The finance industry has long been known for working employees, especially junior ones, to the extreme, often demanding upwards of 70 or 80 hours a week. However, recent controversies, including the death of a Bank of America intern after working three consecutive days with no sleep, along with a shift in the broader professional world to more work life balance are beginning to change the industry.

workweek average hours in private equity 2014In the 2014 Private Equity and Venture Capital Compensation Report, there was a significant decline in the correlation between the number of hours spent in the office, and the total compensation of the employee. While the lowest pay was found among those putting in less than 40 hours per week, perhaps reflecting part-time employees, the highest pay was not found among those working the most hours, over 90 per week. In fact, there was a considerable drop off in compensation for employees working beyond 70 hours a week.

With that considered, working in private equity is almost certainly going to require longer hours than a typical nine to five job. The majority of private equity and venture capital employees worked over 60 hours per week, with a full 54 percent responding they’re putting in such hours. On top of that, an additional 37 percent of respondents indicated they are working between 50 and 59 hours per week. So with 97 percent of employees putting in more than 10 hours of “overtime” per week, those considering a move to the industry should not view recent developments to more balance as a significant decrease in workload.

When it came to vacation time, the report found very little change compared to last year, with the majority of firms offering between 3 and 4 weeks of vacation. A select few offered a generous 5 to 6 weeks, while some firms offered only 2 weeks or even no paid vacation. While 3.4 weeks may have been the average vacation entitlement, employees only took 2.7 weeks in actual leave.

While the industry may be shifting towards more balance, old attitudes remain and work expectations may differ greatly by firm. Some of the old guard in the industry still takes a view that more hours demonstrate greater commitment to the firm. Randall Dillard, managing director and chief investment officer at Liongate Capital Management, recently told a room full of future financial professionals at the 2014 London School of Economics Alternative Investments Conference that 60 hours a week is “not even in the game.”

So even if some of the larger institutions are beginning to take notice of the potential upside of adding more balance, it may be a long time before such views are held industry wide.

 

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When it comes to compensation in the private equity and venture capital industries, bonuses are a key component of one’s pay package, with some professionals earning more than half their compensation through incentive pay. Linked to fund performance, bonuses can often be at times volatile, though in recent years payouts have been relatively healthy. Last year, with robust equity markets and return to more active deal making, private equity firms posted excellent returns for their investors, driving bonuses higher.

One key marker of industry performance, the LPX 50 index which tracks some of the top private equity companies that are publically listed, reflects this strong performance with a near 40 percent return in the past year. When asked to explain the source of these remarkable returns, Sam Armstrong of Barwon Private Equity told Fundweb, “anecdotally it appears to be a range of things: low interest rates and low funding costs, strong earnings margins and more aggressive cost management.”

Armstrong also pointed to flexibility being key for private equity firms, referring to their ability change focus quickly in rapidly evolving markets.

The strong performance posted by the LPX 50 mirrors the sentiment captured by the 2014 Private Equity and Venture Capital Compensation Report. In terms of 2013 fund performance, nearly 19 percent of respondents indicated that they expected their funds to provide returns in excess of 25 percent this past year. A further 47 percent expected returns between 10 and 25 percent, indicating that two thirds of respondents expected double digit returns for 2013. In a time of low fixed income yields, this kind of performance sets up private equity and venture capital well as an alternative asset class, providing diversification for portfolio managers.

private equity fund performance and bonuses 2014Fortunately for employees of private equity firms, this high level of performance is resulting in lucrative payouts when it comes to bonuses. According to the compensation report, for firms with 25 percent or higher performance in 2013, employees expected a bonus of $148,000 on average. Bonuses for firms reporting gains in the 10-24 percent range averaged $104,000. While the average is likely weighted higher by the remarkable payouts seen by senior management, even the more junior members of these firms likely enjoyed a large bonus this year.

Throughout the full range of performance, from funds that were down on the year to the highest performers, a clear correlation existed between investor returns and bonus payouts. This has become more apparent through the years as investors demand tighter linkages between their own returns and the compensation of their money managers. It also makes sense from a fund perspective, where high bonus payouts can be more easily managed after a year of strong performance and likely net inflows, compared to a year where revenue is scarcer.

As professionals look back on 2013, they’ll remember a year of strong performance and year of high personal compensation. And the next year is looking to be promising as well, with optimism high and a strong start to 2014. With that optimism, private equity and venture capital employees are likely looking forward to another year of strong bonuses as the closer ties between performance and compensation pay off.

 

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Positive Outlook for Private Equity and Compensation in 2014

March 18, 2014

Coming off several consecutive years of compensation growth, the private equity and venture capital industry is poised for continued prosperity, both for firms and for employees. Following strong earnings growth in 2012 and 2011, salaries continued to climb in 2013, posting remarkable gains. Even more encouraging, most employees in the industry expect the trend to […]

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Sources of Job Satisfaction can go beyond Pay

February 25, 2014

Without a doubt, the private equity and venture capital industries are the source of some of the largest compensation packages in any business worldwide. However, professionals in the industry constantly compare their pay to those in related industries where their skills could be put to use for perhaps higher salaries and bonuses. As a result, […]

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Bonuses Driven by Multiple Factors

February 4, 2014

The annual bonus is a large part of compensation in the financial industry and this holds true in both private equity and venture capital firms. Depending on a number of factors, bonuses can range from a most welcome “extra paycheck” at the end of the year to a substantial majority of a professional’s total compensation. […]

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2014 Private Equity Compensation Report Released

January 14, 2014

The seventh annual Private Equity and Venture Capital Compensation Report, released by the consulting firm Benchmark Compensation, indicates compensation growth in the private equity and venture capital markets is slowing. Although private equity professionals in certain roles reported increases in compensation this year, overall, the growth in cash compensation flattened from last year’s numbers. The […]

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The Influence of Firm Size on Private Equity Compensation

January 6, 2014

One of the key determining factors in private equity compensation is the size of the fund the professional is working for. Far from a new trend, we have seen this reinforced in numerous surveys dating back several years. However, the differences in compensation practices between funds of varying sizes are more complex than they appear […]

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Pay Satisfaction is Key to Retention in Private Equity

May 27, 2013

One of the most important factors in retaining top talent in the financial industry is employee satisfaction with their compensation arrangements. Despite this being such a critical leading indicator of potential turnover issues, many firms in the industry do not actively survey their employees on how happy they are with their pay. This can be […]

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Education’s Role in Private Equity

May 13, 2013

There are a number of interesting correlations between education in private equity and venture capital compensation. In our report, we primarily looked at the value that an MBA brings to those in the industry, and whether they experience increased earnings compared to their peers. While we found some interesting trends worth consideration, it’s important to […]

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Private Equity looks to Training as Important Benefit

April 29, 2013

While cash compensation is certainly front of mind for most individuals working in the private equity and venture capital industry, training can also be an important piece of overall compensation with significant advantages for both individuals and their firms. With advantages to the firm including increased productivity, increasing firm skill and “bench strength,” and higher retention, its […]

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