The funding cycle for many private equity firms is already underway, with all its attendant chaos, tension and high stakes. Firms can expect their investor relations and marketing teams to be tied up for the following 18 to 24 months as this merry-go-round of meetings, presentations, conference calls and pitches swings into action.
With millions of pounds and the firm’s next four or five years of investments at stake, companies can’t afford for things to go wrong. And to get it right, firms need to address under-investment in their communications technology.
The funding cycle
Private equity companies can have a very diverse portfolio with investments from buyouts and beyond. To raise capital, the firms need to tap into a wide range of investments sources, likely to be sovereign wealth funds, pension funds or banks. And that means commitments from a wide investor base.
It’s an expensive and time-consuming process with much at stake. Investor relations and marketing teams can be fully focused on fundraising for up to two years, racking up thousands of people hours and air miles. There’s a huge amount of communication involved. Private equity firms have to raise investment based on their own credibility, portfolio and track record, so there’s a vast quantity of information to share and discuss. Even outside of fundraising, investor relations teams are constantly communicating facts and figures to potential investors and colleagues. They’re sending out monthly or quarterly updates, pitching to potential investors and holding meetings, conference calls, webinars and presentations with people located around the world. They’re also collaborating and sharing information with colleagues all over the globe.
Smarter communications for a smoother cycle
It’s essential that all of this communication runs smoothly, professionally and efficiently – the last thing firms want to do is give people a reason not to invest. The problem is there’s often a reliance on out-dated and legacy options for the answer. So now’s the time for private equity firms to start looking at their technology solutions and ask themselves is it robust, reliable and ultra-secure enough?
Communications technology has moved on dramatically since the last funding cycle, and if your technology solutions are up to scratch they can give you an extra edge.
There’s a host of tools to help firms communicate smarter, better and more effectively. Webcasting is one example where a product has developed dramatically over the last few years, where it’s now possible to stream a live audio or video presentation through a website at a relatively low cost and little hardware requirement. It’s also far easier to hold large managed conference calls and Q&As, hosted by a professional operator. Instead of sending out packs containing presentations by email or post, firms can hold interactive online demonstrations.
As people increasingly use multiple devices like smart phones and tablets, it’s easier than ever for potential investors to log in wherever they are. Tools like Microsoft Lync and Cisco Webex -combined with faster and more robust internet connections and better mobile connections with 4G – are coming into their own as people work remotely. In addition, firms are moving away from traditional office set-ups to encourage working practices like hot-desking and giving employees access to multiple devices – so staff can be much more productive when they’re online.
As with many things, there’s a huge amount of sensitive information to be shared during the funding process, and security is vital. There are numerous examples of unauthorised people who have joined conference calls when they’re not supposed to, with potentially dire consequences. This is another area where technology has advanced, and it’s now possible to guarantee absolute security of calls and web conferences. A wide range of security options can be employed to ensure information isn’t compromised, such as unique PIN codes for projects, conference locks, a host to control the call – the list is endless.
Reliability and robustness of technology is essential, particularly for big pitches and presentations. There’s nothing more guaranteed to turn off a potential investor than failing technology and a good provider should ensure absolute reliability of service. And then we look at the bigger picture – with investors based in diverse locations such as the Far East, Australia and America, it can be a logistical nightmare to get everyone together in the same place and hold all meetings in person – so anything that can ease this pressure is beneficial.
Using smarter communications technology, that’s ultra-secure and reliable, can cut down on the number of face to face meetings you need, saving time and money. Of course, it can never replace face to face meetings and they’ll always be an essential part of the process. But clever communication solutions can help reduce their number and in fact improve the process.
The right investment
Come 2015, a lot of private equity firms will already be deep into pitching, meeting and calling, so now’s the time to get everything in order, including your communications systems. Investigate what’s available and discover how it can help you as you move into this hectic – and vitally important – period.
Using the latest, smartest systems, you can appeal to investors, become far more efficient, cut hours and costs, and maximise your chances of success during this funding cycle.