Hamish Paget-Brown, Associate, discusses the development of ECI’s Machine Learning capabilities, the importance of making your own luck, and his KitchenAid.
How did you move into the world of private equity?
When I graduated, I was interested in private equity but there weren’t many graduate opportunities available, and my degree in Biology didn’t give me much insight into the sector. I think since I graduated, the market has moved on a lot and there are now more opportunities for people at the start of their careers or with different backgrounds to go into private equity.
For me, I began working with ECI on a temporary basis on an M&A project. My degree gave me a good background in statistics and data analysis, which really lent itself to that project, and although originally I was brought on temporarily, ECI liked the way I extracted insights from the data rather than just collating it, and it turned into a permanent role.
What projects have you worked on that you’re proudest of?
I led the creation of our AI lead-sourcing tool, Amplifind™, and I recently oversaw its development into a cloud-native application. It has been fantastic to see Amplifind™ increase the origination team’s ability to quickly identify interesting high-growth businesses, but on a personal level it’s also been an interesting journey. From exploring how private equity firms can use data analytics and AI to enhance their processes, then turning that insight and ECI’s rich proprietary data into a fully functional tool – it’s something I’m very proud of, especially as we increasingly use the application not to just source our own platform deals, but also to help our portfolio source their own acquisitions.
For example, I’ve worked with CIPHR and Mobysoft to use Amplifind™ to map their markets, generating quite interesting and sometimes more leftfield ideas. It also means when you’re meeting prospective management teams it brings to life exactly how we’ll be able to bring value post-deal. That’s become a real differentiator between ECI and other investors in the mid-market.
What are you working on at the moment that excites you?
We recently invested in energy and sustainability services provider, Zenergi, and I was fortunate enough to showcase ECI’s bolt-on toolkit to the team pre-deal. It’s a testament to the strength of Graham, David and the rest of the team that they already have a strong pipeline in place, and it’s great to be able to work with them post-investment to source and unlock further opportunities and turbocharge their growth over the coming months and years.
How do you see technology changing the private equity industry in the next decade?
In terms of the businesses we invest in, there are always varying degrees of tech enablement, and those that can exploit technology to better improve their offering are more frequently the winners in the market. The same is true for private equity firms, and ECI has already started that journey with the implementation of Salesforce over six years ago, transitioning our data into a cloud-hosted data warehouse, leveraging Power BI to report on and analyse that data, and of course using our proprietary data for Amplifind™. For private equity firms that have this strong base of high-quality data, the opportunities to use this to your advantage and develop your internal processes and proposition as an investor is limitless.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
You have to make your own luck. When I first joined ECI it was just to assist on one project and by going above and beyond what was expected of me, ECI saw how I could add value on other projects, and they took me on permanently. I’ve taken this mantra throughout my four years at ECI and have been able to work on other projects outside of what would be considered the usual role of an analyst, such as Amplifind™. Being creative, thinking outside the box and seeing where you can add value beyond your day-to-day responsibilities, I think is key to being successful in your career. The only real luck is that I’m working at a firm that gives people the impetus to do this.
Quick Fire with Hamish:
Favourite meal to cook?
I entertain quite a lot, so I like making things that can be prepared in advance. They need to be impressive but I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen. Thai green curry, ragù, pies… they’re good go-tos.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was always interested in animals and wildlife – I wanted to be a vet and then I wanted to be a wildlife cameraman, the next David Attenborough even! I did a fair amount of work experience and it made me realise I wanted to keep both those interests as hobbies, but I still love to be out in nature whenever I can.
What’s your worst habit?
When I’m really passionate about a topic I have a tendency to just assume people know all about it and can go off chatting about it for ages without anyone knowing what I’m actually talking about.
What’s your bucket list trip?
I’d love to drive from the very north tip to the very south tip of Chile. It’s a fascinating country, it goes from rainforest, desert, mountains, coastline, tundra, grasslands… and just a huge amount of scenery, wildlife and culture to see on the way.
What’s your most treasured possession?
It’s probably actually my KitchenAid mixer. They’re the ones on Bake Off and I’d always wanted one, so bought myself one when I could finally afford it. And I use it for everything, even stuff you don’t need like mashing potato… it’s a centrepiece to the kitchen.