Predictions for 2009, beyond that the year will be difficult for European private equity, are pure guesswork. We don’t even know where the political equilibrium will lie in Brussels after June’s European elections. But knowing that the year will be difficult is behind EVCA’s intention to review how best to support its 1300-plus members.
There are clear demands from our members for value for money services, including smaller events addressing the different issues of different parts of the industry alongside development of our three platforms. Thus, we decided at the end of 2008 to discontinue our annual Symposium and will be launching a number of events designed to benefit the largest possible number of professionals within our member firms.
We have also brought in Thomas Meyer, on a three-year secondment from the EIF, to work with our venture platform in building the profile of this segment of the industry – seen by politicians and regulators alike as an unquestioned benefit to the economy.
Members ask for more independent and targeted data for different requirements and stakeholders. PEREP-Analytics, an EVCA initiative now adopted by 17 national associations as their statistics platform, produced its first independent data and regional review last year and will now be publishing sector data as well as regional and country reviews.
As for EU regulation, I would like to see closure on the current files with the existing Commission and Parliament still in place. We achieved much with the Rasmussen and Lehne reports, only to see the climate all but reverse in the face of the banking collapse. This year will bring sweeping regulation across financial services that will inevitably affect private equity, although we are acknowledged not to have caused this crisis.
The establishment of the Brussels Taskforce, chaired by Jonathan Russell and combining seasoned GPs from all segments of the industry with the nine largest national associations, is a major step forward in achieving the single voice for European private equity demanded by the Commission. The Taskforce’s work will underpin EVCA’s public affairs activity in 2009 and be a huge support to us.
Last but not least, we shall be reviewing the governance of EVCA and reaching out to all members as part of this process.
Two years ago, EVCA introduced an internal structure of platforms covering venture capital, mid-market and large buyouts, to cater better for the diversity of our membership. The structure is working well for market-oriented initiatives but we now need to strengthen our representative voice and want all member firms’ input to that voice.
To undertake this review, we have retained KPMG, who will be contacting all EVCA members to gather their opinions and views on EVCA’s model. The KPMG review will define for us how we can deliver value for money and serve the needs of all parts of the industry as we begin our second 25 years.
Governance change will be an evolution of the current membership-led structure. An important aspect will be incorporating into our Brussels work the opinions and positions of the National Associations across Europe. But, while integrating key national goals which might differ inter alia (driven as they are – quite properly – by national interest), we should ensure that EVCA remains a member-driven organisation that can support all segments of the industry.
This year will be a year of challenge and change in Europe, but I am optimistic that our members will rise to the challenges and that EVCA itself will deliver what the members want of us to aid them in that process.
Javier Echarri is the secretary general of the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.