings or expect things to be done / submitted on a Saturday can be extremely high, making the overall hours worked just from a base line about 10% higher than elsewhere.
Biggest difference that I see is that even at the larger funds, there is huge flexibility in terms of mandate. It wouldn't be uncommon for Warburg to look at a $40mm growth tech transaction but also a $300mm buyout. Due to restrictions around leverage / acquisition financing along with rare opportunities for buyouts, most of the returns tend to be driven by growth vs. de-leveraging or multiple expansion.
On the non-direct PE side, there has been a pick-up in distressed / special situations investing in India. Lone Star, Cerberus, Oaktree are all active along with Davidson Kempner, SSG and Apollo (which is now entering India directly). Bain has also set up a credit team recently and hired a handful of people as well.
Sectors that have been particularly active:
- Consumer Tech
- IT Services
The Southeast Asia market is mainly headquartered in Singapore, with limited funds / banks covering from Hong Kong. In terms of countries, it broadly includes Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia and to a much lesser extend Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos. Of the activity both on the IB and PE side, Indonesia would contribute between 30-40% as the largest economy in the region. Singapore itself tends to have much smaller companies and limited deals, but from time to time has interesting tech platforms that then expand across the region. Vietnam has become more popular of late, but there are huge corruption issues, so it takes time to get comfortable around governance. Also worth noting that in all of these countries, and Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia in particular, the leading companies are all family run, a lot of them old local families of Chinese decent. Forming relationships can be very difficult and local language is quite important. It's not uncommon to see shareholder disputes or challenges enforcing aspects of a shareholder agreement -- there are books and I've heard personal stories of foreign investors trying to enforce loan agreements / claim security and being met with gunmen / blocked from entering the country (most commonly in Indonesia).
On the banking side, all of the large banks and boutiques cover the region, again either out of SG or HK. In addition to those, there are good local advisors, both commercial banks (OCB, Bank of Singapore, Maybank, etc) and dedicated IB platforms (BDA, Rippledot are 2 of the bigger ones). The coverage can often be regional vs. sector-wise, with dedicated individuals covering Indonesia or Vietnam, and a few of the banks have local offices as well (CS for example has a large Indonesia presence). Analysts tend to work across M&A, ECM and DCM, with a substantial amount of the work being equity raises / other fundraising.
I would say from a culture perspective Singapore IB is amongst the worst, with most analysts working consistently post midnight daily (live deal or not). Deal-flow is fairly limited and a similar situation to the other markets I've mentioned, less execution and lot of pitching for the limited large cap deals that take place. From a recruiting perspective, most of the analysts come from local universities and are local to the region (Singaporean or other SE Asian country), with SMU being the biggest "target" school. NUS and NTU also have some representation across the banks. Compensation-wise, would expect analyst level salaries to be more or less in line with what you'd see in the US, possibly 10-15% lower.
The PE side matches the banking side, with almost all of the funds having a local presence. Apart from the larger players who cover the entire region, there do exist smaller regional funds and even country specific funds that feel they have a strong network / local expertise. That being said, Blackstone as an example does TacOps out of Singapore and limited direct PE (I believe it is run out of HK if they are looking at a SE Asian deal). Investment teams are pretty small and relatively diverse, with at least a few countries represented. On both the IB and PE side there is a push to hire local, which means either SE Asian or Singaporean -- this is for a combination of reasons 1) to be effective in sourcing deals in the region and 2) Increasing push to hire Singaporeans by the government, which will probably be even stronger for the next 12 months with higher unemployment due to Covid.
Similar to India, transactions are a mix of growth and buyout, probably more skewed towards growth investments. However, my observation is that returns and exits in SE Asia have been much stronger compared to India. In terms of sectors, SE Asia is a very consumer driven market, so the most activity happens in Consumer, Consumer Tech and I also see a lot of education deals (EdTech and schools, testing centers, english language centers etc). Compensation on the PE side would be comparable to what you'd see in the US, with similar high cost of living in SG as in NY or SF. Because of the relatively small number of options (small teams + 10-15 global names total), there isn't a ton of movement across firms. Culture at the PE funds is really fund dependent and is significantly better compared to IB.
Most Active Sectors:
- Consumer Tech
I don't see too much discussion on Africa IB/PE and it's the region I'm least familiar with. It's also the most nascent of these regions. Most of the Africa IB/PE is based out of either South Africa (largely Johannesburg), Nigeria (Lagos) or Kenya (Nairobi). On the IB side, the larger banks do almost all have offices in Johannesburg, which cover all of Africa, though deal activity is disproportionately in South Africa. I haven't seen any of the boutiques / MM global firms with offices in the region at all. Apart from the global banks, local players are fairly active along with Big 4 on advisory work.
On the PE side most of the larger funds had shown an interest in the region before about 2015, with Carlyle setting up an office in SA and Nigeria and TPG, KKR, Blackstone all also showing interest in the space and bidding on assets (even if not having a formal office). This interest has largely dried up now, and even Carlyle is dissolving its Africa team (I believe the local team is taking over the fund). There are limited actionable opportunities in the region to deploy $100mm+ and exits are even more difficult to come by, which has made it a challenging region for anyone looking to deploy these levels of capital. There are a few "regional" funds which are still active and have done ok in terms of returns, specifically Actis and Helios. They have regional offices and larger presences in London, which cover Africa. Energy as a sector has done quite well (Actis focuses on it), and is probably one of the more promising sectors in the region.
To summarize everything I've said - work in banking in the US / London for a much more fulfilling, worthwhile and better work life balance experience. PE in some of these markets is much more appealing from every perspective and can make sense depending on personal / professional goals.