Leading Private Equity Firms Use Well-Honed Strategies to Stand Out

Leading Private Equity Firms Use Well-Honed Strategies to Stand Out

The extraordinary fund-raising conditions of 2015 will give way over the next year or two to a more competitive scramble to win the backing of limited partners.

  • min read


Leading Private Equity Firms Use Well-Honed Strategies to Stand Out

This article originally appeared on

Six years into a private equity 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 newly released 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 favor the largest and best-performing GPs. Large GPs that have a less impressive track record and mid-market PE firms hoping to grow to megafund 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 centerpiece 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.

The fundamentals of a good strategy cannot be put in place overnight. Sound strategy begins with a PE firm’s senior members clearly articulating their ambitions for sustained wealth creation. It is, in essence, a statement of the character of the firm, aligned with its broader team of investment professionals and shared with its investors. Not a mere overlay of committee-generated objectives, a firm’s ambition is the capstone of its organic structure, built from the bottom up on a sound organizational foundation, supported by fund-raising capabilities and support services that enable strategy to succeed. It is informed by an ongoing deliberative process between the firm’s leadership and its deal teams to assess which investment areas to pursue and, within those areas, what specific strengths it will bring to bear to ensure that it can compete and win.


From this overarching ambition-inspired vision, built on capabilities and a high-performance organization, the strategy-driven firm derives concrete goals; for example, to be the preferred technology partner for leading LPs and to develop a suite of investment vehicles that fully exploit the firm’s talents and insights. The goals, then, guide the firm to a statement of concrete performance targets.

As we will see in future installments of this series, leading GPs—whether they are large global players across many asset classes or tightly focused specialist boutiques—are deepening their strategies to sharpen their competitive edge.

Hugh MacArthur, Graham Elton, Dan Haas and Suvir Varma are leaders of Bain & Company’s Private Equity Group. Carl Evander is a principal in Bain’s Private Equity Group.


Ready to talk?

We work with ambitious leaders who want to define the future, not hide from it. Together, we achieve extraordinary outcomes.