The PE career path

I'm trying to get a better gauge of the careers in and out of IB. While the 2 year stint in PE out of IB seems very lucrative/prestigious blah blah, it seems like most shops kick you out after 2 years and you're expected to go to bschool. Some questions surrounding this path:

1. What kind of shops allow you to continue in PE beyond 2 years, and how does that career progression look?

2. For the 2 IB/2 PE/ 2 bschool kids, what percentage of kids who want to come back to PE actually successfully make it back? Obviously there much fewer principals than analysts at PE firms, but then again, many ex-PE analysts don't want to stay in PE after bschool.

3. As a matter of fact, I hear that a lot of ex-PE kids who can't make it back to PE after b school end up back in IB, which is unfortunate because they would be starting as 1st year associates again whereas their counterparts who stayed in IB are now almost VPs and have not paid for bschool AND made money for 2 years along the way (of course they don't have the benefit of the 2 year bschool vacation and the degree/connections). If this is the case, doesn't it make the "IB-for exit opportunities" thing a lot less attractive? To continue my rambling, if you're going to do IB/PE just to go into bschool and do not go back to IB/PE after bschool, why not go into something that will give you a broader/less soul crushing exposure, similar exit opps, and a better shot at bschool like consulting/start up?

4. Let's say you do "make it" back to PE after bschool. But let's say your fund blows up or you want to do something else. What are you options like out of PE? Can you go back to IB or go on to corp dev?

5. After writing this post, the merits of a career in sales/trading becomes a little more attractive. You can start in trading and make your way around the street/HFs working 50 hour weeks/no weekends along the way. Sure you are "pidgeon-holed" but it seems like any career will pidgeonhole you at some point, and only when you specialize that much does the real money start flowing in. Unfortunately, I don't find trading that interesting, and I am truly envious of those who have the market/trading-bug. See my post below for why I am leaving sell side trading:

//www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/moving-from-bb-rate...

Comments (54)

 
6/4/16

interested in the above as well...

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6/7/16

Take this with a grain of salt, as it is all based on what I've seen with friends/family in PE & Growth Equity

1) It depends on the shop. Larger shops (KKR, Blackstone, etc.) tend to force you to get an MBA, while smaller/mid market shops (HGGC and similar shops) have senior associate roles that are more commonly found and eventually transition into being a Vice President (post MBA role). However, note that the senior associate role is on a case by case basis and is still a "trial period" to see if the partners want to keep you on as a senior team member. Also keep in mind, how many PE associates have you seen or heard of making partner at the shop they started at? As a partner, why would you share the carry/pie unless you absolutely have to?

2) It's much lower than you would think. I have been told less than 15%. This may be attributable to the fact that many individuals don't want to come back and were doing PE simply for the experience. Some shops pay for your B-School, others don't and send you on your way, with a "maybe" left at the table for when you graduate.

3) This does happen. We have seniors at our bank who did PE for a stint. I don't think anybody woke planning for their career to work out that way. The "career path" concept is much more subjective that people think. There is no clear cut path. As far as connections for the associates who stayed in banking are concerned, I would be shocked if their connections didn't rival those of guys coming out of B-School by the end of the associate stint. If they don't, it's either because they didn't make an effort or they are at a bank that limits their exposure to the outside world.

4) This depends entirely on your experience and your ability to tell your story and why you bring value to a team. There are opportunities in all of the above mentioned segments.

5) I can't really speak to the trading comment. However, I agree with the specialization. Sooner or later, we all specialize, but it doesn't necessarily mean you are pigeon-holed. If your skills and relationships bring value, I think you can go pretty much wherever you want. E.g., I've seen M&A bankers become Hedge-Fund partners.

 
6/8/16

1) It tends to be MM shops that allow you stay without an MBA. The MF model is really formulaic; structured processes for recruiting, intake, and exit. MM funds are less rigid; if someone excellent comes through and by their second year is already functioning effectively as a Vice President, the partners may have some candid conversations with that guy about his long-term interests.

They may work out a partner-track role for him that doesn't force him to leave for b-school. The partners are happy because they effectively got a two-year interview for the VP role from the associate, they don't have to spend time interviewing MBA students, and they have a guy who's going to have more familiarity with the portfolio than an MBA grad who has the exact same work experience (two years in banking and two in PE at another fund) but is coming out of an MBA program.

Apollo is one exception here. They run a four-year associate position. The goal is to get you to skip the MBA. Few have made it all the way through the four years. The culture is notoriously tough, both in terms of attitude and lifestyle. A lot of guys do end up taking the b-school route; others walk into a role at a top-flight HF around the two-year mark.

2) I don't think it's 15% as @Gotham's Reckoning said. You can look on each school's website and find granular reports on the composition of each incoming class as well as placement info for each graduating class. For H/S/W, it's usually something like 12-18% of the class came from PE/VC prior to school, and 9-15% go into PE/VC afterward.

From that you can see that it's true, there are fewer post-MBA seats than candidates coming in with PE experience. This makes sense: post-MBA roles are at minimum implicitly partner-track (many explicitly are). Investment management is a top-heavy industry; the best talent tends to open their own shops, and they also tend to stick around for a long time afterward.

If you hung out your own shingle at, say, 52, you're probably not giving up Managing Partner status until you're north of 70. That's a lot of associate classes that will rotate beneath you, and you only need so many VPs or Principals between you and them.

For associates then, it's really often a matter of fortunate timing. If a fund has a Principal getting promoted to partner or had a VP or Principal leave for a competitor, step into an operating role at a portfolio company, or pursue something outside of the industry, there will be a mid-senior role open. That's typically when the fund is in the market for a post-MBA hire.

Sometimes you see the process move atypically fast. One of those scenarios mentioned above occurs: say, a Principal gets offered a once in a lifetime role at a family office and takes it. The fund may engage a headhunter and say "find me the best candidate graduating this year from HBS or Wharton with banking experience at GS or MS and at least two years of PE experience". Whatever guy ends up getting that role lucked out just for fitting the profile and having timing dump the chance in his lap.

What happens more typically is that these mid-senior guys making moves put plans into place with lots of lead time. Often, someone who's four, eight, or however many years deep at a firm like this has zero interest in destroying relationships or credibility with such powerful people. If they did want to move (to a portfolio company, out of industry, or wherever), it's probably broached with the partners well in advance and couched in really hypothetical language.

This lets all parties work out a mutually beneficial and satisfactory solution. It's also the basis for the fund choosing to go on-campus, recruit for a summer associate role, have that MBA student complete their internship, and extend a return offer for nine months later. It's wrapped around a less pressing calendar need to fill a hole they know they'll have based on the scenario I just outlined.

Again, these two lengthy examples are illustrative of non-MF firms; I'm referring to the MM (be they upper or lower) firms that run leaner, do fewer deals, and have dramatically lower turnover. Think of a Lincolnshire, Catterton, or FFL. Top-performing funds (well, Catterton is solid, not top) where you don't see people leaving for an MBA on any set schedule (if at all), where senior leadership has been solidly in place together for decades, and where promotion is almost exclusively internally.

MFs tend to have a more formulaic approach. Recruit, grind, regurgitate, repeat.

3) You're correct; there are some (few, from what I've seen) people who exit to PE after banking, strike out in PE recruiting at school, and return to banking. I'd put that number below 20% (of people with the combo of banking/PE experience). Of that, I'd say half were happy to return to finance and were getting into great seats, and the other half were unhappy but didn't know what else to do.

In that first half I think of a guy who did two years at Wells down south, two years at a lower-MM PE firm also down south, a non-H/S/W M7 MBA, and went to an EB (BX, Lazard, Moelis) after school. He was competent, knew he could execute, and felt he had a clear path to excel as a senior banker. It worked for him.

In that second half I think of a handful of guys I knew. They struggled to think like an investor, and thus as a PE associate really never added any value other than being a (highly qualified and quantitatively competent) body in a seat to handle financial analysis and manage deal processes. That led them to not receiving a soft return offer (as in "go get your MBA and we want you back") and also to them striking out either to get a PE internship while at school or a post-MBA return offer if they got the internship. The golden handcuffs weighed heavily, however, as they had a lifestyle they were used to, a spouse and/or children to take care of, and no creativity or real spark that had not yet been ground out of them by the years in finance.

Your question was 'why not go do consulting, a startup, or something more stimulating'. Many people do. A lot of former bankers and PE guys will take corp-dev roles at a large company. Some will go to a sexy but stable place like Apple or Google. The recruiting there is pretty standardized, and the top b-schools all have healthy relationships with those employers. Other guys will go to a maturing (late-stage but still growing) startup like Flatiron, Jet, Oscar, what-have you. Others will go to financial or strategy roles in industry. I know an H/S/W grad who came out of a top-five banking group and is now at Vice.

It's varied. Everything you just hypothesized (startup, consulting, family office, big-co) all happens; it's just not trumpeted publicly, and certainly not on a forum like this where people masturbate to the mere thought of the holy path of "IBD > PE/HF > MBA > greatness??"

4) See #3 above.

5) Trading is in a structural downturn. Technology is reshaping the need for human involvement in the markets. We saw this a decade ago in equities; it's moved to fixed income as well. Add increased regulation barring prop trading and raising capital ratio requirements and it starts to look ugly. Banks are cutting staff left and right, hundreds at a time. It's hard for the big banks to make money in trading, so the human capital now becomes a cost center.

Nearly every single guy I know in trading has either rotated to a sales-trader, sales coverage, or sales management role (which makes sense; that's where the human touch will still need to remain), moved to the buy-side, added side hustles that they hope get big enough within 2-4 years before their seat dries up and they get cut, or left the industry. Those side hustles have been cool to see. Some are physical small businesses, others are ecommerce, some are a collection of startup investments or advisor roles.

Trading is not an attractive career option, and I put so much emphasis on the structural piece because it's important to understand that this isn't a cyclical downturn (where economic recovery a few years later leads to equal or bigger opportunity than prior to that downturn).

 
6/8/16
"APAE" wrote:

added side hustles that they hope get big enough within 2-4 years before their seat dries up and they get cut, or left the industry. Those side hustles have been cool to see. Some are physical small businesses, others are ecommerce, some are a collection of startup investments or advisor roles.

Very informative post and +1. I would be keen to hear about what side hustles they started, I take it they are passive investments that dont require much ongoing time to operate? There was a post about a guy who has a side business with billboard advertisements on WSO, youre post has inspired me to look it out again.

 
6/9/16
"APAE" wrote:

1) In that second half I think of a handful of guys I knew. They struggled to think like an investor, and thus as a PE associate really never added any value other than being a (highly qualified and quantitatively competent) body in a seat to handle financial analysis and manage deal processes. That led them to not receiving a soft return offer (as in "go get your MBA and we want you back") and also to them striking out either to get a PE internship while at school or a post-MBA return offer if they got the internship. The golden handcuffs weighed heavily, however, as they had a lifestyle they were used to, a spouse and/or children to take care of, and no creativity or real spark that had not yet been ground out of them by the years in finance.

+1 and thanks for a great post!

Have seen this point mentioned a few times in the forum, but think it's worth asking again for another perspective - what prevents these aforementioned guys from "thinking like an investor" and grooming themselves for that post-MBA PE path? Have the previous two years of banking narrowed their thought process? Are they not putting in enough above-and-beyond effort at work to really understand the deals they're working on? Or is it more of just a natural inclination that some people have?

 
6/9/16

sb'd, one of the best and most informative posts i've seen in a long time.

"APAE" wrote:

<

p>1) It tends to be MM shops that allow you stay without an MBA. The...

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!

 
6/9/16

Just want to point out how stellar your posts have been recently. Thanks for making us all more informed.

 
6/9/16

@TommyGunn @riverbanker

After @AndyLouis messaged me to ask, I'll be editing and expanding this post to make a standalone thread. If you can hang on for a couple days, I'll get it live and then address your questions.

I tend to only write posts that long when I'm at my home office (absurdly powerful voice-to-text device that makes 'writing' such lengthy comments easy) or in an airport lounge with some downtime.

 
6/10/16

what is the voice to text device that you use?

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6/11/16

It's not on the market - one of the companies I invested in is a ridiculously powerful computer vision protocol that came out of a rudimentary AI the founder wrote during college.

One of the first use cases he built was a natural language processing application that makes computational linguistics look like child's play. We slapped together some hardware and built a rig allowing verbal input, and boom, my home office has this ugly-looking thing that makes me massively more productive.

Better yet is toggling it to output and deciding whether I want my emails read to me while I cook in Morgan Freeman or Samuel L. Jackson's voice.

 
 
6/11/16
dukeofduke wrote:

Walmart/startups?

Did you intend for that slash to imply a similarity between those two things?

 
6/11/16
swagon wrote:
dukeofduke wrote:

Walmart/startups?

Did you intend for that slash to imply a similarity between those two things?

Haha of course not! I imagine those with private equity experience being a huge asset for startups though, especially those who had venture capital experience.

 
6/11/16

Legitimate question. I'm quite interested as well.

-MBP

 
6/11/16

Yes, people jump around PE firms. Not as much as banks because you lose your carried interest and at the senior levels there are clauses in the fund documents that basically say the LPs can dissolve the fund if enough key partners leave the firm.

CompBanker

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6/11/16

I'm not in PE but leaving any place after 2 months is definitely not a good look. If I were in your position I would at the very least stick around for 6 months.

"Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion" - Muhammad Ali

 
6/11/16

I should have mentioned that in my post. I was planning on staying at least 10-12 months. I just wanted to get a start on learning more about the business so I would feel more confident when it came time to move

 
6/11/16

The best thing to do is use any free time that you have to work on a skill set that will help you in the future. Familiarize yourself with financial modelling (there are plenty of solid courses available), accounting concepts, market concepts, financing structures, etc. We live in an age where google has literally made it possible to become an expert in any field.

You should absolutely stick it out for an entire year no matter how worthless you think the experience is. At the end of the year, sit down with your boss and voice your concerns. Admin work is part of your job description as a new hire but you need to tell your boss that you want more responsibility including reviewing investment opportunities and related components (teasers, CIM/OMs, financing documents, term sheets, etc.).

It may even make sense to sit down with your boss right now and express these concerns. Mention that you are fine doing plenty of admin stuff but you really want to learn the business.

 
6/11/16

Great advice. Thank you. You're absolutely right about self-teaching. Do you have any recommendations that are sales-specific that are especially useful?

 
 
6/11/16

you are so thought provoking, imposter bIastoise

 
6/11/16

Nothing in IBD is comparable to TPG.
Goldman Sachs IBD ~ MM PE
Houlihan lokey IBD ~ mom and pop PE shop

 
 
6/11/16

It's kind of the same thing; you can't really hang out at SVP in banking indefinitely.

In both cases, you have to make the switch from execution to origination; it is just a (slightly) different time. Remember, a senior associate in private equity firm is probably older than their sell side counterpart.

 
 
6/11/16

If you stay for the long term and advance in the firm, you'll start receiving carry in the fund. Once you're at a place for 10+ years, a significant portion of your earnings will simply depend on fund performance.

 
6/11/16
harrrr wrote:

If you stay for the long term and advance in the firm, you'll start receiving carry in the fund. Once you're at a place for 10+ years, a significant portion of your earnings will simply depend on fund performance.

Thanks. Few more questions. 1) is it fairly easy to stay with a PE firm for the long haul post mba? 2) How much "carry" are we talking here on average performing MM PE. Are we talking 300~400K total comp into your 30s and 40s, or do a lot of people hit close to a million in their 40s?

 
 
6/11/16

anyone give some comments

hungry for job

 
6/11/16

It sounds like you'll just be on the portfolio management side versus the deal origination side. Just know what you're getting into. The PM side is usually a lot less structured than deal origination (i.e. associate --> VP --> principal --> MD). As you guys grow and invest in more companies, you'll be managing a lot more positions and the work may become a bit more interesting. Additionally, it sounds like a smaller fund from the standpoint that it doesn't employ that many people? Your role will probably be some sort of hybrid between portfolio management, investor relations, etc. If anything, you'll at least have some good insight into how the fund is performing on an overall basis.

Can't help with salary ranges, but depending on the fund, you might get some carry.

If you're "hungry for a job" and have no other offers, this doesn't sound too bad. I'd make sure they're reputable though. Fundraising is tough going these days and if they don't have a great track record and/or have money to make investments, they won't be around much longer.

 
6/11/16

thanks HerSerendipity!

I take your insight.

hungry for job

 
 
6/11/16

this is such a noob post. i'm sure you can find all that info on this site with a simple search.

 
6/11/16

Speaking of noob posts, Argentina? You're supposed to say Aspen, or the English countryside, or the coast of Maine. Get with the program man.

 
6/11/16
stuy-duke-banker wrote:

I have a few questions about Private Equity's career path . What's the typical path guys in PE go through? Is it BB(2yrs)-->Pre-MBA Associate(2yrs)-->m7(2yrs)-->Post MBA associate(3yrs)-->VP(3yrs)-->Partner(15yrs)-->Retire and move to Argentina? Is it hard to make it as a Partner? I know not everyone can make it but if you come in everyday with a good attitude/mentality, work hard, and be the team player, will you make it eventually?
Which job is harder to get after 2 years in banking, sweatshop megafund or lifestyle MM? Which Megafund is easiest to get job at if you're from a BB other than GS/MS? Do PE firms recruit at schools other than Harvard/Wharton at the UG level?

Oh, your life would be so programmed... Think about other options, buddy. Such as you may find yourself with enough money to spend when you were the 2nd year partner, you can create your own fund to be the principle before you got promoted.... Think about these...

There is no typical career path when you are older than 30 years old. No one exempted.

 
 
6/11/16
Chung wrote:

I understand my poor gpa will follow me for a very long time in my career. ,

it will follow you as long as you allow it to, make up for it with as many other positive things as you can. start adding activities that benefit your resume tomorrow. NETWORK. The more you stress about your gpa the more this is going to hurt you. Turn things around, kick ass at it, be passionate, and don't stress it. It's ok to make mistakes young in life, if you have the right attitude you can turn it around. It will obviously be a tougher path, but this time round you're hungry / motivated / ready to prove others wrong

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

 
6/11/16

If your intern experience is at CBRE you're probably better off looking into REPE spots instead of corp PE. I worked in brokerage roles for all of my RE internships and have been getting a lot of buyside interviews. They also are more open to hiring recent grads. However, these jobs are competitive like everything in finance. I just interviewed for a boutique REPE firm (NYC) that got around 400 applicants for 1-2 positions on a single online job posting.

A boutique would likely be your only shot, you're not getting into BX/Carlyle with a shit GPA/no IBD experience. Most of the opportunistic megafunds hire out of the BB RE groups. From what I've seen, the main megafunds that hire undergrads are Walton Street/Starwood/MSREI. Walton's done recruiting though, Starwood's probably done, and MSREI converted a few of their interns to FT and didn't hire from outside (at least in NY/SF, not 100% sure on that one though).

First off, work on your English. Not trying to be a dick, but most applicants here are much better writers than you (seemingly) are. Gives them a reason to auto-ding you. Maybe think about a masters as well to cover up your GPA, but only if you have your shit together more than you did in undergrad. And finally, get a focus and look into more realistic jobs as well. There are plenty of respectable jobs out there that will give you transferable skills, but a lot of people on here get tunnel vision when applying to PE/IBD jobs and don't see the other opportunities that come up until it's too late. Best of luck

 
 
6/11/16

Bulge bracket PE?

If you want to work at a megafund yes ofc, going to a BB first is pretty much the only path forward. Sometimes the move from middle market may work, but its very rare at the top shops. Also when you come from a 8-10 people sized small firm it will be a massive uphill battle.

If you can get a gig at a BB, go for that and take it from there.

"too good to be true"

See my WSO Blog

 
6/11/16

Take a step back. Why do you want to work at a "bulge bracket" PE firm? Prestige? Resume name? (same thing), feeling of accomplishment? Pay? Something else? You have to answer that before anything else.

Remember that not a ton of folks really climb up the ranks of these huge firms anymore. There are layers and layers above you (much like at a bank) and many of these shops, like Carlyle, Blackstone etc, are asset managers, which means they have a diverse suite of products and are in the fee collecting game more than anything else (I can personally say that one of the top guys has overtly hinted that to me in a 1v1 chat recently).

I'm of the thought that investing is investing (many disagree with me) big shop or not. Often small firms grow into bigger ones. You meet people at bigger firms, compete against them, get noticed for being good and move. Of course your carry might not vest and you might have to give it up but hey...

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.

 
6/11/16

Sorry what I meant by "Bulge Bracket" is just some of the large PE shops like Blackstone and the lesser but well known ones.

I would like to eventually be able to work at a larger fund due to a combination of prestige, I like the type of work they do (leveraged finance), and the added job stability over a small fund.

It sounds like you work in the industry, I still don't know that much about it longer term.

I just wanted to know about the career path from a small fund to make sure i'm not closing any doors. How feasible would it be for someone to move up from a smaller fund or is it a dead end. Do PE firms recruit from 10 man funds or is it limited to brand name BB Ibanks (at analyst level)?

Thanks!

 
6/11/16

If you somehow have an offer at Blackstone then by all means go for it. Fortunately the lower mm to mm isn't a bad place to be. Look at the size of the fund for what you're considering and if you want job security see if they've been able to raise multiple funds. Smaller funds can actually be extremely lucrative and it can be done in a non NYC col place.

 
6/11/16

Plenty of much smaller firms to leveraged buyouts, so you don't HAVE to be at a big/mega shop to do them. I would also argue that there are plenty of firms that are smaller but have been around for a long time so stability of funding is not a problem. Guys like BX might pay more (since they have a much bigger asset base) but the hours will probably also be more grueling than a smaller "more family" shop. I cannot comment on mobility from going from a small shop to a big shop because although I am in the industry, I am not in a PE shop. I am sure it can happen if you put your mind to it and are good at what you do. I know in Asia you can definitely make the move from local/country-specific shop to a megafund.

Good Luck

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.

 
6/11/16

It's very rare to move from a smaller fund to the megafunds in general, although I'm sure there are exceptions. It's even rare to move from a solid MM or upper MM (think the rung below the megafunds) to megafunds. Like I said if you can get into a MF by all means do it. But that most likely means going to a top undergrad, getting into a top group at a top BB, being a top analyst at that group and recruiting well into a MF. Then getting into a top bschool and recruiting well back into a MF. This isn't meant to discourage but if you're not in one of these stages at whatever point you're at in your career it's going to be a longshot or impossibility to get into a MF. I'm relatively successful in what I do and have great experience but there's no way I can call up Blackstone or KKR and just get a job in one of their big PE funds.

But if the opportunity that you have is at an 8-10 man shop that probably has a few hundred million dollar fund take it. Like @jamoldo said, smaller doesn't necessarily mean less stable. I know more than a few lower MM funds that have been around for years and don't have any trouble raising funds. You're also less iof a number and more of a person at these funds so if you're good and they like you, and nothing catastrophic happens, there's a better chance that you'll have more stability. And while pay is less you can still make a shit ton of money in senior roles and perhaps not have to live in NYC to do so (a few hundred grand in your mid to late 20's goes a hell of a lot further in Philly or Chicago than it does anywhere near NYC. A net worth of high 7/lower 8 figures in your 40's in Philly or Chicago lets you live like a king. In NYC you're just another piker). Sure, you're not going to read about your deals on the front page of the Journal but the job is still interesting and lucrative.

I could go on and on about the advantages of smaller PE funds but just don't think that it's MF or bust. You can still make a shit ton of money in the MM and lower MM PE world. And truthfully those jobs aren't easy to get. Don't look at it as a consolation prize or that you're accepting.

 
6/11/16

Many megafunds are looking for people who have worked on large (and probably complicated) deals and are modeling masters. This makes BBs a very easy place to look. That being said, if you moved up in terms of fund size after your experience with this fund, and then went to business school, you might have a chance to join as a post-MBA associate. I don't know anyone who's done this personally, however.

And I agree with dingdong08, you can do very well in the smaller funds, and frankly, it's easier to find investment opportunities that will actually net you the target IRR rate (say, 15%-20%). Regardless, I think it's a good opportunity, and the benefit is that you get to see how a fund runs. It's not just analyzing the investments, but also the legal work, back office type of things that, aren't too interesting, important to be at least be aware of for a holistic experience.

--Meliora sequimur

 
 
6/11/16

I think I remember hearing someone here say that it is easier to move up fast if you're at a megafund. That may only be true when LBOs are booming, though.

 
6/11/16

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6/11/16

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant, it's just that they know so much that isn't so."
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