The qualities of an FD needed to succeed within Private Equity backed businesses

January 7th 2014 | Posted by phil scott


The range of experience that an FD possesses, combined with softer skills and personality traits, is often what makes them more suitable to different roles and industries than others.

Some companies are looking for FDs with years of hands-on experience within their specific sector and others want the next rising star, with a passion for growth and the ability to diversify and embrace new opportunities.

When it comes to Private Equity or Venture Capital backed companies, the specific skill set required can be different again.

You need to be a driven, determined leader, often with turnaround or growth experience and it’s essential you can meet very specific & tight targets.

For an FD working in a Private Equity backed business today, it can be a uniquely challenging position, requiring exceptional technical skills teamed with an entrepreneurial spirit and delivered through a very hands-on, ‘get the job done’, approach.

An outline of the personality traits of FDs well suited to working with Private Equity and Venture Capital backed companies is set out below:

1.     Determined leadership

The FD will need to be proactive and reassuring; setting a positive example of leadership, motivating staff through what can be a tricky time of uncertainty within the business.

2.     Experience of turnaround

Most PE backed businesses will be undergoing a strategic transformation or operational restructure to achieve the next phase of the business. FDs will need experience of working towards MBOs, acquisitions, exit strategies and take-overs as well as working with alternative sources of funding.

3.     Exceptional industry knowledge and attention to detail

Improving cash flow and meeting stringent KPIs is often the primary focus of an FD working with a turnaround business, so being able to spot areas for improvement and getting more out of less is essential. It is also part of the job to report back in great detail, so FDs will need to immerse themselves within the business and know all the ins and outs of the finances and operations.

4.     Lead by example

There may not be finance teams or an operational structure in place and so an FD in a PE backed business should not be afraid of getting stuck in and delivering the work as opposed to just managing it.

5.     Well connected

It will prove beneficial for an FD working with Private Equity businesses to have a good network of intermediaries. Being able to demonstrate good operational, trusted relationships with banks as well as accountants and solicitors is important when you are trying to win support for what you are trying to achieve; and of course a proven successful track record of working with others in the Venture Capital or Private Equity field will add gravitas and demonstrate experience.