This week, we introduce William Gilmore of Aberdeen Asset Management, Head of Primary Funds Europe and based in the Edinburgh office. He leads primary funds investment and monitoring in Europe. William joined Aberdeen in 2014 from the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership heritage team.
What is the story of your career?
Following a degree in Accountancy and Economics from the University of Strathclyde I joined Thomson McLintock (a predecessor firm of KPMG) where I trained as a Chartered Accountant. My entire career post-qualifying has been spent in the financial services industry.
In October 1987 on Black Monday of all days I joined Ivory & Sime in a project accounting role. What an experience that was - grown men were literally crying at their desks and I wondered what I had let myself in for having left the relatively safe haven of the accountancy profession!
Throughout the 1990s I was with Murray Johnstone Private Equity in Glasgow. In the first part of that period I was involved in portfolio monitoring before moving into direct deal doing.
In 2000 I moved back to Edinburgh with Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP). After a short spell in the UK small cap team I was asked to set up a private equity fund investment programme and I have focused on this area of investment ever since.
In 2014 SWIP was acquired by Aberdeen and in recent weeks Aberdeen has merged with Standard Life to form Aberdeen Standard Investments. Despite all these changes my day job hasn’t really changed. My title is Head of Primary Funds Europe meaning that I am responsible for the team that researches and monitors European private equity funds. I sit on our Asian and European investment committees.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I really enjoy the sheer variety and unpredictability as every day is genuinely different. I get a kick out of having several balls in the air at the same time and engaging with a diverse and talented group of people both within the organisation and externally.
As one of the more experienced members of the team I am often asked to fulfil the role of Challenger or Devil’s Advocate when we are carrying out due diligence on a potential fund investment. I always enjoy the intellectual stimulation that this provides.
What was the most recent deal you worked on ?
Earlier this year I led our commitment to Hg Capital VIII, a pan-European buyout fund with a strong TMT focus.
What are the biggest investment challenges/opportunities ahead?
I worry about the supply/demand imbalance in private equity. Dry powder is at a record level but the stock of companies available for buyout funds to acquire isn’t growing. The inevitable consequence is asset price inflation. In football parlance there is a danger of Champions League prices being paid for Championship businesses! I know it’s an old fashioned view in these days of sophisticated operational value creation but for me the price paid for the asset is the most important component of the eventual return.
In terms of opportunities there are some high calibre investors who are looking to raise their own funds having had successful careers with established houses. There can be a powerful alignment in being an early backer of such situations which don’t have historical baggage.
What are you most looking forward to at the Corporate M&A Exchange Conference?
Having the opportunity to engage in discussions with fellow attendees who will almost certainly be seeing private equity from a perspective that differs from mine.
Thank you William, and make sure you hear his insights on the challenges and opportunties for private equity at the Corporate M&A Exchange. see agenda here