A conversation with Imran Ali, an associate at the Boston-based private equity firm Alta Communications: "A private equity job requires a higher level of responsibility. An analyst position at an investment bank provides a good platform, but typically wouldn't allow for a junior person to gain the same exposure and experience."
How did you get into private equity?
After the end of my first year as an analyst in an investment bank, I was contacted by a number of head hunters looking to place candidates with investment banking experience into related fields, such as private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. I personally looked toward private equity for the in-depth nature of the job: Unlike banks and hedge funds that operate on doing more transactions - and quickly - private equity deals usually take more time and require even the most junior of associates to get deep into understanding the nuts and bolts of a company, its industry and the dynamics surrounding a deal. In my view, it offers the best opportunity to learn the maximum amount within a short period of time. Not just about finance, but about the legal aspects of a deal and the operational aspects of a company, etc.
How does it compare to working for an investment bank?
It's similar on some levels, but overall it's markedly different. The necessity to have a strong grounding in finance and accounting holds true, but you're required to not only have technical skills, but the ability to make good decisions using those skills. The job also requires you to have a lot more direct interaction with parties you wouldn't necessarily deal with as an analyst in a bank.
A private equity job requires a higher level of responsibility. An analyst position at an investment bank provides a good platform, but typically wouldn't allow for a junior person to gain the same exposure and experience.
What's been the most challenging aspect of your career so far?
Just understanding the scope of what needs to be done and how to get smart on those to-do items is the most difficult part of the job. Unlike at a large investment bank - which has a formal training program - a junior private equity professional does most, if not all, of his/her learning on the job. The financial aspect of the job is in fact the least challenging - understanding the legal documentation surrounding any deal, the dynamics of a negotiation and the process of doing a deal from start to finish all add up to make it quite a challenge.