Re - Lifestyle in Private Equity (lower mid to mid market space)

Mod Note (Andy): This recent comment by 2015 member of the year @Dingdong08" from the thread "Long-term PE - Lifestyle" is so insightful (10 silver bananas) that I decided it deserves its own spot on the front page. Read on and enjoy monkeys:

I can't speak specifically on mid to large funds but I've been in the lower mid to mid market space for a while and it will depend on the specific fund and where you are geographically (I feel like regardless of what you do people in NYC wear working all the time like a badge of honor) but you basically work all the time. The big difference is that your time is more your own and you control your time more than in things like IB, consulting or law where you have clients who call and say jump and you say how high but you still think about it all the time, travel a lot and are doing work (reading docs, talking to portfolio co's execs and investors, etc) but you don't necessarily need to be in the office 60+ hours a week to do it. And you can more easily schedule those times to fit your schedule.

I'm not an MD in IB but I know more than a few and a very good friend is (we're both early 40's as a benchmark and we went to college together so I've known him for a long time and he's the head of his group at his MM bank, so he's not just a regular MD, he's kind of the boss MD and reports to c-suite level folks) and I feel like having clients and needing to sell makes his life far less predictable than mine. I'd say we work similar amounts (he probably does more but it's not the difference between me working 40 hrs and him 70) but I don't have a client calling me up at all hours or saying I absolutely need to be in another city the next day (most of the time-still happens occasionally that I have to go somewhere the next day but not often at all). He probably travels a bit more than I do but I can typically plan my travel further out than he can. And I generally know when I'm going to be busy pretty far in advance (deal closing, investor meetings, an exit, etc). That makes a big difference as you get older and have a family or even if you just want to make plans with friends. He (and his wife) consistently need to cancel plans with us even for small stuff like dinner whereas I generally don't have to. I'd imagine that transfers to every aspect of his life.

I'm never going to be able to coach my kids Little League team because of work demands but I can say I'm going to be at his school play next week or a month from now and I will be. Or I can make social dinner plans weeks out and almost all of the time make that dinner whereas my friend often tells us the day before or even the day of that he can't make it for various work reasons (and other mutual friends say the same thing about him so it's not like he's blowing me off). As an example, a couple of weeks ago I was going to introduce him to the head of a fund that operates in his space. I wasn't directly gaining anything from the meeting, it was completely beneficial to him and it was a casual meeting-drinks in NYC. He had to cancel a couple of days before because he had to be in whatever city he needed to go to. That doesn't mean I don't have the occasional fire drill but I feel like that's a big part of his life and I don't think he's an outlier. But he really loves what he does-financially he doesn't have to work another day in his life but he does.

There's a grass is greener myth that if you get to the upper levels of PE you're not working much, you fly around on your G5 to exotic locales and have Italian sports cars in your villa on the Med that's stocked with bikini models. Maybe Schwarzman is doing that but I guarantee that he's on the phone working 100 hours a week while doing it. Upper levels of PE are still stressful and you work a lot but lifestyle wise it's better than any high paying client facing business. At least in my opinion.

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Comments (6)

Mar 8, 2016 - 4:52pm

Great article. Love the insight into both paths at the senior levels. Would you say that at the senior levels, IB provides lesser predictability, but in contrast the buyside requires greater "dedication" (can't think of a more suitable word), i.e. constantly staying up to date on port cos, thinking of multiple fund related aspects, being on calls related to investors, investment opportunities, exit opportunities etc. My question is essentially, is it easier for a IB MD to "switch off" once outside of work than it would be for a buyside partner?

Mar 8, 2016 - 5:23pm

I have some connections with the P.E. sector here in San Diego, California. Often times, I have heard that the hours are highly similar, working from 6/7 A.M. P.S.T. to 8-10 P.M. P.S.T. on the daily. They look and sound rather miserable, sadly enough. It seems you, Dingdong08, can afford what many others could not. I have been mentored and told that, go with a path that avails you the most time for freedom. Most of the firms I have interviewed with in the past strictly maintain a 6/7 A.M. to 4-6 P.M. P.S.T. schedule. The pay is less, though they emphasize the work/life schedule.

Real question is, is the pursuit of money worth the time freedom for friends and family?


Mar 12, 2016 - 12:12pm

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