We chat to ECI’s summer interns, Bachar and Tamara, about how they found out about the ECI internship, what sort of work they’ve been doing since starting, and their advice for future applicants!
How did you find out about the ECI internship?
Tamara: Well, I think I applied a little differently, as I didn’t know exactly what I was applying for. I came through the 100 Black Interns program, an initiative that came off the back of the Black Lives Matter movement, as people in investment management identified that there weren’t a lot of black people in the industry. I saw the link for the application shared on WhatsApp groups by my Aunties, and I thought ‘wow, that looks interesting.’ I come from a civil engineering background and had already had two placements in that, so I was hoping to have experience in something different.
It was good because a lot of companies at that time were trying to be more inclusive, and I’m used to going to Superdrug and them not having my foundation shade or seeing one black person in a whole TV program… it was just a nice period as it generally felt like the world cared. I hope those are long term changes, but my perspective is as long as it’s beneficial to people in the community then just go for it.
Bachar: I received a scholarship by the ICAS Foundation, which supports social mobility and diversity in students studying finance, and they sent out an email flagging the ECI opportunity. I was already quite interested in private equity, so it was just really fortunate I saw the opportunity, and it was a really simple application.
What made you interested in the private equity industry?
Bachar: I had a great lecturer at university, and he was talking about leverage and different valuation models, and private equity was just mentioned in passing, but after that I just kept asking more questions and finding out about the industry, so it really just grew from there. There wasn’t a moment of waking up and knowing I wanted to go into private equity, but the more I learned about it the more interesting I found it. I also thought working in private equity would help my dating life, but so far no joy on that front.
Tamara: So, I didn’t know exactly what industry I’d be working in before joining, but I was really excited when I found out I was assigned to ECI. I liked the idea of applying all your different areas of expertise to think about trends in various markets, but also how you can practically work alongside management teams to help them with their strategy, and work alongside them for the full cycle from origination to realization.
Has there been anything that has surprised you so far?
Bachar: I think in the media there is a portrayal of private equity as this evil thing, driven by greed or hubris, and obsessed with firing people. It ignores all the technical side of it, but also working with ECI what you see is that the team really cares about the companies they invest in, they care about the management team, and working with them in a way to ensure that there’s sustainable growth even after ECI exits. ATG is a great example of that – they IPO’d in February and are performing incredibly well – you can see everyone is really proud of that.
Tamara: I have worked closely with the Origination Team and it’s interesting to see how we can use technology to help source fast growth companies, in particular the team’s AI tool, Amplifind. It’s also been interesting to see how much the portfolio companies themselves are using and managing technology to grow. It makes you think, how could I apply this same platform or innovation to another industry?
What was the application process like?
Bachar: The application was quite easy, compared to some of the ones I’d done at other companies. It was just a CV and cover letter, a first round quite casual interview, followed by a second round interview where you prepare and present three companies that ECI might be interested in investing in, and a case study to analyze. It all felt very conversational, and whilst the second round was a bit harder as you only know ECI’s investment process from the outside, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t something I’d done before, but it challenged my ideas and opinions which made it much more interesting.
Tamara: So, after I was assigned to first round interviews at ECI I was able to do my research, and I read all of ECI’s Linkedin posts and their website, and it made me really excited. Like Bachar, first round was conversational, and I remember coming out of it thinking, “Oh, I enjoyed that actually!” and I was able to find out a lot more about ECI as well. I got really nervous ahead of the second round interview to be honest, thinking, I’m an engineer, how can I excel here? But I think that taught me you are bringing something different, and that’s valuable.
What projects have you worked on since joining?
Tamara: Not as many as I’d have liked! I got mumps and then got Covid so, I’ve been through it, but the projects I have worked on have been great. KB Associates, the fund management business in the portfolio, recently made a European acquisition, and I was working on a project supporting them to think about which markets and companies might be the most relevant for them to expand into.
Bachar: I’ve been working with Skyler in the Origination Team, and William in the Commercial Team. That’s included a bolt-on project for one company, so narrowing down a full market map to about 10 potential targets which we’re presenting to the CEO today. For the Commercial Team I’m looking at one company’s competitors to understand how they operate in different regions, and what that can tell us for potential routes to market. So, we’ve been trying to narrow down the list of countries from about 100 to 3, and that’s a really interesting challenge.
What are you going into next?
Bachar: I’m going into audit, and I’m definitely going to be able to take quite a lot of what I’ve learned forward. Especially the research, the nitty gritty of the details, and grasping the terminology.
Tamara: It’s funny but I am also going into audit. I would say getting this summer internship gave me the confidence to excel during that interview process, so that was great.
What advice would you give to future applicants?
Tamara: Put effort into your CV and cover letter and get someone else to read over it. ECI has an amazing marketing team so everything you need to familiarise yourself with is easily accessible. Don’t forget to apply your experience and transferable skills to the role description. You may know more about the investment industry than you’d immediately realise.
Bachar: I think many people, myself included, aren’t always confident in the ideas that they have. Then often someone else says it, or it turns out to be a good idea. So, I’d just say have the confidence to suggest something, as it might turn out to be great. And similarly, in the interview, be confident in your abilities when you’re presenting. It’s fine to say you don’t know something, so don’t worry about that, but just be confident in what you’re saying and your own skills.
Quick Fire with Bachar and Tamara:
What would your intro music be?
B: “You Want it Darker” by Leonard Cohen. It is a bit depressing, but I think that gives you gloomy gangster vibes. You have to be the protagonist in your own movie.
T: MHD, La Puissance – it translates to The Power. That’s how I want to feel when I’m walking in.
Have you ever had 15 minutes of fame?
B: I once left Tesco through the emergency door – I don’t know what compelled me – the fire alarm went off. Everyone was definitely looking at me.
T: I was on one of my favourite youtube channels – Jubilee – last year with my dad. They have a bunch of people in the room with something in common, bar one and you have to discuss and work out who the imposter is. In the past they’ve done supermodels or vegans. So, for mine, they had to work out who was not a real family, it was really fun.
Phone call or text?
B: I’m a phone call person. It’s nicer to hear people’s voices. And you can’t tell them off properly over text, it’s just capital letters.
T: Phone call. I’m terrible at texting – if I look at my phone now I have at least ten people I need to reply to. With phone calls, we talk, then it’s over.
Do you have any hidden talents?
B: I can cook a mean Stroganoff, trust me it is excellent.
T: I can dance, mostly African – it’s all about the footwork and moving with the beat.
What is your favourite comfort food?
B: Have you heard the phrase: “you can take the man out of the hood but not the hood out of the man.” It doesn’t matter where I am, a Big Mac from the legendary McDonald’s is the one.
T: Lactose free pizza, honestly, tastes better than normal pizza. My order is pepperoni, jalapenos and olives.