Private Equity in Singapore

From what I understand, there are some international shops operating out of Singapore, focusing on emerging markets i.e. Indonesia and Vietnam. Hope to understand more about PE in Singapore by hearing more from those based in Singapore - firm culture, deal flow / ranking compared to other shops, and also the recruitment process

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Comments (12)

Most Helpful
Jul 24, 2020 - 2:06pm

I spent some of my Pre-MBA PE experience based out of SG and covering SE Asia and am looking to return post MBA. There are a handful of threads on here about PE in Asia in. general, which are worth reading, though those are more geared towards HK / China coverage. I'll do my best to provide an overview of the market based on what I'm aware of / my experience.

Every MF covers SE Asia at this point, with about 75% of them having a Singapore office dedicated to it, while the balance 25% cover SE Asia from Hong Kong. In MF I'm including the likes of Advent, TA, Apax, CVC etc, which are much smaller than KKR, Blackstone, etc from an AUM perspective but on an international level compete for the same types of deals. Similar to the US, they recruit for Associate level roles from the large banks (all of which have a presence in SG) as well as from the MBB consulting firms. That said, you get a mixed bucket of backgrounds, with people moving from NY, London, and India IB roles to Singapore PE fairly frequently. The IB experience in SG itself a sweatshop culture pretty much across the board. I didn't work in banking in the region, but there are some recent threads here discussing just how bad it is.

Firms: Apart from the MF listed above and others (TPG, Warburg, Carlyle, etc) there is also a presence of international funds / pension funds -- CPPIB, CDPQ, OMERS, global names like Actis and Partners Group, and "regional MF" like Barings, L Catterton Asia. Going down a bit in fund size you have players like Creador and Navis (I believe both have SG offices still), which invest across the region but more at a mid market level. If you go further down from there you usually end up with country-specific investors, i.e. a fund that only focuses on Indonesia or only Vietnam / Thailand.

Deal Flow: The region is quite nascent still, and there are a mix of deals through bankers but also a fair number of proprietary deal-flow that happens. In most of the countries in the region, established families run the leading businesses in the country, and things are very much relationship based. In this sense, having a local person on the investment team can be extremely helpful, and that is in high demand at the moment, particularly Vietnamese and Indonesians, which also helps due to language constraints. The vast majority of the deals happen in Indonesia (and Vietnam more recently), with significantly less in Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Even the larger guys like KKR and TPG would rarely see investments above $500mm, and for deals coming through intermediaries, these would be hotly contested between all of the MFs as well as the regional MFs like Barings. Another important piece to add, is that most of the "PE" activity is growth capital investments, and buyouts happen quite infrequently. There is significantly lower use of leverage in transactions, and the modeling experience you would get as an Associate is going to be significantly less financially complex than what you would do in the US or Europe. From a business standpoint, however, it might be more complicated, as they can be fairly messy. As I'm sure you can imagine, there are huge corporate governance issues in many of the companies and in many of these regions, and professionally run businesses are few and far between, so a lot of the diligence is focused on governance / it isn't uncommon to do a thorough forensic diligence on top of the other workstreams.

Recruiting: as mentioned earlier, there is a preference for local hires from Indonesia / Vietnam, both because of their connections as well as language skills. On top of that, there is a recent big push by companies, driven by the government to hire local Singaporeans. This is more of a nationalist move than anything, as they don't speak any language from the region, and probably less than 5% of the transactions take place within SG itself (i.e. you are based in SG but only invest in the other countries in the region). This is making it more difficult than it has been historically to get an Employment Pass as a foreigner, though the US is doing the same sort of things, so I guess can't really complain. In terms of recruiting itself, there is no "on-cycle" that I've seen like there is in the US. There is no requirement to do an MBA, so people are promoted directly, and that means that seats open up only when someone moves out to another role / leaves the industry. So it's important to be in touch with the recruiters regularly checking in and make sure you get into the processes as they launch. Processes are long / drawn out over multiple weeks and include 1-2 case studies as well. Relative to the US, there is a larger emphasis across Asia on technicals vs. fit, in my experience. Happy to answer any other questions to the best of my ability.

Jul 24, 2020 - 4:22pm

Thanks, great overview. So would you say it's impossible for someone to land a gig without speaking an Asian language? Love SG and would love to work there for a little (currently in US IB)

Array
Jul 24, 2020 - 4:31pm

Not impossible at all (I was in the exact same position as you, no Asian language / not local, though I moved through an internal role and didn't recruit from outside) but it is becoming increasingly difficult in the last 2-3 years in particular.

If you're in NY at a large bank, some of the Singapore MFs run processes through the NY headhunters or at least used to back in the day. The other thing to consider would be a 3rd year as an analyst through your bank in the Singapore office (if you're at a global bank), though those teams are quite small so it may be challenging to get a spot. At the least that would show your interest in the region, allow you to build some market knowledge and make it an easier sell for a fund to bring you on.

Feel free to PM me if you want any more specific thoughts on how to approach it, names of recruiters etc.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Mar 30, 2021 - 8:20pm

I actually interviewed for a role and ended up having a really good conversation about it with a partner. To summarize: no its not needed, but if you don't speak the local language chances are you are not from the region, which makes things harder. As the guy above said, getting jobs in SG has become reaaally hard, given how there have been a few issues over the years with foreigners that don't adapt / don't respect. In that sense HK is in a better spot (but there's the obvious issues the city currently has unfortunately). 
 

From what I've seen there are many more expats from western countries in HK (specially Europe)

Jan 28, 2021 - 12:33pm

Hey thanks so much for sharing! Grateful if you could share more about the rigours of work - I have heard that PE in Singapore is very sweaty, and that associates who join from BB IBs find themselves working as hard if not harder in PE (than in IB). I also heard that this is true for both MFs as well as smaller funds. Wondering if you could confirm if this is true. 

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Jan 28, 2021 - 3:00pm

Michael-Tan12

Hey thanks so much for sharing! Grateful if you could share more about the rigours of work - I have heard that PE in Singapore is very sweaty, and that associates who join from BB IBs find themselves working as hard if not harder in PE (than in IB). I also heard that this is true for both MFs as well as smaller funds. Wondering if you could confirm if this is true. 

At MF PE firms in general the hours are comparable to banking - that is true in the US and probably in SG as well.  In my view and what I saw, IB in SG was particularly rough and significantly worse hours / more facetime compared to the US, so in general PE hours were not quite as bad, but it is by no means a light workload. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Restr
Jan 29, 2021 - 10:29am

Thanks for the great overview. There's not much on SE Asia here so this is very helpful. Can you please share more on the recruiting process like how many stages are there usually and are the expectations higher given candidates would have more experience than on-cycle recruiting where analysts have just started? Also, how's the career progression and job stability here?

Jan 29, 2021 - 11:23am

Thanks for the great overview. There's not much on SE Asia here so this is very helpful. Can you please share more on the recruiting process like how many stages are there usually and are the expectations higher given candidates would have more experience than on-cycle recruiting where analysts have just started? Also, how's the career progression and job stability here?

Processes are usually very long / drawn out, sometimes over a few months.  You will end up meeting most of the team, and the key difference between US recruiting is that there is often if not always a case study, which may be in office 3-5 hours or take home 24-48 hours, involving a full financial model and usually an investment memo.  This will either be submitted or presented to the team.   In that sense I would say expectations are much higher, given US analysts have just hit the desk.  Job stability is pretty good, but career progression can be slow, as there are limited seats, so it isn't uncommon to see someone as an associate / senior associate for 4+ years at a fund.  

Nov 15, 2020 - 1:54am

Hey [email protected] thanks for the insights. I'm a SEA national just landed a MM IB job in NYC (Mizuho/BNP/Nomura). I went to a non-Ivy target school. I'm thinking about moving back to SG after my analyst stint to do PE.
1) Is it possible to make that transition since most people I know who are doing PE in SG did their IB stint in SG?
2) If it is possible, how should I go about reaching out to HHs?

Thanks again

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