How Competitive is the Private Equity Space?

As one of the most lucrative sectors within the wider finance industry, private equity (PE) is both competitive and demanding.

Similarly, as private equity operations become increasingly complex, employers at PE firms are seeking professionals with more varied skill sets, which in turn is creating a more competitive environment.

Below we explore the skills that are in high demand, why individuals with these skills are in demand and how they can leverage these skill sets throughout their career.

How much competition is there for finance professionals in Private Equity funds?

The private equity market is currently a candidate-driven market, underpinned by incredible demand for highly-skilled individuals as the market continues to expand. While experienced CFOs and other senior professionals are highly desirable, many funds are looking to recruit finance professionals from elsewhere in the market – especially those with analysis and audit backgrounds – before developing them internally.

This has created a highly-competitive market, largely made up of PE funds looking to identify finance professionals with varied skill sets. The most desirable skills revolve around a candidate’s ability to provide investment analysis, improve operational processes, provide support around financial topics and reshuffle financial structures. Ultimately, funds want to see that an individual has the ability to navigate and solve the complex challenges that largely arise in this space.

In terms of where funds are typically recruiting from, we’re seeing individuals from areas such as fund accounting, financial reporting, tax, compliance, investor relations and fund administration all being tapped for roles in PE.

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What are individuals looking for in working environments?

The consensus amongst many individuals is that a positive company culture is valued above all else. Professionals in the finance space are increasingly looking at the workplace, rather than the benefits, especially in roles that are typically quite lucrative anyway. This means many PE funds are highlighting career development, training opportunities and work-life balance initiatives on top of benefits within compensation packages such as carried interest.

In many cases, work-life balance initiatives are focused around employee wellbeing and look at offering benefits based on flexibility and further support, ensuring talent retention and creating a more harmonious working environment.

With this in mind, let’s flip the question around. Who are PE funds looking for?

As the PE sector grows, the variation in finance professionals being picked from the market is growing with it. We’re seeing that smaller funds are often looking to recruit professionals with broader skill sets – professionals that can handle multiple areas or disciplines are much more desirable here. 

Then, as funds grow in size, the most desirable professionals require higher levels of specialised knowledge, especially as the challenges become more complex and regulated.

It should be noted that – regardless of fund size – skilled finance professionals are still highly desirable in the market and certain skill sets are in demand, meaning much better career prospects and the potential for higher salaries.

Is Private Equity right for me?

So we’ve established that PE is a competitive – and potentially lucrative – industry for finance professionals. But is it right for you?

PE professionals often work long hours, operate in stressful environments and have to utilise a range of different skills.

If you’re looking to get into private equity, consider an internship or building experience in sectors such as investment banking, audit or investment analysis. These are all industries that can help you build a desirable skill set which transfers directly into private equity. 

Outside of this experience, you’ll also typically want the right qualifications and exceptional ‘soft’ skills such as networking, problem solving and critical thinking. With all of these skills together, you have a great foundation for building a career in private equity.

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