Next week more than 600 delegates will gather in New York for the biggest event in the private equity CFO’s calendar: the 17th annual PEI CFOs & COOs Forum.

Over two days some of the brightest brains in the industry will explore all aspects of the finance and operations of private equity firms. Topics on the agenda include cash management strategies, diversity and inclusion, adopting a firm-wide compliance culture and technology integration.

Here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to:

Discussion of PE’s licence to operate

Thanks to a confluence of factors – the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed Stop Wall Street Looting Act to name just two – whether private equity is a force for good in society has been an even hotter topic than usual in the mainstream press over the last six months. Expect some discussion of how the industry can better tell its story during this presidential election year. This is just as important from a fundraising perspective as it is for reputation: in a sign that limited partners may be internalising industry criticism, 73 percent of investor respondents to PEI’s latest LP Perspectives survey said fees charged by private equity funds are difficult to justify internally – up 10 percentage points from last year.

An assessment of the regulation pipeline

With the above in mind, expect delegates to share thoughts on any potential regulatory changes they’re preparing for, from accredited investor rules to advertising rules to potential changes to the taxation of carried interest.

Insight from the top

One man who can certainly shed light on any potential regulatory changes is the SEC’s William Hinman, director of the division of corporation finance and one of the event’s keynote speakers. Hinman is set to address some of CorpFin’s priorities, and initiatives and how they intersect with the private funds market, as well as how to get retail money into alternatives – a big question the industry is grappling with.

The CFO as strategist

Coming in the first month of a new decade – and with all the “forward-looking” connotations that come with a “2020” forum – expect lively discussion on how CFOs can steer their firms into the future. As arguably the linchpin of the firm, CFOs are uniquely positioned to strategically influence growth initiatives and their firms’ direction of travel – particularly crucial at such a time of change in the industry, when it’s very easy to get left behind.

ESG and climate risk

As we wrote in this column last week, private equity firms can’t afford to ignore the global climate crisis: it’s a very immediate risk factor with the potential to severely erode value and put limited partners off investing in managers’ funds. It will be interesting to hear how fund managers are internalising this, and PEI will be looking out for which managers are going beyond focusing on robust ESG policies to rigorously assess risk exposure across their portfolios.

Are you attending the CFOs & COOs Forum next week? Want to say hello? Drop me a note at isobel.m@peimedia.com