“Quick Fire” with Isabella Fox

Read Time: Min

We chat with ECI Investment Manager Isabella Fox, about her role in the Investment Team, challenges in the market right now and the best concert she’s ever been to!

Q: How would you describe your role in the ECI Investment Team?

My role as an investor at ECI is across the full investment cycle and falls into three core areas: deal sourcing, transaction execution and portfolio management.

Once we’ve researched and identified an investment opportunity, I’m heavily involved in the relationship building, analysis and due diligence that informs our investment decision. Once invested, I typically join the board to support management teams with the next stage of growth, working closely with our Commercial Team to help our portfolio reach their goals and deliver a successful exit.

The role requires a blend of analytical diligence (when I’m in the throes of a deal) and relationship building which is critical for both origination and portfolio management.

Q: How did your role in corporate finance at PwC help you at ECI?

There are many parallel dynamics from my time at PwC – it’s definitely been very helpful.

A key element is the technical aspect which covers a broad swathe from modelling to the fundamentals of a deal process, but also includes key accounting issues like revenue recognition and (real!) cash flow. It’s also given me a healthy dose of professional scepticism as having worked on both buy and sell sides, it provides me with a perspective on how the business narrative can be built up and marketed.

I also developed a broad network. I’ve got a great number of contacts from my time at PwC – both within the firm and the broader market.

Q: Which deals have you been working on recently?

I am still in my first year having started at ECI in May 2023, but have already worked on two fantastic deals; Commify, a business communication platform and ISMS.online, a cybersecurity and compliance software business. They’re both quite different in terms of size and market dynamics, so it has been great to have variety as I kick off my career at ECI.

I’ve joined the Board of Commify, and am still working closely with both management teams on the major initiatives that underpin their strategy and are driving growth.

Q: Are you seeing any consistent challenges in the market right now?

There are definitely some consistencies. Obviously there has been economic uncertainty recently with inflation raising challenges, not least in assessing underlying revenue growth in a business. Debt has clearly become much more expensive too which shines more of a light on the resilience of a business model and ultimately cash conversion for serviceability.

Human resources have become a more consistent challenge and a priority since Covid – particularly in tech. It hadn’t been an area that businesses had typically invested in but with the salary inflation and lack of candidate supply seen after the pandemic, it’s become much more of a focus and priority agenda item.

More recently, there haven’t been as many quality assets available. Where we do see great businesses, the market has become more competitive. But we’re finding that our focus on relationships, building early engagement and conviction, and then working with both our Origination and Commercial Team are giving us a clear advantage.

Q: How do you work with management teams?

It’s all about a partnership. The private equity cycle is relatively long, say four to five years, and you will inevitably have highs and lows in that period. You need to be able to work closely together and be on the same page about clear strategic aims. You need to build a robust relationship before investing and that needs to continue throughout the investment cycle.

You should never forget that management are in the business day in and day out so you’ll never know it better than they do, but the real value is more often in the strategic decisions about people and priorities. A good investor draws on the experience they’ve had across other situations and boards, and contributes to decisions that are going to have the biggest impact on the business’ long term success.

Q: You’ve been at ECI for nearly a year, is it what you imagined?

Very much so. I had experience of working for ECI as a buy-side advisor, so knew some of the team and was aware of their great reputation.

One unexpected feature has been working with the Commercial Team. I understood how they worked in theory, but actually seeing them in action pre and post deal has been really impressive. There’s a genuine collaboration between all the ECI teams – it’s a low ego but high performing environment with genuine collaboration, rather than the siloed business model that is quite commonplace.

Quick Fire with Isabella: 

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

I saw The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in 2013. They’re an iconic band and I’d grown up listening to their music, so it was brilliant to see them in the flesh, in the middle of London.

What’s your favourite city and why?

This is a tough one because I do love London, but thinking slightly further afield, Amsterdam is great. I spent part of my career there and loved the architecture, the art and how accessible it was by bike. There are also a vast number of places to eat and drink – there are fewer chains with independent outlets providing a much more varied experience.

How do you unwind?

Getting outside and going for a walk is the simplest but also most effective. I find it really important, when you’re in the thick of it, to get out – I have never finished a walk feeling worse, which I occasionally have to remind myself of.

Best advice you’ve received?

Not advice given to me, but Estee Lauder said “I’ve never dreamed of success, I worked for it”. It is a helpful reminder that whatever your idea of success is, it won’t come without hard work and perhaps most importantly perseverance.

Which superpower would you choose?

Having the ability to teleport would be fantastic. I love travelling and being outside, so being able to click my fingers and be anywhere I want would be amazing.

ECI announce close of latest fund

Find out more