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IR Insights with Triton’s Amanda Tonsgaard

As part of our series of interviews with investor relations professionals, we sit down with Triton's head of investor services and communications to discuss retail investors, PTO and boxing.

In your conversations with LPs, what have they said is the biggest challenge for them at the moment?

I think they feel a bit under siege. There is a lot of activity in the market. BBB: busy, big-names, big funds. And the investors are keen to stay in the market, right? They don’t want to lose out on what could potentially be great vintages. It’s quite clear some of them need to make some very hard choices on where to spend their time, where to spend their capital.

Amanda Tonsgaard, Triton
Tonsgaard: We can also be a catalyst for creating a more sustainable world

When you talk to them, of course, you need track record, you need a strategy fit. And it’s all about relations. It’s not just about talking when you’re fundraising, but actually helping them with solutions and going broader across the organisation. Co-investment is just one example.

And then in the discussions, you really need to justify your relevance in their portfolio – because if it is such a crowded market, how do you stand out? You need to have a differentiated value proposition. And I think, particularly in this quite challenging and uncertain environment, experience counts a lot. They look for investors who have invested across cycles and can actually manage businesses in the downturn and still create sustainable, long-term value.

Retail investors: a big opportunity, or not as big as people think?

I think it’s big. It’s still sort of early days. But undoubtedly, it’ll be a pool for capital.

The question is how do you tap into that in a meaningful way? Meaningful for you as a firm [and] those who are going to distribute it, but equally, also for the investors. It’s an opportunity, and I think this is also part of being innovative and diversified with a pool of capital.

What kind of change would you like to see in the private equity industry in the next decade?

It is a big question. I think there are a lot of things that I would like to see changing, but if I were to be very sort of self-centred, I think DEI is an area that is close to my heart.

I think we made a lot of progress in the industry; we have [done so] here at Triton as well. We set some targets back in 2016; today, 25 percent of investment professionals are women. But I think we can do a lot more. I would like to see much greater diversification in terms of teams and roles. And I’m not just talking about gender.

How do you think your role will evolve in three to five years’ time?

I have quite a broad role, so I could go down several angles. At the end of the day, what you do in investor relations is [that] you’re really looking after your investors. I think we’re going down a route where we’re trying to standardise a lot of things, not just from a GP perspective, but also from the investors’ perspective. That’s in part why you have an association like Institutional Limited Partners Association.

I do think if I look at our investor base and the conversations we have, the investors are different. They have different needs. I can see going forward that you have to have more of a bespoke offering – both in terms of how you engage with your investors, the solutions you offer them and the reporting with them. And that’s another aspect where I think technology can be a massive driver of change and make everyone’s life easier, hopefully.

Do you expect that more data-driven analysis will be part of your job?

I don’t think I would be the best suited to it. This is, at the end of the day, a very data-driven industry, and what we realised and everyone else has [realised is] there’s a big part of that you can actually automate, which makes everyone’s life easier.

And that’s actually one of the things we pushed quite heavily in the last few years. And I think covid has really forced us to somewhat accelerate that process. If I look at myself [and] the team I work with, I’d like to think that going forward we’re going to spend more time on strategic thinking and really adding value to the investors, and not just number crunching and data.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?

This is a super dynamic industry. [It’s] very innovative, and I think we’re quite good at adapting in general. It’s all about building long-term relationships – it’s a long-term asset class. Trust is absolutely instrumental.

But if I take a step back, if you think about private capital, I think there is a unique ability here to align interest. Yes, we want to create great returns for our investors, but at the same time, we can also be a catalyst for creating a more sustainable world. Triton invests in quite a few industrial companies and part of our remit is: ‘Yes, they produce products we all need, but you can do it in a cleaner, more sustainable way.’

What’s the least enjoyable part of your job?

I think there’s a huge amount of information overload, and covid has not helped that. That’s a challenge on our side. It’s a challenge on the investors’ side. And if you couple that with the fact that it’s passionate, ambitious people who work in this industry, covid has in some ways broken down the boundaries in traditional working practices.

This has never been a nine-to-five job. I think it’s gotten even… more pushed out to the limits. And what I’ve realised is you need to be quite disciplined – otherwise, you can just work 24/7. And that, I think, is a challenge for everyone, not just for me. As an industry, we need to figure out how can we keep the best of covid, but avoid these constant back-to-back meetings.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in private equity or finance?

I really love boxing. I’ve had one fight. It’s definitely something I would like to do more of, but I kind of think it’s too late now. I think it’s amazing. I love it. It’s a great sport.

I did Thai boxing for about six to 10 years, and then I’ve been training with a professional boxing coach for six years now.

If you could redo any part of your career as an IR professional, what would it be and why?

I should probably have taken more time off between changing jobs. But when you start a new job – and I can see that from the people joining here – you’re so keen, you’re so eager. You just want to get going. But then once you’re in it, you’re thinking: ‘Oh my goodness, I should have taken a longer time off.’

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in their IR careers?

I think the IR profession has changed tremendously. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, and it’s changed a lot. It’s a much broader role and I think it has a lot of opportunities, if you look at how some firms specialise in different parts of the IR role. It also caters to different skill sets and different experiences, and I personally think it’s a very exciting role to have because you’re very much at the centre of what’s happening in the firm. You’re getting information from the investors, from your colleagues, from the investment professionals. It’s both a specialist function and a corporate function. Your role is really to package things in a way that is digestible and relevant to the investors, as well as internally in the firm.

Amanda Tonsgaard is responsible for investor services, co-investments and communication at Triton. Prior to joining Triton, Amanda worked in private equity for a number of years, first as a principal at Langholm Capital and later as a director at Capital Dynamics. More recently, she was a managing partner at Hannes Snellman Copenhagen.