Our fourth annual Buyouts Emerging Manager Survey conducted in partnership with Gen II Fund Services, LLC, gathers qualitative intelligence from the market to further understand how investors feel about emerging managers in the current climate. There is good news amid all the gloom: our report notes that there is still plenty of appetite for first- and second-time funds, with 89 percent of institutional investor respondents reporting that they would still back these vehicles. Dig into our report for much more data and analysis, as well as expert opinion.

The fundraising effects of the crisis have been particularly intense for emerging managers, with LPs tending to prioritize existing relationships, according to the results of the survey. But new funds also have the advantage of being unencumbered by troubled legacy portfolios, allowing them to focus on the buying opportunity ahead.

Under pressure

Almost 90 percent of emerging managers believe that the pandemic and international lockdowns will make raising funds at least moderately more difficult. Meanwhile, 66 percent believe fundraising will become “a lot” or “a great deal” more difficult from now on. In part, this is a result of internal firefighting which is forcing some investors to prioritize existing relationships. Overwhelmingly, however, LPs are also citing the logistical obstacles to due diligence as a barrier to making new investments. “The unique restrictions of activity associated with covid-19 makes fundraising activity that much more difficult,” says Richard Spencer, head of funds and co-investment at Barings.

Pause for thought

Several months into the pandemic, business as usual is still a long ways off. Indeed, the days of prolific traveling and face-to-face due diligence meetings may never return. In light of this uncertainty, many emerging managers that had been poised to launch vehicles prior to the outbreak have since chosen to postpone fundraising, at least in the short term. Almost half – 44 percent – expect a delay of a few months, while 22 percent expect the delay to be longer. Only 27 percent are planning for no delay at all. A further 7 percent, meanwhile, have abandoned plans to raise a fund altogether.

Neither shaken nor stirred

Despite the global economic shock caused by the coronavirus, 79 percent of investors say their allocation to emerging managers has not changed. The release of Q2 valuations could change that, as could a further deterioration in the public markets. But, by and large, LPs with defined emerging manager programs remain convinced by the benefits of bringing fresh blood into their portfolios. “Diversification is critical… If you only stick with your existing mid-cap or larger managers you will see a lot of repetition in types of deals,” says Claire Kendrick, managing director of alternative investments and research at Mill Creek Capital Advisors. “We know that, in a downturn, that repetition could hurt us.”

First time’s a charmer

An overwhelming 89 percent of investors surveyed say they will back a debut private equity or venture capital fund. Although there are challenges associated with identifying and underwriting the unproven, many believe the rewards outweigh the risks and so the appeal remains strong. “Supporting emerging managers often comes with strong alignment, a more conviction-weighted investment approach and the opportunity for high returns,” says Derek Schmidt, director of private equity at investment consultants Marquette Associates. Janusz Heath, senior managing director at Capital Dynamics, adds: “It’s about trying to identify energized, ambitious new talent.”

Fear of commitment?

Despite LPs’ insistence that their appetite for emerging managers remains strong, only 17 percent intend to increase commitments to first-time funds over the next 12 months and 28 percent intend to reduce them. This is, perhaps, inevitable, given the uncertainty that has dominated the first half of the year and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. “The current environment hasn’t impacted our ability to back emerging managers, but it has slowed it,” says Schmidt. “We are certainly proceeding more cautiously with due diligence and virtual on-sites, as we would prefer to meet face-to-face. Nonetheless, we have been able to approve a few strategies.”

Anchors aweigh

Investor willingness to make anchor commitments to emerging managers is divided. Fifty-five percent of limited partners – down from 76 percent of LP respondents to our 2019 survey – would anchor a first-time fund. For the fund manager, of course, the anchor investor is crucial. The quality of the institution serves as a benchmark for future LPs. For the investor, there are advantages to coming in early – particularly the opportunity to exert influence on the LPAC, access co-investment, take a stake in the management company or gain preferential terms. But there are risks, including the possibility the manager will fail to hit target commitments, and the anchor investor will become over-weighted in the fund.

Follow the money

Family offices, wealth managers and wealthy individuals dominate the emerging manager investor pool, accounting for 60 percent of capital raised – up substantially from 43 percent last year. Sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and financial institutions remain more conservative. “Wealth managers and family offices are more able to get their heads around emerging managers,” says John McCormick, managing director at Monument Group.

Lindel Eakman of the Foundry Group adds: “A few well-known fund of funds are active but most – including us – have low appetite at this point.”

Opportunity from crisis

One of the advantages emerging managers have in the current environment is that they are not overly burdened by extensive legacy portfolios. As such, they are able to focus on the new opportunities and attractive pricing likely to emerge in the months to come. Ninety-one percent of emerging managers expect to be more active dealmakers as they look to take advantage of low asset valuations as a result of covid-19, while 38 percent expect to ask investors for greater flexibility on their investment mandate.