Continuing with the perspectives of senior heads of legal, I also asked for their insights concerning the evolving concepts of hybrid working. The discussion around remote work policies often referred to as 'WFH', has gained significant traction, especially within the context of luring new talent and retaining company culture. A noticeable division is emerging between prominent, publicly-listed investment management firms that embrace flexibility, and the smaller boutique funds operating in both public and private spheres.
We also shared views on the alternatives market and our projections for the third and fourth quarters of 2023. From my vantage point, there's a recurrent period of lower activity in recruitment every year, spanning from June to September. This trend is primarily attributed to summer holidays and decision-makers being away. In 2023, this 'lull' has been prolonged, starting in March instead. Due to elevated inflation rates, ongoing Russian conflicts and cost of living concerns, there has been a reluctance to fully commit to hiring processes.
Anticipating a shift, I foresee a pronounced increase in investment and fundraising activity across the market in October and November. This surge in activity is driven by apprehensions about year-end bonus prospects, prompting additional hiring and heightened support requirements across the industry.
Hybrid working – Where do you see this going in the next 1-2 years? Does it have a place in funds?
“It's certainly a hot topic area. I think funds will move towards being in more and away from three days in the office. Collaboration is so important to businesses like ours, and again, you need to be visible. That being said, it’s important to be inclusive, diverse and competitive for top talent. We, for example, tend to be in four days with one day from home. The narrative needs to be about making it attractive to be in the office with a positive working environment and draws that make people want to come in; dress down, order in lunch every so often, pre-arranged drinks after work etc.” - Head of Legal – Private Debt Fund
“I see a generational divide. For those who spent 20+ years pre-Covid working five days a week in the office, there will be a desire to have everyone in at least four days a week as collaboration is key to a successful business. For those who have come into the workforce more recently, I see an expectation that hybrid working will be permitted and is likely to be a key “benefit” to attract talent. Whether or not younger professionals will learn as much and as fast on hybrid working compared to the 100% office model is to be determined.” - Peter Roughton, General Counsel – Private Equity Fund
“I think that people operate more cohesively when they are together. There is a sharing of information and ideas. However, it’s been proven during the pandemic that people can work well from home and be productive. Ultimately, it's not likely to be a one-size-fits-all. For example, fresh graduates or those in the earlier stages of their careers need to be supported by face-to-face interactions. This means managers and senior management being around and accessible whilst striking a balance with home life.” - Tom Hodge ‘General Counsel – Private Equity Fund’
What’s your verdict on the market outlook for the remainder of 2023?
“I expect there will be some great opportunities in debt, particularly within the distressed space. During these periods, banks are more likely to retain capital, and funds can provide sustained liquidity. Funds will be poised to benefit from more fiercely negotiated financing directly with sponsors." - Head of Legal – Private Debt Fund
“Much tougher than it has been for a few years. Deal flow is seemingly strong in funds, but there is a scarcity of capital, which is creating a slowdown. We all hope that macroeconomic winds will start to change direction and allocators will start to commit meaningful capital once more.” - Peter Roughton, General Counsel – Private Equity Fund
“Amidst significant developments unfolding with the UK economy, Asia and Ukraine, it's highly probable that we will witness a prolonged period of unpredictability spanning both public and private markets. However, this does create opportunity. It’s my view that the firms that operate with meticulous due diligence and sector expertise will continue to be a success. Conversely, those who just capitalised on a buoyant 2021/22 may fade as we roll into 2024.“ - Tom Hodge, General Counsel – Private Equity Fund
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