Cogent Partners, the Dallas-based merchant bank specialising in investor-facing advisory work in private equity secondaries, arrived in Europe in the middle of 2004. Since then, according to London-based partner Brenlen Jinkens, the firm has been patiently expanding its web of relationships across Europe. A team of six professionals form the London team.

Now Cogent has brought in additional brainpower. Francis Carpenter, who earlier this year stepped down as chief executive of the European Investment Fund (EIF), has joined the firm as an advisor

It's an obvious pairing. At the EIF, which is funded by the European Union, Carpenter was in charge of a multi-billion euro venture and mid-cap fund of funds programme. At Cogent, he will be performing the duties of a non-executive director in an effort to help the firm expand its European franchise at a time when European investors are using secondaries more and more to manage their private equity exposures.

He says: “At the EIF, we did a project with Cogent a couple of years ago, and I was impressed with the quality of their work. They specialise in tasks that I am very familiar with. There has been a significant acceleration of secondary activity from September last year, and I am joining because I see scope for significant further growth and many useful tools for adoption by European LPs.”

Jinkens says Carpenter's arrival should be seen as a statement of intent of Cogent's ambitions in Europe.

Of secondaries, he says: “Over the past five years, the North American market has been approximately twice the size of Europe. But there are some significant transactions in the works right now and you can see how North America and Europe will soon be split more or less evenly.We used to say Europe is two years behind the US in terms of sophistication, but this gap is now definitely closing.”

Jinkens predicts secondary market growth will be driven by limited partners actively managing their exposure to private equity. He notes that as a result of the difficulties in the debt markets, some investors are already looking to reduce their exposure to large buyout funds formed in the past two to three years: “Some very blue-chip fund names are now coming up in conversations, some of which we've never seen in the secondary markets before. Investors are contemplating selling some large positions in these funds.”

So Carpenter is getting involved at an interesting time. His new role at Cogent will involve a number of mandates he has taken on. In addition, he is taking a seat on the board of IP Group plc, a UK specialist in the commercialisation of intellectual property originating from universities and other research-intensive institutions.

US mid-market firm Paine & Partners has hired a duo of Nordic bankers, Bjarni Ármannsson and Frank Reite, to help it source regional deals in sectors including seafood, energy and financial services. Ármannsson, who has homes in both Reykjavik, Iceland and Oslo, Norway, was most recently chief executive of Icelandic financial group Glitnir, formerly Íslandsbanki. He has also held CEO roles at Kaupthing Bank and Icelandic Investment Bank. Reite, who lives in Ålesund and Oslo, was previously CEO of Norwegian bank KredittBanken, which was sold in 2004 to Glitnir. He was responsible for growing Glitnir's Nordic operations and was a member of Glitnir's executive management board from 2005 until leaving the Icelandic financial group last year. He has also held executive roles at Aker, a Norwegian company with a focus on the energy, maritime and marine-resources industries.

Morgan Stanley Private Equity, the captive arm of the global bank, has recruited Jean-Philippe Barade and Alasdair Thomson as executive directors. Barade was a principal at Permira, the London-based buyout firm, while Thomson was a principal at Apax Partners. Brian Magnus, cohead of Morgan Stanley Private Equity in Europe, said: “This is the last part of the global team. We had a lot of plumbing to get right, including the relationship of ourselves with the investment bank.” The firm recruited Graham Keniston-Cooper last year to run its European operation alongside Magnus, previously Morgan Stanley's head of UK investment banking. Keniston-Cooper headed up Lazard's private equity arm from 2004 to 2006.

Houlihan Lokey, the global investment bank, has appointed Richard Clark as a vice president in its debt advisory team, formerly known as Blenheim Advisors, which it acquired seven months ago. Clark joins from an unnamed hedge fund. The team advises clients on financing structures, the debt underwriting process, loan documentation and provides post-transaction support. The team is now nine-strong having inherited six members upon acquisition. Clark has more than six years' experience in debt advisory services and will report to William Allen and Jonathan Guise, managing directors and joint European heads of the Houlihan Lokey debt business. Before joining the hedge fund, Clark worked at UK merchant bank Close Brothers.

Greenwich, Connecticut-based global growth equity firm General Atlantic has hired former Irish national pension officer Ronan Cunningham to join its investor relations team. Cunningham, who helped establish the private equity arm of the €20.5 billion ($32 billion) Irish National Pension Reserve Fund, will work with General Atlantic investor relations head Tom Tinsley on expanding the firm's capital base. While at the Irish pension, which funds the future costs of the country's social welfare and public service pensions, Cunningham oversaw an 8 percent allocation to private equity, totalling roughly €3 billion in assets. Cunningham's hire is the most recent example of General Atlantic's global recruitment drive. In January, the firm hired John Bernstein from Advent International's European tech and telecoms team as managing director of its London office. Last September, the firm brought in managing directors Ranjit Pandit from McKinsey & Co and Jeff Leng from Warburg Pincus to its Mumbai and Hong Kong offices, respectively.

Sun Capital Partners' European affiliate, Sun European Partners, has opened offices in Paris and Frankfurt, weeks after the firm's expansion in Asia and New York. “We're growing to accommodate deal flow,” managing director Gary Talarico recently told sister magazine PEI Asia. The turnaroundfocussed private equity firm established roots in the European market with the opening of its London office in July 2004. “Since opening its office in London nearly four years ago, Sun European has grown significantly in terms of personnel and the number of transactions in which it has provided advice to Sun Capital,” Philip Dougall, Sun European managing director, said in a statement. “The new Paris and Frankfurt offices will support Sun's heightened presence and expanded European platform, reflecting its strong commitment and confidence going forward in the European markets.” The firm had not disclosed who would lead the French and German offices at the time of going to press.