KKR's ex-head of private credit: Don't go into private equity for the glamour
Erik Falk came over to the buy side late in his career. After spending over 16 years working in senior roles at both Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, he joined private equity giant KKR in 2008 and eventually became its global head of private credit. Most people make the switch as analysts or associates, but if you're thinking of moving to the buy-side, do it for the right reasons - not the "glamour," he says.
Whether you’re looking to move into private equity or private credit or anywhere else on the buy side, Falk suggests that you ask yourself, “Do I really love the idea of investing and the day-to-day reality of doing that type of work?”
“If you really love doing it and find opportunities to join people who will allow you to do it, great, but some people come to the business for the perceived glamour,” he says.
“I don’t believe that is the case for everyone, but assuming it is, it’s about finding people you want to work with, getting in at the ground level and really learning,” Falk says.
Erik Falk recently retired from his role overseeing private funds as head of private credit within the $35bn credit business at KKR. He’s now a senior executive and partner focused on strategic initiatives at Magnetar Capital, a $13bn alternative asset management firm with various fixed income, energy, quantitative and fundamental units, including both private equity and hedge fund strategies. After accepting his new, full-time role at Magnetar in Evanston, Illinois, Falk signed on to become a strategic personal investor and senior advisory board member at Star Mountain Capital, a New York-based investment management firm led by CEO Brett Hickey specializing in U.S. lower middle-market private debt.
Before switching into private equity, he was the head of special situations and co-head of securitized products at Deutsche Bank, which he joined in March 2000 from Credit Suisse First Boston.
The offices of KKR and Star Mountain are only a few blocks apart in New York, but other than that, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“The benefits of being at larger firms, whether it’s an investment bank or a larger private equity firm, relates to the breadth of experience, the depths of the talent pool around you, the resume you build and the types of experience you have,” says Brian Finn, the chairman of Star Mountain, previously the head of the $100bn Credit Suisse Alternatives division, eventually becoming the co-head of the M&A group and co-president of the bank.
Finn went on to become chairman/CEO of Asset Management Finance (AMF) Corp., a $75bn private equity and debt firm that acquires stakes in asset management and wealth management firms, and a strategic adviser to KKR.
“Smaller firms tend to be more entrepreneurial – they don’t have the same sets of rules and constraints as there are at a big firm, where if you’re doing health care, you stay in your lane, whereas at a small firm you can be working on healthcare one day, financial services the next day, equity one day and credit the next day,” Finn says. “At big firms, somebody runs the kitchen, but at small firms you have to make your own coffee."