I’ve had the chance once again to attend another outstanding Private Equity International Investor Relations, Marketing, & Communications Forum. I’m on the record as believing this is the premiere event in our market and, while this was the first time attending the west coast version in San Francisco, that sentiment remains the same.
There is no event I regularly attend that is nearly as collaborative and as audience-focused as the PEI events. The audience produces the overwhelming majority of the event’s content, and together with the spirit of collaboration PEI has instilled culturally in these events, there’s just simply no replacement for how much can be learned and is actionable coming away from these events.
I’ll share all sorts of learnings, but before I do, let me once again acknowledge the evolution of these events. From the first I attended back in 2012 or so, the makeup of attendees has changed in interesting and encouraging ways. First and foremost, it’s very rewarding to see so many women now in these roles and attending these events. It’s one of the few events in this market where you’ll find that women make up the wide majority of attendees, but — as one poll during the event uncovered — many of the people in these roles (and specifically the women that are in them) come from diverse backgrounds where financial expertise and experience is not necessarily prioritized. Instead, the people in these roles are coming from strategic marketing and communications roles and being hired, in many cases, to establish this function inside private market firms. This is something of a departure when compared against 2012, when it seemed to be attended by more men than women, and in many cases those men were adding the responsibility of marketing and communications to other roles they also owned. If nothing else, it suggests that private market firms have seen these roles and these functions as strategic and have staffed accordingly.
Let’s talk about the outstanding content. If the makeup of the attendees and the roles they’re in weren’t enough to convince you that private market firms are seeing marketing and communications as a strategic opportunity, the content certainly is. It is within the sessions where you can find folks being surprisingly transparent about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and even threats. Most of the sessions are intentionally off the record so as to encourage this sort of transparency, and is appreciated by all. You’ll hear tough questions, honest answers, and it’s all guaranteed to be thought-provoking.
For me there were a number of key takeaways:
1. LPs have never asked for more transparency and GPs have never worked so hard to provide it. It’s convenient to be a software provider at this event because software, together with third-party services and many of the vendors who attended, are the obvious places to turn to find leverage for doing so, and the opportunity where these dynamics meet is massive.
2. Investor Experience matters. There was an entire workshop session on the topic, and the short and the sweet is that it goes way beyond transparency to include consideration for offering LPs co-invests as well.
3. Marketing and communications to LPs and the LP prospect universe is a full-contact sport that many firms are aggressively resourcing to go after. Hiring seasoned communications professionals to institutionalize this as a practice inside their firm. There were workshops on proactive social media strategies, and one on considerations for how to market the private markets to Gen Z. There were sponsoring vendors that provide services on how to develop these strategies, those who provide video production services, and everything in between. The whole domain has changed markedly and I’m here for it.
4. Impending regulation stands to impact the entirety of this domain, and while there are more questions than answers in certain regards, private market firms are embracing change in how they market, how they communicate performance, and how the systems and processes they currently have in place will likely have to change to accommodate new regulation.
It would be impossible to convey everything discussed at PEI’s 2023 west coast event, but that’s why you’ll just have to attend for yourself next year!