UBS moves forward with secondary advisory work

The loss of Nigel Dawn to Evercore has not stopped UBS from moving forward with its secondaries business, under the leadership of Philip Tsai (pictured).

Despite losing the head of its private equity secondary advisory group earlier this year, UBS remains committed to the business.

So much so, in fact, that is has engaged an executive search firm to help it hire professionals to join the team. 

“We’re looking to invest and grow the business … there’s a strong commitment and investment that the firm has continued to make and plans to make,” Philip Tsai, a managing director at UBS who is global head of the secondary advisory business, told Private Equity International in a recent interview. “We’re looking to expand our team in the US and London.” 

Nigel Dawn, who helped form the secondary advisory business at UBS in the early 2000s, retired from the bank and has re-emerged at Evercore, where he is launching a rival operation. Nicolas Lanel, another high-level secondaries executive at UBS, also joined Evercore and will run the European side of the business. 

Philip Tsai

Sources in the market have questioned whether Dawn’s exit would compel UBS to get out of the business. The bank is one of the main secondary brokers in the private equity industry, along with Cogent Partners. Other groups have been building up their capabilities around the business, including Park Hill Group, Campbell Lutyens and Houlihan Lokey. 

However, Tsai said his team has moved forward and won two significant mandates after the high-level departures. 

Meanwhile, the team is looking at large portfolio trade opportunities that appear to be coming back into the market after fading out over the past year or so. But UBS also is exploring opportunities around GP restructurings – figuring out ways to either close out or inject new life into aging private equity funds. 

“We view ourselves as having a competitive advantage in looking at some of these situations, being that UBS has one of the best placement agent businesses globally,” Tsai said.