January 31, 2023

The “Transfer Portal” for PE Portfolio Operations

The “Transfer Portal” for PE Portfolio Operations

If you happen to be a sports fan, and in particular a college football fan, then you most likely have heard about the NCAA Transfer Portal.  Created in 2018, it’s a database where collegiate athletes can test their marketability to other college programs to potentially improve their situation as a student athlete.  There’s been quite a bit written and said about this new dynamic and how it has been a real disruptor to business as usual in the NCAA.  Some folks dislike it immensely because of that; but as with anything else, fighting evolution is futile.  Better off to readjust your approach and make it work for you.

I started to think about our industry of PE Portfolio Operations and some of the “evolutionary” trends that I see.  Over the holiday break, I took a little inventory of the work I’ve done in this space since starting Lancor in 2009… In that timeframe, we have served 52 different firms as they’ve made additions to their Portfolio Operations teams.  I’m incredibly grateful for (1) this role actually institutionalizing itself across PE and (2) each and every one of those clients for choosing us to take that journey with them.  It’s given me a perch from which to watch things move and evolve that gives me great optimism for the future.

Three things stick out right now:

  1. The number of inbound requests I get from very high quality executives who are interested in learning more about this career path has NEVER been higher.  Back in the day, we struggled to curate a database of “5%er’s” but today that group actively seeks us out hoping to be included in the network.
  1. People are happy to change uniforms from one firm to another.  If something isn’t right about a firm’s culture or compensation scheme or prospects, talented Operating Partners are testing their own marketability ala the Transfer Portal.
  1. There’s a swelling tide of demand from PE shops for executives who want to do this kind of work on a contract basis.  In 2022, at least a dozen firms came to me to specifically ask about options like this.  At the same time, I’m seeing more and more savvy Operating Partners who are seeing the value in not being tied down to one platform. Given our macroeconomic conditions, I expect this trend to amplify as the market shakes out in 2023.

As such, this year Lancor will be starting a formalized matchmaking offering to both sides of the Contract Operating Partner niche.   

Maybe you’re interested in joining an organized network of Operating Partners available for contract on an interim basis.  It’s basically an extension of the gig economy in the B2B setting for PE.   The models in portfolio operations have evolved. The days of a PE firm wanting to “own” all of their transformational resources are over.  There’s a big appetite for having access to high quality people who can come in and offer their expertise in spot situations. 

Certainly there will be bilateral benefits in this kind of engagement.  While the PE firm isn’t saddled with owning all the resources, the executive gets to float across firms and funds resulting in both economic and personal freedom. 

We intend to serve as the lead generation arm. We have relationships inside the best firms across PE. We have placed many of the leaders of various Portfolio Operations groups. We can get people noticed and matched with firms offering the right cultural fit and aligned expectations. 

We will automate the set-up of your offering so you can efficiently engage with new opportunities. We can help you create the right legal entity and guide you through tax and insurance questions.  We can help both sides negotiate the terms of the engagement. 

I’m excited for a big year for our industry.  Many people have worked up to two decades now to prove that value creation to the income statement at the portfolio company level is a MUST HAVE in private equity.  Please reach out to me if you’d like to be involved!
M: 216-409-5959



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