At PER, I work on private equity and venture capital roles across Europe, but having started my recruitment career at a Polish executive search firm, I have a particular interest in the Central and Eastern European market.
To find out more about private equity roles in Central and Eastern Europe, how you can find your perfect role there, and how to get ahead in private equity more generally, I spoke to an investment professional we recently placed in a private equity position in Warsaw, Poland.
Sizable and quality assets that are transactionable are scarce, but small and mid-cap funds should not complain. Deal activity is increasing, also fuelled by more debt funding available from local banks that seem more and more comfortable with LBO-type leverage levels. Obviously, every now and then the good sentiment is disrupted with one-offs, but it happens in all industries.
After I graduated from the Warsaw School of Economics, I started applying to various investment banks in London for an internship. Luckily, I managed to secure a three-month spring internship in one of the top tier banks within their M&A team. The internship went well and I got a full time offer that I accepted and stayed in the bank for almost four more years until I was promoted to associate level. During that intense period I had the chance to learn from talented senior colleagues and I gained the skillset required in the finance industry: work ethic, corporate finance knowledge and project management.
While leading one project for a private equity client, I got to know and work more closely with the senior team. Following successful completion of the project, they offered me a place in their team as they were actually looking for a mid-level investment professional. I took my chance.
Most of my colleagues at the investment bank knew from day one that private equity was their desired career path. They started private equity interviews for entry-level roles as soon as they had one or two years of experience in investment banking. In my case, there was a bit of luck and coincidence as I was not actively looking to move into private equity when the opportunity presented itself.
Investment baking or management consulting experience is key to prove that a potential private equity candidate has the solid finance fundamentals. In Central and Eastern Europe big four M&A or investment banking experience means a lot, especially for small / mid-cap private equity firms. This is the most common route into private equity in Central and Eastern Europe.
Personality is extremely important. Be confident but humble, nobody wants to work with arrogant people. Smile and be kind. I personally pay a lot of attention to a candidate’s sense of humour when I’m interviewing. In most cases it’s proof of intelligence – and emotional intelligence.
Take your time to prepare well for interviews: do LBO modelling tests, research deal activity and come up with good questions for your interviewer. All of these things are a must. Also, try to maintain contact with your colleagues who are already in private equity, so that you know about potential open roles well in advance of the wider recruitment process. Sometimes timing is crucial to filling the vacancy.
If you’re interested in working in private equity in Central and Eastern Europe, get in touch to find out about our opportunities.