A look back at 20 years of the PEI Awards is a trip down memory lane in the private equity industry. When we first launched the awards in 2001, Terra Firma Capital Partners founder Guy Hands was named Private Equity Personality of the year; SJBerwin was voted Best Law Firm; and Merrill Lynch took the gong for Best Placement Agent.

Two decades on and the PEI Awards 2021 – and the private equity industry at large – is looking very different indeed. For starters, the Awards have moved on from a mere 18 categories focusing solely on Europe, to 72 categories globally. They seek to highlight the achievements of much more than just GPs, law firms and placement agents: specialised strategies such as energy, healthcare and impact investing are all represented, as well as 12 categories for the burgeoning secondaries market.

Of course, the stalwarts of the Awards categories remain, including Firm of the Year in all three global regions across Large-Cap and the Mid-Market; Deal of the Year; and Limited Partner of the Year.

This year we’ve added one new category to the mix: Growth Equity Firm of the Year. Growth as a strategy has blossomed, with almost $105 billion raised in the first three quarters of this year alone – a figure that’s almost double the amount raised in the whole of last year. Firms including Blackstone, EQT and Permira have all launched growth strategies in recent years, while GPs dedicated to growth continue to raise their own record-sized funds – such as Summit Partners’ $8.35 billion haul for its 11th flagship in September.

We’re also hearing examples of turnaround shops such as Sun Capital Management and Apollo Global Management spinout Intriva pivoting to growth, as we outlined last month. This change of direction is motivated by a glut of capital and manager expertise for the strategy, against the backdrop of a largely uninterrupted 12-year bull market, according to conversations with market sources.

This year’s awards come at what feels like an inflection point for the private equity industry. Fundraising continues to break records, with $535 billion amassed in final closes in the first nine months of this year alone – the highest amount for this period since the global financial crisis. The definition of the mega-fund is being pushed to its boundaries, with Blackstone reportedly set to seek as much as $30 billion for its next flagship private equity vehicle and firms including Carlyle Group and Advent International seeking similarly eye-watering amounts.

The industry is also redefining the way it raises capital. The retail opportunity – which includes anything from 401(k) pension plan money to capital from mass affluent and high-net-worth individuals – represents a serious opportunity for firms that have until now largely focused on managing institutional capital. With North American and European households alone holding an estimated €129 trillion of financial assets, according to data from Allianz, it’s an opportunity that many firms can no longer afford to ignore.

It’s within this dynamic and evolving environment that we’re seeking to highlight those firms and institutions at the forefront of leading change and innovation – and we need your help to do so. While the PEI Awards remain the only industry awards decided by the industry, it is PEI editorial staff who put together the shortlists. Over the next two weeks, we invite you to send us details of how your firm has stood out in the past 12 months and why you think you deserve to be shortlisted. Submissions close on Tuesday 16 November and voting begins in early December.

We can’t wait to hear from you.

Find details of the PEI Awards 2021 submission process here.