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‘Severely congested’

Will many big-ticket fund managers be forced to slash their fundraising targets?

The fundraising market for private fund managers will soon be so crowded that the largest funds will have to scale back their ambitions, while first-time managers will need to work harder than ever to differentiate themselves.

This was the message delivered by Richard Anthony, head of the Evercore Partners Private Funds Group, the fundraising division of the New York-based investment bank, at a recent breakfast with reporters.

“We’re going to have a severely congested fundraising market,” Anthony said, adding: “There will not be enough capital to satisfy all the demand. That’s a certainty.”

As a result, “particularly the larger funds”, which Anthony described as those seeking $3 billion or more, “are going to need to display a level of humility which maybe they haven’t always in the past”. This means scaling back the amount of capital they are seeking to raise.

“This isn’t a minor thing, really,” Anthony said. “[It’s not] ‘do we reduce our fund size by 10 percent?’ It’s ‘do we halve our fund size’?”

Given the scarcity of capital, Anthony predicted few of the large general partners (GPs) would come out “guns-a-blazing” looking to raise, for example, $7 billion as the follow-on to a $6 billion fund.

“I just don’t think LPs are going to respond very well to that at all,” Anthony said.

Anthony still believes managers who have a strong record of demonstrated exits will be able to attract capital. He cautioned, though, against managers making exits just for the sake of demonstrating the ability to return capital to limited partners.

Less-established, first-time funds face a “brutal market” and will need to find ways to differentiate themselves, Anthony said.

“I think this is really the time for sector- and region-specific funds,” he said, adding that the turmoil in the banking sector has also given rise to a number of independent teams offering potential LPs unique strategies, especially in the credit market.

“I think that LPs are shying away too much from first-time funds because … there really is an opportunity with good groups to combine incredibly attractive terms to back them and get them up and running,” Anthony said.

Dana Pawlicki, Evercore’s head of project management in New York, also offered some words of advice for managers who are about to hit the fundraising market.

“It’s never been more important that funds get out there and think globally in their fundraise,” he said, urging investors to go to growth markets like Asia, where more pension and institutional investors are opening their wallets to alternative investments.