Sister publication Private Equity International published its Future 40 Leaders of PE list last week, including several secondaries professionals. Two of them – Strategic Partners‘ David Fox and 17Capital‘s Fokke Lucas – share their thoughts on their roles, lessons learned and advice for those considering a career in their fields.
Future 40 panel
David Fox, Managing Director at Blackstone Strategic Partners
Fokke Lucas, Managing Director at 17Capital
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role?
David Fox: I’ve had the opportunity to partner with a team of smart people every day and watch the market evolve – nothing can beat that. Given the covid-19 situation, we are all working from home, which brings its own challenges. The most challenging aspect of my work – whether it is from the office, or my ‘home office’ – is keeping a balance. I have many different hats at Blackstone and in my home life – juggling can get difficult sometimes, but having a supportive team and family helps.
Fokke Lucas: Finding off-market transactions can be both challenging and rewarding. It’s difficult to find good transactions but helping fund clients’ opportunities or liquidity needs in bespoke and tailor-made structures can be very rewarding. Finding and retaining talent in an organisation is always challenging. By creating an open, engaging working environment, and empowering team members we have been successful in maintaining a very low churn in the investment team. Seeing colleagues thrive with that empowerment is very rewarding.
What is the most valuable career lesson you have learned?
FL: Hunt. Waiting at the desk for the phone to ring doesn’t bring you proprietary, bespoke investment opportunities. You need to be in front of people, building a relationship and listening to opportunities and needs to find the best deals. Building relationships of trust takes a long time, so be patient, respectful and kind.
DF: In an investment process, always maintain discipline, patience and rigour. This will help you weather any type of market environment in every cycle. Also, don’t forget to be a nice person who people want to work with.
What advice do you have for someone new to the industry or considering a career in your field?
DF: I am a strong believer that everyone should enter a field that they genuinely enjoy. You’re much more likely to succeed if you are passionate about your work. In private equity specifically, deals often take a long time to come to fruition so you need to have a long-term mentality.
FL: Focus on what is possible or what might be possible, be creative. Find an angle on how you can service clients, even if they don’t know what they are looking for. At 17Capital we have developed, and continue to develop our offering to GPs, LPs and management companies, by thinking out of the box, focusing on how we can adapt our product to fit market needs and opportunities whilst providing the same risk/return profile to our investors.
What would you like those outside of the industry to know, or better understand, about private equity?
FL: That long term, locked up capital can be hugely beneficial for companies, their employees and investors. Especially in times of disruption, such as covid-19 or the global financial crisis, privately held investments can be managed without public markets pressure. Private equity managers can focus on the long-term development of a company without having to manage short-term public market sentiment.
DF: Private equity firms invest capital on behalf of pension funds, large institutions like university endowments or charitable organisations, and individuals. At Blackstone, our mission is to create long-term value for our investors through the careful stewardship of their capital through investments across the alternative asset classes. At the end of the day, our efforts and capital grow hundreds of companies and support local economies.
This is an edited extract of Q&As with various members of PEI’s Future 40 list. More can be found here.