Private Equity along the Danube River

Today’s guest entry is by Adam Navratil, who is sharing his CEP experience.

I have started my Company Engagement Project “hunt“ quite early in the year as I wanted to get exposure to the infamous Private Equity industry. Before I even started reaching out to the vast network of alums, I was instantly faced with a lot of negativity. What I heard most often is that the industry is an old boys club that never takes bets on “inexperienced” hires. Regardless of this, I started reaching out to industry professionals not only from IMD but also from other rival business schools. Even though I have gotten through to people in top management positions with some of the key global players in the PE industry, I realized that the rumours were true. Some of the popular reasons were “huge confidentiality risks”, “5 weeks are too short to learn anything” and “we simply don’t do internships”.

I was about to give up when I came across an article on a Czech news website about someone who comes from a tiny village in Slovakia with and MBA from a certain French school that is now working for the largest global PE fund in San Francisco. After an hour long phone call I got put in touch with someone that works for their biggest rival fund London. Another very insightful phone call and I was re-routed to Prague to the second largest PE fund in the CEE region. Please bear in mind that all of these gentlemen studied at different business schools and are in essence in competition with each other.

After several Skype calls with the chief of HR and the chief analyst of the buyout division, they have agreed to make an exception (as their internships are usually 3 months long and exclusively awarded to the winners of a student PE competition at Prague University of Economics) and take me on as an analyst at their headquarters in Bratislava.

Even though this experience has been short, it has been extremely valuable and memorable. It was interesting to get an insight into the organizational structure and career progression within the industry. Spending a lot of time in Excel brought back some not so pleasant memories from my audit days. However, the fact that the financial models and projections I have worked with are forward looking and for industries we come across in our everyday lives makes the job so much more thrilling. This is reinforced by doing industry research and benchmarking into potential buyout targets within those industries.

If I had to choose one highlight of my time in Slovakia, it would be the extremely talented and friendly people I got to work with and the stimulating discussions we held during lunch and coffee breaks. One of the analysts would come up with an investment idea (my personal favourite was a  funeral home conglomerate) and the rest of the group would challenge this business plan and its assumptions.

To summarize and reflect on my long CEP journey: If you want something badly enough, don’t give up, be determined, be confident and most importantly utilize on your network (not only the IMD one). After-all, the PE industry is built on networking.

See you back in Lausanne,

Adam

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