We asked some of the leading figures from the institutions represented in the Global Investor 100 five questions on today’s private equity market. In the third of five articles, these executives share their biggest concerns regarding their private equity portfolios. You can find the other four articles in the index box to the right of this page and on the Global Investor 100 welcome page.
What’s your biggest concern regarding your private equity portfolio?
Sebastiaan Ranner, senior manager, private equity and infrastructure, MN (35)
“Overleveraged positions within PE portfolio with liquidity needs that were not planned for in the fund.”
Vipon Ghai, global head of private equity and credit at Manulife Investment Management (26)
“As the asset class continues to attract additional limited partners and general partners, the competition for assets continues to increase entry multiples. Combined with the amount of uninvested capital available, there could be downward pressure on industry-wide returns.”
Investment staff, Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association (53)
“One of our main concerns is whether the companies in our portfolio have sufficient liquidity to survive this downturn, given the high level of leverage employed by many GPs in recent years. While most of our managers took steps such as reducing costs and drawing down revolvers to improve liquidity positions across our portfolio, this issue remains top of mind.”
Chris Phillips, spokesman, Washington State Investment Board (9)
“With a 23 percent target allocation for PE, the WSIB must concern itself with continually finding sufficient high-quality PE fund opportunities at a scale sufficient to satisfy the size and due diligence requirements of our programme.”
Robert Coke, head of buyout and residential property, Wellcome Trust (25)
“It is always people. We take great care to know who the best investors are within each firm. While there will inevitably be turnover we watch carefully to ensure a good investment process will continue.”
Steve Moseley, head of alternative investments, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (34)
“A sustained market downturn is the greatest near-term threat to returns but that kind of downdraft would be temporary and self-healing. Lower returns imply lower prices, and lower prices lead to better returns. We’ve tried to position our portfolio to deliver strong returns across cycles and across generations. The greater damage to our PE portfolio could be self-inflicted. To sustain strong performance, we need to invest in our own business. That should include, for example, investing in excellent information systems, skilled investment professionals, and multiple offices.
Leadership in PE requires significant and continuing investment in these areas, yet our operating budget is subject to ever-changing state fiscal and political limitations. If we don’t address this structural flaw, we’ll ultimately and inevitably fail to deliver the results Alaska needs.”
David Enriquez, head of private equity, New York City Retirement Systems (New York City Employees’ Retirement System (63), Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York (70))
“In the post-covid environment and an economic recession, the main focus on our private equity portfolio is to diligently monitor performance and potential problem areas. While we have seen a decline in valuations from 31 December to 31 March, the impact has not been uniform and has been driven by exposure to industry sectors and business models.
For the balance of 2020, we will want to understand the valuations of second and third quarters where we will see a more meaningful impact of the pandemic and economic contraction on the operations of portfolio companies. Given this environment… our team is going to continue to focus on understanding the operating capabilities of managers as well as their approaches and any changes to valuation methodologies.”
Guy Lodewyckx, head of private markets multi-management, Amundi Group (57)
“Of course, we expect some losses in our portfolios, but we are confident that GPs will be able to handle most of the problems. Ability to create value even in downturns is one of our criteria when we select funds. Furthermore, this crisis will definitely provide very good investment opportunities.”
Spokesperson, Universities Superannuation Scheme (46)
“Our biggest concern is that as the PE industry has enjoyed ever increasing assets under management, the industry has become complacent on costs and fees at a time when the rest of the asset management industry has been consolidating. As returns compress in the current environment, we are encouraged to focus on delivering the benefits of private asset ownership at a lower cost to our members, through both our direct investments across asset classes, as well as through a rigorous approach to the cost of investing through funds.”