Business Support careers in Private Equity; A guide
A Guide to Business Support Careers in the Private Equity Industry
Private equity firms always attract top candidates, not only in the private equity and finance roles but in the business support roles as well. With the excellent remuneration and benefits on offer, exceptionally high standards are the norm. Recruiters are therefore very selective in their assessments of candidates for the business support positions as these roles play a critical part in the smooth running of the firm.
While sector experience is generally preferred, the soft skills required to make the business support as seamless and effective as possible are regarded as equally important. Being highly organised, skilled at multi-tasking, professional and calm under pressure in this fast-paced.
What are the different roles in Business Support?
Business support roles in private equity include receptionist, team assistant, personal assistant, executive assistant, and office manager. These roles are responsible for providing administrative and operational support to the organisation.
Opportunities exist for candidates looking for their first job (i.e. from school or university) as well as experienced candidates looking for more senior positions. Often candidates start as receptionists and work their way up, as this is a perfect opportunity to get your foot in the door. The receptionist role is not to be underestimated as it is often the best way to gain valuable experience and subsequently progressing upwards by proving yourself. More often than not, after 12 to 18 months the receptionist is offered a step upwards to a team assistant position or similar. Also, reception jobs are no longer just the meet and greet roles of the past, but far more involved in the administration and operational support of the business as a whole.
Team assistants support the business teams within the company, such as the EMEA team, or the Business Development team. They will often be supporting between three and fifteen people and their remit covers diaries, travel, expenses, database management, reports and other administrative tasks. They are ideally skilled at multitasking and prioritising work in a high-pressure environment. Once you are experienced in managing the busy team assistant role, you can quite easily progress to a personal assistant role. When we spot candidates that have successfully worked as team assistant at a private equity firm, they are the first candidates we will contact for our relevant business support roles.
The personal assistant and executive assistant roles are more senior than the team assistant roles, and they generally support fewer – but more senior people. Theirs is an immensely important job that often entails incredibly long hours and requires unwavering professionalism combined with exceptional organisational skills. Working effectively as their boss’s right hand, executive assistants often act as ambassadors for their bosses and might be called upon to represent them in meetings and reporting back with essential notes. Depending on the firm, they can also be involved in wider project management and assisting in tasks relating to senior business decisions, making industry knowledge a great advantage.
In smaller private equity companies, executive assistants sometimes manage a few senior partners, as well as covering the office manager role. They play an integral part in the smooth running of the office and those roles are often quite substantial, varied and very well remunerated.
What academics and skills are needed for a Business Support career in Private Equity?
Graduates are often preferred in private equity, depending on the seniority of the role. Some clients prefer graduates more emphatically than others and will insist on a relevant degree such as a Business or Economics degree from a good university. They find it imperative that their executive assistants understand the sector they are working in. Other clients are less concerned with candidates’ degrees and are more interested in their relevant experience and fit with the company culture. Conversely, candidates with very good degrees are sometimes less keen on the entry level jobs and aim straight for the higher-level jobs. We always say a year or two in an entry level job is a great base from which to proceed as you will not only gain invaluable experience, but it will also enhance your CV with work experience in the sector – alongside your good degree.
Relevant experience within private equity is often preferred. If not private equity specific, then finance, such as venture capital, family office, private wealth and sometimes investment banking. In the business support roles, it is not as crucial as in the finance or investment roles, but certain clients do insist upon it.
Languages within private equity are hugely advantageous. If you are a team assistant, chances are there will be members in the team you are supporting who will be French, German or Italian, for example. We are often asked to find candidates who are English but with business level second languages relevant to the companies or teams. However, while second and third languages are certainly beneficial, they are by no means essential for many roles.
Does Private Equity have one-to-one Executive Assistant roles?
From time to time, private equity does still have one-to-one executive assistant roles, but fewer now than in the past. Clients today are prioritising value for money, although there are still the rare occasions when a senior figure has their own executive assistant. Far more common is that executive assistants support three or four senior partners or associates. We always urge candidates to be flexible in this respect as these roles are notably senior and well remunerated.
What is the role of an Office Manager?
The office manager is the eyes and ears of the office. They are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office, including tasks such as supervising staff, managing budgets, coordinating meetings, dealing with landlords, maintaining office supplies and overseeing administrative tasks. They ensure that new staff have everything they need when they join the company and are correctly set up in terms of equipment and technology. Office managers also oversee day to day troubleshooting, general office procedures and protocols as well as managing bigger projects such as office moves and office events. The office manager job is incredibly varied and interesting as no two days are ever the same.
Getting to the position of office manager can vary. On the one hand there are office managers who have been in this role since their early career, and on the other hand there are personal assistants or executive assistants who are given the role of office manager as part of their remit. These are often working in a smaller office of around 10 to 15 people where the firm does not require a full-time position for this role. An office manager can also advance to the position of operations manager, a more senior role with a broader remit that involves a more strategic approach to the overall productivity and efficiency of the business.
Do Private Equity firms have graduate opportunities, or do I need to gain experience elsewhere?
Private equity firms do not usually have graduate schemes for business support roles. If you are a graduate and you want a foot in the door, getting in at the bottom and working your way up from receptionist or junior team assistant, for example, is an effective way to go about it. The experience gained will be invaluable for your career progression. Even if you hate your first job, try to ride it out for at least one year. Recruiters and their clients hugely value job stability in this sector, so short stints at various previous companies are often regarded with suspicion. For business support roles, an average of three years is regarded as a decent amount of time in one role. Across the board in private equity, no matter what your role, stability in previous jobs is seen as key.
The differences between support roles in Private Equity funds and Private Wealth firms
There is not a significant difference between the support roles in private equity funds and private wealth firms. Private equity firms tend to prefer private equity experience and some clients do insist upon it. Private wealth firms are generally not so sector specific and are slightly more relaxed, although strong interpersonal and IT skills are prized, as private wealth often involves sophisticated CRM systems. Private wealth is more about the people, and soft skills are as highly valued as organisational skills since many of the executive assistants will be dealing directly with the HNW clients and investors.
Summary and next steps
Candidates who get the business support jobs and who ultimately rise to the top are the ones who really want the jobs and show a keen interest in what the firm does, displaying a willingness to go further than just administrative support and sharing a passion for the work and direction of the company.
Now that you have a better idea of what is required in the private equity business support roles, you can plan your career progression in this sector. If you would like to discuss this in more detail with us, please get in touch. With our wide-ranging client base from niche boutique specialists and smaller Family Offices, to diversified multi-fund investment firms, we have a reputation for providing the absolute best talent to the UK market.