In search of the rainmakers

Talented individuals can still make the difference in the world of private equity fundraising.

What does it mean to be a rainmaker in today’s private equity market? It is a divisive question.

Some people – including Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein – question the use of the phrase in today’s industry.

“With the amount of due diligence, compliance and legal factors, it’s very unlikely that anyone is going to be able to persuade investors to go into a fund by themselves,” he told PEI last week.

But others disagreed; yes, the market is different to that of the 1990s and early 2000s, but the value of a talented individual still makes the difference. The skillset required, however, has evolved.

One veteran fundraiser argued that, in the past, a rainmaker would have sat in a placement agent’s distribution team – persuading investors this was a proposition not to be missed. The modern rainmaker, on the other hand, is more likely to be the project manager, deciding which GPs are worth working with and helping to shape their propositions.

This example assumes the rainmaker is a placement agent, not an in-house professional. But the make-up of our inaugural Rainmaker 50 list is one-third external, two-thirds internal. As the private equity asset class has developed, GPs have taken their fundraising in-house, often plucking placement professionals from banks or independent shops – something Rubenstein pioneered. Clearly it is possible to operate within an established private equity business and be considered a rainmaker by one’s peers.

Which brings us to the methodology. To compile the Rainmaker 50, Private Equity International’s editorial team surveyed senior professionals across the globe asking them to nominate fundraisers. The question was simple: if you were raising a fund, who would you want on your team and why? Respondents were only allowed to nominate people from outside of their own organisation and only nominees were included.

The results comprise a spectrum of talented fundraisers, including bankers, firm founders, the young, the old, those who have shepherded tens of billions into strategies and those who have taken risks on small first-time funds.

What does it mean to be a modern rainmaker? One proffered this definition: either they have put someone in business who otherwise would not be, or they have the power to turn an investor “no” into a “yes”. Looking across our list, there are plenty of both.