Tapping into the Limited Partner Mindset

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Few would argue that the balance of power in the limited partner / general partner relationship has shifted toward LPs. While limiteds will always pursue the top quartile, GPs throughout the market have taken pains to ensure their investors are getting the attention they demand. In recent months, a handful of GPs have responded by installing former limited partners and institutional investors on their teams in an investor relations capacity.

Sheryl Schwartz is a senior managing director at private equity firm Perseus and works on mezzanine debt investments, private equity investments and IR. Prior to joining Perseus in 2010, Schwartz was head of TIAA-CREF's alternative investment team, where she reportedly oversaw more than $10 billion of private equity fund commitments.

If anyone knows best practices, Schwartz would be a pretty good candidate. "I see the world differently," she describes. "There are three of us [at Perseus] who have been on the LP side and we bring a different perspective [than] the people who have always been on the GP side."

To wit, Schwartz can relate to recent LP demands for more information and better details. She debunks a common misconception on the GP side that limiteds can be burdened by too much disclosure. "Even if they can't get through it all, LPs want to see it," she cites, adding that a substantial disconnect exists "between what LPs want and what GPs think LPs want."

This, Schwartz says, was a key driver in Perseus' recruitment. "Even if I don't know the answer, I can call one of my relationships and ask their opinion," she adds.

And it's a safe bet too that Perseus didn't overlook those relationships either, which undeniably help open doors.

Perseus isn't alone. GPs, by and large, are bolstering their investor relations capabilities amid what has become a trickier fundraising market. Moreover, the pay-to-play scandal has incentivized some sponsors, such as Carlyle Group, to bring their fundraising efforts in-house. Institutional investors are also facing pressure, as capital flows allocated to fund of funds dries up and as pension systems struggle to attract Wall Street talent on public service salaries. In turn, more GPs are bringing former limited partners on board, while more LPs are looking for such a career change.

In February, Brazos Equity Partners, a Dallas based private equity firm, added Patrick O'Hara as a managing director of investor relations. O'Hara will lead communication efforts with current and future investors and is heavily involved in fundraising activities for the firm. He joined Brazos from the Texas Employees Retirement System, a $22.5 billion public pension fund, where he has served as director of private equity for the past three years.

Platinum Equity, which is currently fundraising, hired Robert Klap earlier this year as a senior executive in the firm's London office, where he is involved in Platinum's deal origination, investor relations and capital raising programs. Klap arrives from UBS, where he managed the private equity fund investments in the bank's wealth management group and before that put in stints overseeing alternative investments for Mn Services and Shell Asset Management, the roughly EUR45 billion asset manager that directs investment activity of the Royal Dutch Shell pension funds.

"Mostly we have seen the transition of LPs to investor relations and fundraising positions," observes Lori Campana, a managing director with placement agent Monument Group. "It makes sense in today's more challenging fundraising environment to have someone on the team with that type of experience and perspective."

The additions are making a difference. Schwartz's input has changed some of the processes at Perseus. For example, at Schwartz's suggestion, Perseus has started doing update calls that include information LPs may have already received in their quarterly reports.

Schwartz, not that far removed from her time at TIAA CREF, remembers when she would receive quarterly reports from nearly 300 different GPs. "It's better to assume LPs need to be refreshed," she cites. "The GP thinks they are the most important investment the LP has, but there is just so much information LPs need to keep track of."

Meanwhile, Mark Barnhill, a principal with Platinum who leads the firm's capital raising and investor relations programs, adds that Klap's appointment underscores the firm's commitment to align interests between the GP and LP. "[It] provides them with a lot of assurance that we understand their perspective and the things they need to be successful," Barnhill says.

Barnhill, however, notes that beyond certain IR duties, Platinum is counting on Klap to be a presence in the firm's European office by "helping drive deal flow and strategic initiatives."

It's another task that plays into the relationships and awareness of best practices that LPs come equipped with.

And as the industry deals with the prospect of registration requirements, it never hurts to have a multi-tasker on board.

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