Private Equity Is Already Hiring Junior Bankers for 2024 Associate Roles

Private Equity Is Already Hiring Junior Bankers for 2024 Associate Roles

  • Private-equity giants from KKR to Apollo are recruiting junior bankers for 2024 associate roles.
  • The frenzied process has junior bankers interviewing till 2 a.m. and getting offers before Labor Day.
  • Private equity recruiting appears more intense this year as firms race to grab talent. 

The frenzied process of private equity recruiting for first-year investment bankers — notorious for its middle-of-the-night meetings — is underway earlier than ever, Insider has learned. 

Investment giants from KKR to Apollo have started meeting with freshman bankers over the last few days for roles that will start in the fall of 2024, according to 12 people familiar with the process, including investment bankers, employees at private-equity firms, recruiters, and career coaches. 

The process, which is beginning earlier than ever, appears to have started Monday evening, with a handful of firms suddenly springing into action and igniting an industry-wide stampede to lay claim to junior banker talent. It’s unclear what prompted the sudden kickoff, but by Tuesday morning offers had already gone out at some firms, while other firms were nearing the completion of the race, sources said.

In addition to KRR and Apollo, firms that have begun interviewing candidates this week include Thoma Bravo, Apax Partners, Hellman & Friedman, New Mountain Capital, and Silver Point Capital, TPG, Blackstone, and the Carlyle Group, according to industry sources and copies of screenshots and other private messages obtained by Insider. One investment banker at a boutique firm in New York told Insider she had also participated in an interview with buyside giant Apollo Global Management overnight on Monday.

A person close to Apollo confirmed to Insider that the firm is now conducting “select” interviews with candidates, but added that the firm isn’t  planning to fill its whole 2024 class at this time, and would leave some seats open to fill in the coming months.

Spokespersons for KKR, Silver Point, TPG, and Hellman & Friedman declined to comment about their firms’ participation in on-cycle recruiting on Tuesday. Representatives for Thoma Bravo, Apax, New Mountain Capital, and several other firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The private-equity recruiting cycle was at times delayed and disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, but now it appears that recruiters and PE funds are once again  pushing the boundaries and recruiting  earlier than before. In years past, the cycle began in September or October, but never late August. Buy-side recruiter Anthony Keizner says that FOMO is to blame.

“The fear of missing out on the best candidates once peers start interviewing them” seems to be a key driver of the earlier timeline, Keizner, a managing partner at New York-based firm Odyssey Search Partners, told Insider. “We predict that many bankers will wait to find off-cycle opportunities because they’re not prepared or willing to interview so early.”

Igniting a frenzy

People directly familiar with the recruiting chaos engulfing private-equity firms in recent days said interviewers at some mega-funds received emails from their external recruiters on Monday evening suggesting they begin taking meetings with candidates as soon as possible — or run the risk of falling behind. (Most sources spoke to Insider under the condition of anonymity to speak freely about industry proceedings and preserve relationships.)

One KKR employee with knowledge of the recruiting taking place at the firm’s Hudson Yards offices in New York said interviews had taken place well into the night, with some interviewers finally getting to head home at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning. This person also described a junior banker being stationed in a conference room on Tuesday morning juggling his or her investment banking day job via a laptop while awaiting interviewers to come and talk. 

Two people — the current KKR employee and Asif Rahman, founder of OfficeHours, a career-coaching organization that works with investment-banking and private-equity hopefuls — said that the first-year investment bankers participating in this year’s on-cycle recruiting process have little to no professional experience to speak of because they had just begun their first full-time investment-banking jobs right as private-equity recruiting began.

“I don’t think they’re as burned out because they haven’t worked that long. We’re trying to sense aptitude because we don’t have anything to go off. There’s no transaction experience,” the person at KKR said.

As a result, according to the KKR employee, interviewers have been relying largely on theoretical questions to probe candidates’ understanding of deal structures and technicalities. Questions may include: “What’s the nature of the work that we do? How do you think it’s different than what you do [in investment banking]? How much do you know about it from what you’ve read?,” this person said.

The KKR employee said that candidates could expect to endure as many as 10 interviews with investment professionals at the firm, including modeling exams as well as the qualitative questions. The person described feeling enthused at the quality of this year’s talent, saying it was clear that junior bankers had brushed up on financial models and other technical assessments during their undergrad years — perhaps more so than usual. 

The process appeared set to wrap up at KKR by roughly midday Tuesday, the person said, less than 24 hours after it began. And  the acceptance rate was incredibly competitive: “It is common practice  for teams at firms such as KKR to interview well into the double digits of candidates and give one or two offers.”

An email sent Monday evening from Silver Point Capital —  a fund based in Greenwich, Connecticut that focuses on credit, special situations, and distressed investments — urged candidates to tell the firm as soon as possible if they wanted to partake in recruiting, underscoring the time-sensitive nature of it all.

“Happy Monday! As you have already likely heard, On-Cycle recruiting has now officially kicked off,” read the email, which was reviewed by Insider. “Please let us know if you are interested in interviewing with Silver Point Capital’s Public and/or Private teams… Interviews are taking place tonight, so please let us know ASAP,” the email added.

A race for top talent

The process of private equity recruiting, which seeks to hire junior bankers for roles that won’t start for two years, is typically frenzied. But this year appears to be more intense than ever as firms race to grab top talent, industry pros say. The result is offers being made before Labor Day, which some say is a first. 

“Some of the bankers haven’t hit their desks yet. It’s ludicrous,” one industry headhunter told Insider via email on Monday night.

The headhunter isn’t the only person scratching their head over what industry insiders  say amounts to an illogical process that  forces young people fresh out of college to make huge career choices under extreme pressure.

Rahman, a former PE associate and founder of the coaching site OfficeHours, agreed that the process’ unprecedentedly early kickoff is problematic. “I think you’re kind of forcing these analysts to take a career path before they have any idea what the finance world is like,” Rahman said in an interview.

“Sure, they had a six- to eight-week internship over the summer when they were 20 years old. Why are you committing to a career path and a job that’s not going to happen for another two or three years when you have zero deal experience, and you really don’t understand if you like it or not? I think it causes a lot of burnout.”

Not all firms have agreed to participate in pushing the cycle earlier than ever, however.

Warburg Pincus, the $85 billion New York City-based growth-equity investor, is not participating at this time, according to one current Warburg employee who told Insider that the process is “just too early” this year. A spokesperson for Warburg declined to comment.

Blackstone also hasn’t started conducting interviews with candidates just yet, although the firm has been entertaining “informal conversations” and coffee chats with first-year IB analysts, a person familiar with the firm’s thinking told Insider on Tuesday.

Separately, a copy of an email said to have been authored by Silver Lake appeared on the popular online forum Wall Street Oasis suggesting the large tech investor had determined to sit this wave of the cycle out. Spokespersons for Silver Lake didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

“Silver Lake will NOT participate in early on-cycle recruiting with respect to the 1st year banking analyst pool and we will not be conducting any interviews, formal or otherwise (including coffee chats), prior to 2023,” according to a copy of the note posted to Wall Street Oasis.

This story has been updated with additional details following original publication on August 30.

Do you have information about the kick-off of private-equity recruiting this year? Contact these reporters with what you’re seeing. Reed Alexander can be reached via email at ralexander@insider.com or SMS/the encrypted app Signal at (561) 247-5758. Casey Sullivan can be reached via email at csullivan@insider.com.

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