21 Changemakers putting their stamp on the asset class

PEI’s list of 21 Changemakers highlights the pioneers, partners and personalities who have had an outsized impact on the industry, and those whose actions continue to shape its future.

In 2011, to mark the 10th anniversary of its founding, Private Equity International compiled a ranking of the ‘100 most influential’ people of the decade. At the time, we noted that while private equity was not then a “mainstream part of investment management”, it was on the verge of becoming one. Gone were the days of it being considered a cottage industry, and it was the professionals included in the ranking, we argued, that were responsible for the transformation of the asset class.

Today, private equity has become a typical part of many institutional investors’ portfolios, and the asset class is also beginning to open up to less traditional investor profiles, such as defined contribution pension schemes and retail investors. The market has evolved significantly over the last 10 years, but what about the people behind it? 

With PEI celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, we decided to spotlight 21 changemakers who have made a splash in the industry since we began covering it.

As in 2011, it was an almost impossible task to whittle the movers and shakers in private equity down to a finite list, with the added difficulty this time around of filling just 21 spots rather than the more generous 100. But try we did, and after much debate among PEI’s editorial team – past and present – we narrowed our selection down to those we believe have helped shape private equity into the industry it is today. 

Not only is our 21st anniversary list of influencers more compact than our 10th anniversary edition, it also eschews the idea of ranking them. Today’s list includes not just individuals, but groups of co-founders or co-leaders. Some have been active in the industry for decades and their stature in private equity is undeniable. Others have started making waves more recently, but their work looks set to help direct the future course of the asset class.

Among them you will find founders of some of the biggest names in private markets, pioneers who have moved the needle in areas such as ESG and impact investing, and visionaries who have developed innovative practices and put new or once-niche market segments on the map. The selection also features individuals who have championed DE&I, and as efforts such as theirs begin to prompt more meaningful change across the industry, we hope that there will be greater diversity among founders and senior leaders over the years ahead. 

There are, of course, many people worthy of inclusion in the list who have been omitted. Each reader likely has their own idea of who should have been featured, and no doubt these vary widely. In 2011 we wrote that our list of ‘100 most influential’ individuals was unlikely to be our last “because to us this is a business in which people have always mattered greatly”. This still holds true today. Any industry as relationship-driven as private equity would be nothing without the people behind it. 

If PEI repeats this exercise when it reaches its next major milestone, we shall see whether our choices for the 21 Changemakers list has stood the test of time. Until then, we will continue to cover the ongoing transformation of the asset class and the individuals driving it forward.

21 Changemakers coverage written by Helen de Beer, Madeleine Farman, Louise Fordham, Adam Le, Alex Lynn, Carmela Mendoza, Toby Mitchenall, Hannah Roberts and Tobias Waters.