PE firms increase use of interim managers

In 2006, to the end of November, there was a 25% rise in the firm’s placements of interim managers in portfolio companies by private equity houses. Demand for CEOs and CFOs was only fractionally higher than the previous year, but the need for financial managers and controllers grew by 14%.

Those with specific knowledge saw demand for their services increase by 10% as businesses looked to conduct due diligence before a private equity investment, or wanted a new brain at the table to help put with identifying and/or consolidating acquisitions, or growing a company’s product portfolio or expanding into new geographies.

Turnaround specialists were in particular demand last year according to Ashton Penney: demand for interims with expertise in working with struggling companies leapt from 18% in 2005 to 30%. Placements of managers with experience of selling or floating a company increased by 10%.

The requirement for interims to undertake due diligence was up 15%, particularly for investments and acquisitions outside the UK. Gap filling, such as maternity leave, remained stable at just under 20%, of all placements.

James Wheeler, CEO of Ashton Penney, said: “Predictably, at this stage of the private equity cycle, we have seen strong demand for turnaround experts. This has long been a stable source of work for the interim provider, however I see a real move in private equity firms now using interim managers for other requirements, especially due diligence and readying companies for exit. The increasing use of interims who become permanent is interesting in an age when ‘interim’ can mean anything from two months to two years and ‘permanent’ as little as 18 months. It is a sensible way of testing in situ.”