Private equity is a universe with significant biodiversity. There are buyout funds big and small, growth capital providers and venture capitalists, to name just the most prominent species. Proponents of various sub-strategies compliment the pictures. Can a trade association look after all of them equally well? The British Venture Capital Association (BVCA) thinks it can.
Its confidence may surprise some. Earlier this year, during British private equity's bitter battles with politicians, trade unions and journalists in the summer, it looked as though the BVCA was struggling to represent big LBO groups as well as everyone else.
In the summer, a fateful public meeting with UK parliamentarians investing the impact of private equity on the British economy, in which a BVCA delegation performed poorly, triggered severe finger-pointing between funds big and small as to who was to blame for the industry's public relations malaise. BVCA chief executive Peter Linthwaite resigned, leaving in his wake speculation that the BVCA might split into a number of independent interest groups that would lobby separately for big funds, mid-market funds, venture capital groups and so on.
In September, the BVCA moved to end the speculation. It announced that as part of an ongoing review of its organisational structure, it had found that its members favoured it to “remain a single organisation led by a high quality CEO”.
BVCA vice chairman Jeremy Hand said in a letter that the association also wanted to be “much more focused on servicing the specific needs of the different sectors of our industry”. A reorganised BVCA should use sector committees to represent venture capitalists, enterprise funds, mid-market buyout groups and large LBO firms. These groups should work alongside the existing technical committees and the executive team.
In an interview, Hands added that the ongoing search for a new chief executive was progressing well. “We have had tremendous interest from very strong candidates,” he said, declining to make any predictions as to when a new CEO would be in place.
The BVCA's review process continues. Hands said PricewaterhouseCoopers, the professional services firm, would be hosting “feedback sessions” for member firms to make their views known. At press time, the BVCA expected to complete the process in the “coming weeks”.