GPs employing portfolio talent managers to find C-suite execs

Private markets firms are seeking in-house expertise to oversee their portfolio people needs, writes Dean Terry, head of HR, legal and compliance search at recruitment firm PER.

Dean Terry: “The war for talent is as prevalent in the portfolio as it is in-house”

“As our in-house portfolio talent manager, you’ll be an integral part of our portfolio management team working across the portfolio to design, build and deliver talent strategies that ensure the success of our investments.”

So says the typical job description that is increasingly falling across our desk. But what does it mean?

The war for talent is as prevalent in the portfolio as it is in-house, and accessing that talent is key for value creation. It is no wonder that private markets firms are seeking to bring a professional in-house to focus on their portfolio people needs. Not only does this include identifying and bringing on board C-suite professionals in a traditional recruitment sense, but also the management development to ensure the selected C-suite delivers the value envisaged for each investment.

The first challenge for our in-house portfolio talent manager is the identification of portfolio CEOs before the investment is made. And yet there is no guarantee the investment will be made.

This means that many investors are building highly screened talent pools of CEOs and other C-suite professionals in their key sectors. Our in-house PTM is often responsible for bringing together the knowledge that lives in the collective conscious of the investment professionals within the firm. Everyone knows someone, and everyone has a view on the effectiveness of that person. However, accessing and collating this considerable amount of ‘people intelligence’ is a challenge – one that will fall under the remit of the PTM.

Building relationships

Alongside the in-house knowledge, our PTM will also be building relationships with relevant search providers, as well as, sometimes, managing searches themselves. The key word here is relationships. Our PTM is managing a delicate balance of harnessing knowledge, accessing key industry leaders, and keeping relationships warm when, in reality, they may only be putting a small number of CEOs into play in the portfolio each year.

On top of this, our PTM is also looking to use increasingly sophisticated assessment tools to build teams and predict their likely level of success. Psychometric profiling is pretty much standard now for the portfolio, and while our PTM may not be delivering the assessments, they are well aware of the range of tools in the market and the most appropriate tool for each situation.

And it doesn’t stop there. In the last 18 months another acronym has appeared in the lexicon of our PTM: ESG. They now need to add an ESG lens to everything they do. Portfolio management teams and boards need to be diverse. Standards of corporate behaviour need to be exemplary and ESG people issues need to be handled decisively, consistently and promptly.

So, would you want to do this job? I would. It brings together ‘human capital’ technical knowledge and techniques, influential and effective relationship management, and a problem-solving and opportunity-creating buzz to the everyday. There is also tangible, measurable and accountable evidence of a job well done. When the PTM is the first person the investment partner calls to discuss making the next deal work, you know you’ve got it right.

Dean Terry is head of HR, legal and compliance search at recruitment firm PER.