PE won’t make full office return until 2021
Almost a third (30%) of PE firms do not expect to make a full return to the office until 2021, according to recruitment firm PER.
The firm’s most recent survey, Taking the Temperature May 2020, found that 23% of respondents expect to make a complete return to the office between July and August while 37% of respondents are planning a full return between September and December.
That said, most participants expect to phase their return to the office, with 41% starting in July or August.
“I suspect there’s two parts at play here,” explained Gail McManus, MD and founder of PER. “Almost half of our respondents are from the UK, many in London. I think there is a perception that public transport is going to be a limiting factor for returning to work in the city. We’re also moving into the summer period and whilst new investment levels are low, there is less pressure to be in the office.”
Of those surveyed, 80% expect physical distancing in the office to be the “new normal” upon return, while a majority of firms are expecting to limit business travel (74%) and reduce face-to-face meetings (70%).
“If you think about the way both private equity investment and fundraising actually work, reducing business travel and face-to-face meetings is a major change,” added McManus. “It’s essentially removing that ability to look people in the eye, which has always been an important part of making an investment decision.”
On the flip side, 73% of respondents expect to be allowed to work from home.
Additionally, more than half (53%) expect to see policies for how to use communal areas, while the same percentage intend to tell staff with symptoms to stay home.
Surprisingly, PER found less than a third (26%) said their firms have used staff surveys to understand their employees’ concerns. Similarly, only 28% are implementing additional mental health and well-being practices.
“I suspect the surveys are going to come later as people plan their return to the office,” said McManus. “My recommendation to everyone in the private equity community is to recognise the importance of engaging with team members during this time of stress and change. Gathering views through formal or informal surveys is one valuable way of doing this.”
19% of respondents expect to start all or some recruitment processes within the next month while around a third (35%) said they expect to start processes in the next six months.
Similarly to April’s survey, 50% of participants said their firms would not make hiring decisions based on video conferencing only. However, of those which have recently hired, more than half (54%) said they have done so completely remotely.
In the previous survey, 74% of respondents predicted that carried interest and LTIP values would drop during the next three months.
This time around, 19% expect carry payments to decrease in value, while the majority (81%) of those surveyed expect payments to be delayed.
While PER found that 44% expect no change in bonuses, more than 50% expect a reduction. Their research revealed that around two thirds of those expecting a reduction expect a modest decrease in value and 20% predict bonuses being cut in half.
“Those with bonuses still to be paid out in 2020 are likely to see a decrease. Interestingly, this is across the board on fund size,” said McManus.
Similar to the first survey, the majority (83%) of those who participated still expect no change to their base salary.
PER’s survey received responses from more than 300 professionals, of which 61% were partners or directors, 18% were at vice president level, while the remaining 21% were associates and analysts.