Nigel Dawn

Nigel Dawn

The secondaries market has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 21 years. In the GP-led secondaries segment of the market, where fund sponsors arrange optional liquidity processes for their LPs, few firms have been as successful as Evercore.

The investment bank’s private capital advisory (PCA) group has worked on more secondaries transactions by dollar volume than any other firm since 2019, according to data compiled by affiliate title Secondaries Investor. In 2021, Evercore advised on $59.4 billion-worth of such deals – more than two-and-a-half times that of its closest rival.

Leading the PCA group of Evercore’s secondaries practice is Nigel Dawn. Dawn didn’t orchestrate the industry’s first continuation fund. Instead, his contribution to the private equity industry has been in the way he and the team he leads have driven the boom in sponsors running continuation fund processes.

In recent years, Evercore, under Dawn’s purview, has helped the likes of General Atlantic, BC Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Leonard Green & Partners, Clearlake Capital and Summit Partners with transactions that allowed them to hold onto assets via continuation vehicles.

Dawn’s first foray into the world of secondaries began in 2003 when UBS sold $1.3 billion-worth of private equity fund interests held on its balance sheet to HarbourVest Partners. That deal eventually led to UBS deciding it could sell its expertise to others by launching an advisory business – with Dawn, who had joined six years prior, at the helm the following year.

A decade later, Dawn and fellow UBS executive Nicolas Lanel emerged at Evercore to launch a secondaries advisory business on both sides of the Atlantic. They set about building a team that remains largely intact today, including London-based Lea Lazaric Calvert, Jasmine Hunet and Francesca Paveri, who today are the most senior executives in Evercore’s European secondaries business.

In the early 2000s, there was still a stigma attached to LPs selling stakes in a limited partnership, Dawn tells PEI. “Many GPs viewed an LP requesting a transfer like they were receiving a divorce request from a spouse,” he says.

Did he ever imagine the secondaries market would evolve to a $134 billion industry? “No,” he says. “I would not have imagined the best GPs in the world would systematically use the secondaries market as a strategic tool.”

Secondaries technology is still evolving, and the continuation fund market will be here to stay, he adds.

Dawn – who is the son of a steelworker-come-postal worker and a nursery school teacher – says he would like to see the benefits of and access to PE shared more broadly among the working population. He also says the asset class becoming more liquid would help its growth.

“The derivatives market only really took off with the advent of standardised ISDA documentation. PE needs to walk a similar path – the secondaries market would expand materially – potentially exponentially,” says Dawn.

David Blood
Generation Investment Management

David Blood

Known for being ahead of the game in climate-focused investing, David Blood co-founded one of the first sustainability-focused managers in 2004 alongside former US vice-president Al Gore. Today, the firm has more than $36 billion in assets under management and invests around four core strategies: growth equity, long-term equity, global equity and Asia equity. Generation Investment Management continues to make waves: last year, it launched Just Climate, an investment business aimed at addressing the net-zero challenge at scale.

“We launched Generation with a singular mission: to deliver strong, risk-adjusted investment performance by taking a long-term view and integrating sustainability and [ESG] research into our decision making,” Blood wrote in 2021. “Quite simply, we wanted to prove that sustainable investing was in fact the most sensible way to invest.”

While there is still some way to go before sustainable investing can be called the central focus of private equity, it’s clear that Blood’s mission is making progress across the financial markets. A barrage of climate-focused funds have landed in the market over recent years and, according to Generation’s Sustainability Trends Report 2022, private and public annual investment in the clean economy is surging towards $1 trillion.

Aside from his role as founding partner and senior partner at the firm, Blood is chair of Just Climate, chair of not-for-profit Social Finance UK and co-chair of the World Resources Institute. Prior to founding Generation, he spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs.

Sir Ronald Cohen

Sir Ronald Cohen
Global Steering Group for Impact Investment

Sir Ronald Cohen stands out among influential figures in private equity; he has not only shaped its history, but has a hand in its future.

Cohen co-founded the firm now known as Apax Partners. From its establishment in 1972 as a venture capital investor, it has developed into one of PE’s enduring brands. In 2002, Cohen co-founded Bridges Ventures, a firm with a mission to combine attractive financial returns with positive societal outcomes, and to galvanise the creation of the impact investment movement. Twenty years later, Bridges Fund Management is known as a pioneer in an impact field that is now attracting floods of institutional capital.

Cohen is often referred to as the father of impact investing. The full list of global initiatives that he has either conceived or had a hand in is too long to relate here, but includes UK-based socially focused investor Big Society Capital, and Social Finance, a not-for-profit consulting organisation that helps governments and other entities tackle social problems.

Having helped shape the venture capital, private equity and impact investing fields, Cohen continues in his efforts to channel institutional capital to where it will create positive impact. Alongside his chairmanship of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, he is chair of the Impact Weighted Accounts Initiative at Harvard Business School. The IWAI was launched in 2019 to find a way of measuring and accounting for impact in a “single measurement unit, money”, wrote Cohen in a recent essay.

“This new level of transparency (made possible by artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data) has the potential to transform our whole economic system,” he wrote. “It will enable investors, talent and consumers to distinguish reliably between the positive and negative impacts of companies.”

Lawrence Calcano, Dan Vene and Nick Veronis

Lawrence Calcano

Private equity has long been looking for ways to access the private wealth market – a granular, but lucrative, source of capital at scale. Though an increasing number of fundraising platforms have sprung up to smooth the gap, iCapital is arguably the only one close to moving the needle. As of 30 September 2022, it serviced more than $148 billion in assets globally. By comparison, its closest peers have each raised less than $5 billion.

iCapital is led by chairman and CEO Lawrence Calcano, and co-founders and managing partners Dan Vene and Nick Veronis. Calcano began advising and working with iCapital shortly after it was founded in 2013, and joined full time as chief executive in early 2014.

Dan Vene

Vene is head of iCapital Marketplace and leads platform integration with banks, asset managers, wirehouses and other large-scale organisations. Prior to founding iCapital, Vene was head of private real estate capital raising at Fir Tree Partners.

Veronis is head of portfolio management at the business. He previously spent 11 years at mid-market PE firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

iCapital is quickly becoming one of the most influential players when it comes to accessing private wealth at scale. Its significance is reflected in the types of organisations that have already invested in the company itself, including Blackstone, UBS and Singaporean state investor Temasek.

Nick Veronis

At a time when many institutions are finding themselves overexposed to the asset class, new sources of capital are becoming ever more important. iCapital, with its feeder funds and white-label fundraising technology, will be at the forefront of private equity’s push into these untapped pools of funding.

Calcano tells Private Equity International that technology will be key to optimising access to the asset class as it opens up. Going forward, he says, “we would like to see advisers help create successful outcomes for clients through exposure to the best managers across private markets with the right technology, tools, education and access”.

Kathy Jeramaz-Larson
Formerly at ILPA

Kathy Jeramaz-Larson

Kathy Jeramaz-Larson made significant contributions to the PE industry and to the Institutional Limited Partners Association during her tenure as executive director at the organisation. She led the group between 2007 and 2015, through what was arguably the most transformative era in the private equity industry for LPs. Most notable was the development of ILPA’s Private Equity Principles, released in 2009 and updated in 2011, and used by LPs to guide the negotiation of favourable fund terms in the limited partnership agreement. The best practices – relating to the alignment of interest between GPs and LPs, fund governance, transparency and reporting – are widely credited for facilitating greater dialogue on fund expenses and fees during LPA negotiations, with GPs conceding more fees back to the fund.

Under her leadership, ILPA created reporting templates aimed at standardising documentation around capital calls and distribution notices. In 2012, ILPA teamed up with Cambridge Associates to create a PE benchmark using funds from its own members. The result was a proprietary index of more than 1,800 funds, owned by ILPA’s members at that time.

“[Her] tremendous legacy at ILPA involves having grown the organisation from a small group of LPs to a leading global private equity association with more than 318 members,” said Michael Mazzola, former ILPA chairman and ex-MetLife Investments managing director, in a statement about her departure in 2015.

Jeramaz-Larson went on to run boutique strategic consultancy KJL Consulting, before retiring last year, per her LinkedIn profile.