This article originally appeared on BusinessDay.
Six years into a private equity (PE) cycle that has seen strong buyout activity, wide-open exit channels, prodigious fund-raising and solid returns coming out of the global financial crisis, there has never been a better time to be a general partner (GP).
Yet, as we explain in Bain & Company’s Global Private Equity Report 2016, the extraordinary fund-raising conditions, which produced a high tide of capital from limited partners (LPs) to float nearly all new funds introduced by GPs, will give way over the next year or two to a more competitive scramble to win the backing of LPs.
A tighter balance between GPs’ supply of new funds and LPs’ demand will continue to favour the largest and best-performing GPs. Large GPs that have a less impressive track record and mid-market PE firms hoping to grow to mega-fund status will encounter more resistance from LPs when the current excess of capital subsides. They will no longer be able to siphon off some of the spillover LPs have been willing to send their way, as they currently are doing. Sponsors of smaller and mid-market funds that have underperformed in the past may still be able to garner some capital, but they will be at a distinct disadvantage compared with their more sharply focused peers as fund-raising conditions slightly soften.
A past history of success will always be crucial, but the ability of GPs to clearly communicate how their investment approach differentiates them from their peers has become table stakes for winning investor confidence and financial backing. Indeed, a sound, differentiated strategy is increasingly viewed as the platform on which successful and durable future performance can be built. It will be the centrepiece of the once-in-a-generation transition that many PE firms are now wrestling with as they set their sights on rising to the industry’s top tier.
Hugh MacArthur and Graham Elton are leaders of Bain & Company’s Private Equity Group. Andrei Vorobyov is a Bain & Company partner based in Johannesburg where he leads Africa’s Private Equity and M&A Practices.