Rory Nath, one of ECI’s Investment Managers, reflects on his unconventional route into private equity, his experience at ECI over the last 4 years, and the benefits of being proactive in managing your own personal development.
Q: Why did you decide to join the world of private equity?
I’m not one of the ‘I have wanted to be in PE since I was 10 years old’ types. I didn’t even know what private equity was when I left university. I’d chosen a degree that let me touch on science, maths and history in the same course as I’ve always liked problem solving in a wide range of contexts. The decision to start my career in strategy consulting was an extension of that, I think. Across that period of my life, I was really looking to find the thing that I wanted to set my mind to for the long term.
When I started at OC&C Strategy Consultants, I quickly got stuck into commercial due diligence projects and fell in love with the pace, complexity and importance of the investment decisions we were helping PE clients to make. Ultimately though, I wanted to be closer to that decision-making process and to follow that through to working with the businesses in the portfolio. So, I started looking for PE roles relatively early. A role came up in ECI’s Commercial Team two years in to my time at OC&C and I went for it – much sooner than the industry standard and earlier than I had anticipated. In my mind I was going to spend four years or so in consulting before making my next move, but the opportunity to develop in private equity at ECI was too good to pass up.
Q: Why ECI?
In 2015 the Associate role in the Commercial Team was a new concept at ECI, but it seemed like a perfect fit for me. It gave me the chance to get a foot in the industry, to work with a range of management teams on their top value creation projects and learn more about what it’s like to be a private equity professional – effectively I had the perfect opportunity to understand whether private equity was the right career for me. I couldn’t have got that elsewhere.
Needless to say I got hooked! Being part of an ECI team that makes great investment decisions and then helping management teams to build successful businesses is now what I get out of bed for.
Q: You moved from the Commercial team into the Investment team, what’s behind that?
In the Commercial Team I spent 90% of my time working with our portfolio on value creation. That’s still my favourite part of the job, but I thought it was important to round off my experience with more direct involvement in transactions, so I made the move over to the investment team in 2018. I had taken an unconventional route to get there, so I had some important knowledge gaps to fill. ECI helped me navigate that with a six-month secondment in investment banking at DC Advisory and by encouraging me to take on the CFA – I became a CFA Charterholder earlier this year.
In this job you need to be able to wear a lot of different hats depending on the situation and the challenge is getting the right experience to support that. Ultimately you can never be ‘done’ with learning and must enjoy that challenge.
Q: What deals have you worked on?
We just exchanged on a new investment in KB Associ/our-companies/kb-associatesates, a Dublin-headquartered professional services firm that advises investment funds and asset managers. I returned from secondment in February 2019, so it was great to get straight back into the thick of what has been a record twelve months for ECI in terms of new deals.
My first deal as a member of the Investment Team was CPOMS (2018), a leader in providing SaaS solutions to UK and international schools. I’m now starting to take a strong interest in leading our coverage of education more broadly. Access to high-quality education is a social cause that means a lot to me, but it’s also a sector where there are some attractive secular trends and a huge number of passionate entrepreneurs, which is exciting. In December I’m joining the board of a Multi-Academy Trust to volunteer outside of work and to get my head further into the sector.
I also worked on Investis Digital’s bolt-on acquisitions of both Zog Digital (2017) and Vertical Measures (2019), both based in the US. They added significant scale, geographic reach and capability to the business – these are all key value drivers for bolt-ons, and it was great to work with the management team on something so central to their vision.
Q: What is it like working at ECI?
It’s a place where you get to learn directly from partners, which I’ve found to be invaluable. There is also a mutual respect there. The senior team at ECI instills in you a need to take responsibility for your own time, and they trust you to manage that time. The same goes for taking control of your own personal development.
It’s also a place that cares about culture and values. We’re constantly challenging ourselves and are assessed not just on what we deliver, but how we deliver it – the attitude we bring to the table on a daily basis. We spend a lot of time thinking about softer skills and there’s no room for big egos! You have to be a team player here.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a massive rugby fan so I’m glued to the world cup at the moment. Half my family live in New Zealand and are converts to the All Blacks, so as a loyal England fan I’m particularly enjoying the semi-final result! More generally there’s nothing better than a countryside escape. Sometimes just relaxing to clear my head and sometimes being more adventurous – I’m still licking my wounds from a failed attempt at the National Three Peaks Challenge this summer (we got flooded off Scafell Pike!). I’m also half Mauritian and try to get out there most years to spend time with family and friends, enjoy the island lifestyle and the amazingly diverse food. My fiancée and I got engaged earlier this year so now I have my hands full with wedding planning too.
Quickfire with Rory:
Cornwall or the Lakes?
What book are you currently reading?
Grit by Angela Duckworth. Excellent so far and makes a change from my usual Lee Child / Jack Reacher binge
Favourite Mauritian Recipe?
My grandmother’s chicken curry. Or dholl puri with veg curry, which is more widely available!
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Play with purpose. My favourite of the principles in James Kerr’s “Legacy”
Post CFA celebration – Restaurant or the pub?
Who would play you in the film of your life?
My fiancée says Dev Patel. I’m hoping she is thinking “in Lion” rather than “in Slumdog.”