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How to make it in private equity before you’re 35

Getting into private equity

How to make it private equity when you're young enough to enjoy it

You want to become a big thing in private equity, and to do so before you’re too old? Financial News has a new list of the 40 private equity stars under 40 in Europe. Nine of them are aged under-35. What do these role-models have in common? Well….

1. Study at a top school

Private equity funds like brands. They like to hire from other big brand employers and they like to hire people who’ve studied at big brand universities. Scarlett Omar-Broca, a 33-year-old executive director at Goldman Sachs’ principal investment unit studied at prestigious French school HEC. 31-year-old Vivan Berseka at Generation Investment Management, studied maths at Harvard before taking an MBA at INSEAD. Malcolm Coffin, a 34-year-old investment director at Inflexion has an MA in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University. Choose your educational establishment carefully.

2. Begin your career in investment banking 

Investment banking provides a well-recognized nursery slope for people hoping to graduate to the more exciting peak of private equity. Benjamin Alt, a 32-year-old German who deals with Adveq’s investment activity in Europe, started his career at Sal Oppenheim. Coffin spent some time in M&A at Rothschild. 30-year-old Charles Dunlop, a senior vice president at Cerberus Capital Management, started out at Goldman Sachs.

3. Begin your career at the Big Four

In Europe, there’s also a trend for private equity professionals to start out in audit. Before moving to Rothschild, Coffin was at Deloitte. Ross Morrison, a 34-year-old principal at Adams Street Partners, began his career at EY.

In the US, it’s more common to move into PE from consulting. Only one of Financial News’ young European stars took this route: 33 year-old Pete Wilson, who went from Accenture’s strategy group to 3i.

4. Attach yourself to some big deals  

You make your name in private equity with the deals you do. The bigger the deals, the bigger your chances of adulation. At Cerberus, for example, 30 year-old Dunlap can boast of, ‘leading the acquisition of UK mortgage lender CHL Capital and its loans book originally worth around £2.5 billion from CHL’s parent Permanent TSB’ and of leading, ‘the €1bn deal to buy Nordic real estate loans from Danish bad bank Finansiel Stabilitet in 2014.’ Most of the other young stars have similar ten figure deals to their names.

5. Get noticed 

Clearly it will help if the people at the top think you’re special. We hear that Benjamin Alt worked with ‘Tim Creed, head of Adveq’s European investment programme’, exposure which can’t have done him any harm. Bertseka was hired into her first PE job (at Apollo) by another private equity star (Robert Ruberton). Coffin was specifically, ‘asked by Inflexion’s managing partners John Hartz and Simon Turner in early 2014 to lead the firm’s dual fundraising for the Inflexion Buyout fund IV and Inflexion Partnership Capital fund.’

6. Play sports 

Private equity funds like a jock. Morrison is a former county rugby player. Bertseka is a touch rugby enthusiast. Coffin is a marathon runner.


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