That time of year again.

The European firms, both private equity and venture capital, have tended to do a mix of presentations and interaction either followed or preceded by a lunch or dinner. One explanation mooted for the difference in approach between US buyout firms and pretty much everyone else is that the US raise most of their money domestically and most employees in the US, their current President excepted, enjoy a meagre (compared to us Europeans) two week’s annual leave. So it’s quite attractive to roll business in with pleasure, be it golfing or yachting days.

If that’s the case then it’s even more of a shame that those junkets may soon be a thing of the past. State officials in Washington DC, for example, are required not accept anything for free and it is the same across the US. To the extent that if taken out for dinner an official must be publicly seen to hand over his or her portion of the bill. But then if the officials acting in their capacity as institutional investors concentrate on the task of learning about the private equity business and the GP in question then a more focused, less entertainment, annual investor meeting could be a welcome result.

GPs for their part often complain about the lack of feedback from LPs post annual investor meeting. One GP notes that apart from some pertinent portfolio company-related questions, LPs are generally pretty silent beyond saying, ‘we’d like to know more about your industry’ for which the GP quickly reads ‘which funds should we pick’ and refuses to engage.

Interestingly, at least one European GP has taken to widening the annual general meeting (typically referred to as an investor meeting since that’s the constituent group it’s predominantly formed to serve) to include all of the intermediaries that it has formed relationships with. This gives the intermediaries a fly-on-the-wall view of a firm and its processes and areas of interest that they would otherwise probably take years to fathom out, if ever. It seems a pretty inspired move if this forges a greater connection and better quality deal flow as a result.

While the European modus operandi of meeting plus dinner or some social activity looks likely to continue, when these events take place may be up for discussion. Typically these meetings have tended to cluster to accommodate the largest LPs within a given fund. But the LP constituents of Europe’s private equity and venture capital funds are and have changed a lot in recent times. Where five years or so ago, US LPs made up some 40% of the investors in European private equity and venture capital funds, that figure dropped in 2004 to a little over a quarter of all funds raised.

So, GPs may need to review when they fix their annual investor meetings for in future if they are to avoid the situation whereby junior clerical staff are sent along by the typically understaffed institutional investor (fund-of-funds operations aside) so that the LP has a presence. One observer wryly notes that this development doesn’t appear to concern GPs so long as the LP puts in a show. Given the likelihood of junior non-investment staff asking pertinent or penetrating questions this may at first hold its own attractions, but if a GP keeps being fobbed off with the junior staff because the senior investment team members are busy at other GPs meetings they should probably read something into that.