Coronavirus update: the impact on private equity hiring, by Rupert Bell, Principal Consultant

18 March 2020 | Rupert Bell, Director of DACH

In response to the current Coronavirus situation, PER has largely moved to a home office set up. This has happened remarkably successfully so far with our investment last year into enhanced IT really paying dividends. We are operating smoothly after an almost seamless transition and remain very much open for business.

We are monitoring the health of all our colleagues closely, as our top priority. As of March 17th we have no declared Coronavirus cases, though a couple of colleagues are self-isolating as a precaution.

Unsurprisingly, our contact with the private equity market reveals a lot of uncertainty with many clients putting their contingency plans into action. Home working is widely prevalent across all our active markets, in some cases confirmed for as long as three months. A number of firms have told us that they do not anticipate making new investments in the next six months and are now focused largely on protecting portfolio asset.

In that context, hiring has clearly become more challenging. Several firms are exploring switching in person interviews to video calls; others have pushed meeting dates back; a small number have paused processes indefinitely.

We have only heard of a couple of clients formally cancelling recruitment projects or declaring a headcount freeze. At present for most firms, recruitment appears to be a timing issue rather than a change of plan.

To a lesser degree we also see caution among a few candidates, uneasy about making any changes in this environment, but the vast majority of live candidates remain active and keen to progress.

Despite the uncertainty, we continue to take on several new mandates across various functions from investing to value creation and roles within portfolio companies. Investor relations teams in particular are now working flat out to address LP questions and we see early signs of a surge in demand for this skill set.

There is also emerging evidence of opportunistic behaviour, with some multi-strategy funds pivoting search criteria. For example, some are turning from growth investing to distressed credit. We hear of certain well capitalised firms with very long-term horizons contemplating tactical hiring to take advantage of any top performers who may be dislodged from existing competitors.

If you’d like to discuss your firm’s hiring plans or hear more about our perspective on the market, please get in touch.

About the author

Rupert is a Principal Consultant, Director of DACH and a member of our leadership team. He set up and leads our DACH business, opening in Munich in 2010, Frankfurt in 2017 and Zürich in 2020.

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