From equity research to private equity - a bridge too far?

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With equity research in decline, ambitious types might be advised to look for alternative careers - just don't expect to make the leap to private equity.

Research by Goldman Sachs suggests that equity research commission rates, which have been decreasing ever since the Big Bang, could be further threatened if the bull market comes to an end.

But equity researchers hoping to transfer out into private equity should not get their hopes up, warns Guy Townsend, joint managing director of recruitment firm Walker Hamill.

"It is virtually never done, it is almost unheard of, and certainly in 15 years I think I have seen it happen maybe once," he says.

"In principle, such a move could be possible, particularly for researchers relatively early on in their careers, but experienced researchers will generally not have the transactional skills to make the leap successfully," he argues.

There may also be an issue around salary. With even equity research associates normally starting at around the 55k to 60k mark, annual cash expectations are relatively high, whereas in private equity there will be a greater focus on rewards based on fund performance.

But one investment manager in a leading private equity firm stresses it is very much a case of "never say never".

"Private equity now has such a diverse range of backgrounds," he says. "You get people from investment banking, leveraged finance, accounting, forensic accounting, MBAs and so on.

"So I would not say that having been in equity research rules you out in any way. A good equity researcher could have a role to play," he points out.

But anyone looking to move would have to show they had the right client and customer relationship skills in spades, he agrees.

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