Prices Are Dropping as Investors Sell Private Equity Stakes at a Record Pace

(Institutional Investor)
As investors rethink their private equity allocations, the PE secondaries market has benefited – reaching a new record of $57 billion through H1. As long as concerns about inflation, rising rates, the war in the Ukraine and impact of Covid remain, the Secondaries market will offer diversification, liquidity and should continue to thrive.

Update: what does work look like after the pandemic?

Last May, we commented on a Quartz article, What does work look like after the pandemic? Our guidance was that company leaders should prepare for an increasingly virtual workplace. The pandemic would force manager sentiment to catch-up with candidates’ desires for remote work and flexible arrangements. The pandemic is not over, but we’ve finally hung the 2021 calendar on the wall. Where do we stand? Here’s what we saw in 2020 and an update on what we expect work to look like in the future.

Looking back at 2020

When office workers went home in March, we were concerned that our clients would stop hiring. Remarkably, they did not. By and large, the need to hire won out over the need to meet in person. There were hiccups with remote interviews and it was hard to get comfortable conducting final interviews remotely, but employers’ message was clear – “we need talent.”

The combination of remote work and hiring demand tilted the tables strongly toward high-value, passive talent (often to the dismay of active candidates who were out of work). Uncertainty related to the pandemic and remote onboarding led to increasing conservatism amongst most passive candidates and significant handwringing amongst those who made the leap to a new opportunity. The sticky question persisted: can one build real bonds with their new team and make a strong impression over Zoom?

Our clients were uniformly empathetic and willing to be flexible. The strings of old pre-pandemic knots loosened as managers became more flexible on re/location, onboarding, and long-term work arrangements. We hired several candidates in 2020 who will not live in the same city or state as their team in 2021. While this may sound unremarkable to some, it’s a new leaf for banking, trading, and investment teams. Employers have been especially flexible on relocation timetables as the need to be in-person for onboarding disappeared.

Looking ahead

As a reminder, candidates were already asking for flexibility before 2020’s great transformation. Managers were reluctant to grant it, preferring to have new hires in the office, at the desk, and working alongside the team. We believe the new reality will flexible, but not to an extreme – it will be balanced. We expect increasing comfort with virtual solutions to some problems and more flexibility towards remote work, but the value of in-person collaboration and socialization cannot be understated. Here’s what we expect:

Zoom (interviews) are here to stay

While still imperfect, video conferencing and collaboration software proved its value and is only becoming more robust. We expect more work will happen online whether collaborators are working from home or down the hallway.

Interviews will be more flexible and easier to coordinate. Preliminary interviews will be virtual-first with the option to arrange an onsite, while final interviews happen in-person once again. Candidates will save travel time and PTO as many employers – though not all – will see the sense in conducting early stage interviews virtually. Candidates will be given the option to hike into the office if they choose (and if their interviewers are not working remotely). Candidates should expect to suit-up for onsite interviews with executives and hiring managers, but Zoom and Teams interviews are here to stay for everything preceding.

Virtual onboarding left a void

It is extremely difficult to form a relationship and build bonds with new teammates online. Expect some aspects of onboarding and training to remain virtual, while the desire to collaborate and build relationships will draw teams back together. We expect to hear this desire to be expressed from both sides.

Back to the whiteboard for critical project teams

In the words of one manager, virtual worked in 2020, but they will tackle critical problems more quickly when they are back at the whiteboard.

“We proved that we can do it remotely, but I know we can solve some problems much faster when we gather around the whiteboard and figure it out together.”

New teams and those leading critical initiatives will be some of the first to be back onsite and working at their projects together.

More flexibility, but no WFH revolution

Bottom line, we expect most employers to allow new hires to work from home at least one day per week, and many will give more. Some employers will break new ground by hiring candidates who work remotely but live within commuting distance of the office. That is, close enough to be present for critical meetings and some facetime.

However, we do not expect a WFH revolution. In our experience, candidates who live and work remotely eventually express the desire to be with a team again. We expect to hear that desire in chorus when normalcy returns. At the same time, employers will be cautious about their location strategy, especially with respect to impact hires. We expect more flexibility on a week to week basis, but most candidates will be expected to live near the office to maintain a strong connection to their team. In the end, all parties should be better off.

What do you think? Let us know!

Sean Locke is Managing Partner and Founder of TLG |

Tom Hudson is a Partner and Head of TLG’s Quantitative Services practice |

The Locke Group (TLG) is a specialist executive search firm which has served the financial industry since 2003. As a boutique, we are deeply invested in our clients – our care for their experience and the experience of their candidates is second to none.

And keep an eye out for our upcoming 2021 Candidate Experience Manifesto, where we’ll lay out the keys to crafting an excellent candidate experience. Find our inaugural 2020 publication here.

Creating a Positive Recruitment Experience During a Pandemic

We’re in the midst of a crisis.

With heightened uncertainty, some companies have frozen all hiring, while others are reviewing open headcount and approving case-by-case. Regardless, hiring and onboarding are not easy to execute remotely.

What are your candidates thinking?

The short answer is that they’re remarkably understanding, but patience doesn’t eliminate uncertainty and it doesn’t last forever. How can you keep them happy and engaged? Should that be a priority right now?

How you recruit impacts your brand and your commercial success. The best companies know it. They focus on crafting a positive recruitment experience and they don’t lose sight of it easily – even during hiring freezes or times of crisis.

You may have higher priorities – business continuity first of all – but if you employ a few simple practices now, you will remain top of mind with your candidates, create a positive impression, and be well prepared to engage them successfully on the rebound. Here’s what you need to do.

It’s all about expectations

Hopefully your company is still recruiting and hiring, but with COVID-related uncertainty, your 2020 headcount may be under review or frozen altogether. Regardless, the #1 rule of providing a good recruitment experience is active communication – it applies in every environment.

In practice, this means 1) setting clear expectations and 2) communicating with your candidates regularly, even if infrequently (more on that last comment below).

Right now, you should set (or reset) expectations with the candidates in your pipeline and decide on a basic schedule for communicating with them. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you next, how often, and if possible, what type of update you’ll bring. Active communication is the keystone for constructing a satisfying recruitment experience, and it will serve you well in every scenario.

Be conservative

Recruitment is emotional. Like forgetting a friend’s birthday, unmet expectations can be a big source of pain and disappointment. Fail to deliver feedback or a recruitment update on time and your candidates’ feelings will range from ‘that’s disappointing’ to ‘they don’t care about me’. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s not far off.

That’s why it’s OK to be conservative when setting expectations with your candidates. You don’t have to predict the future, but you do have to communicate – just make sure you can keep your promises. Here’s an example of how to communicate during a freeze:

“Unfortunately, we have decided to pause all hiring for the time being. I may not have a substantive update for some time, but I wanted to let you know we plan to keep in touch with you. I’ll ping you on April 10th and once every two weeks until things change. Of course, I’ll be in touch sooner with positive developments – and don’t be afraid to email me if you have an update or a question.”

It’s OK to be conservative with your timeline, frequency, and even the substance of your communications. That candidates know they can expect to hear from you will have a greater positive impact on their experience and engagement than what you actually say. This is a great way to stand out and avoid dissatisfaction.

Use one voice

Do hiring managers know the status of their headcount? Who is communicating with candidates? Periods of uncertainty are no different than business as usual – it’s best to have a single point of contact to avoid mixed messaging and confusion (that is, ‘one voice’).

If you’re the decision maker, make a single person from your team the point of contact. Who you choose is up to you – it could be you/the hiring manager, HR, your executive search consultant, etc. – just choose one person. Equip them with their message or give them the authority to decide on proper messaging themselves.

As a bonus, electing a single point of contact will simplify things for your team and allow them to focus on running the business when you need all hands on deck.

Reel in the slack

When your freeze ends and business returns to normal, what steps will remain in your recruitment process? Which of those steps can you complete now? You will need to hire as quickly as possible when things rebound – so reel in the slack in your recruitment process now by completing as many steps as you can, remotely. Here’s a list of ideas:

  • Video interviews – completing stakeholder interviews now will make scheduling final interviews easier, later
  • Tests – programming, modeling, behavioral and cognitive tests, etc.
  • Writing samples
  • Case studies
  • Reference checks
  • Offer negotiations
  • Background checks
  • Drug screenings

Candidates will be glad to have the engagement while other companies sit on the sidelines, and you’ll be in a good position to hire quickly when normal operations return.

Ask for updates (don’t just give them)

These times are unprecedented – don’t tune them out! Ask your candidates for updates. How are they faring personally? How is their company managing the crisis? What are they hearing from other employers? Are they progressing with other interviews and has their recruitment timeline changed?

Your questions will undoubtedly have a positive impact on them. Why? It’s straightforward – people like to know that you’re thinking about them. Setting expectations and providing regular updates is a great foundation for a positive experience, but you wouldn’t believe what a small amount of genuine interest will do for their engagement in your company – and it’s as easy as asking a question.

Another bonus – remember, it’s in your interest to track your candidates’ recruitment timelines. If another suitor is progressing to final interviews or to offer, you need to know about it. If you’re on a hiring freeze, you may be limited in your ability to respond, but at least you will know what you’re up against.

Let them go

One of the kindest things you can do for an interested candidate you will not hire is to release them.

If you know it’s going to be long-term freeze, don’t put your candidates on ice – let them know. Each candidate will appreciate the clarity, and some more than others.

Some may need to decide on another offer, respond to an internal promotion or commit to a long-term project, or maybe they’re thinking about buying a house – who knows? Regardless, give them the clarity they deserve.

In conclusion

Crafting a positive recruitment is critical to your brand and commercial success. At the ground level, it’s all about setting expectations – be conservative, but let candidates know when and how they should expect to hear from you. Next, use ‘one voice’ when communicating – your candidates will appreciate the clarity while your team will appreciate the ability to focus.

Get ahead – reel in as much ‘recruitment slack’ as you can remotely and don’t forget to ask your candidates they’re doing. They will appreciate the engagement and you will successfully shorten recruitment timelines once hiring is live. Lastly, release your candidates if you know you’ll be on a long-term freeze. They deserve the clarity.

The present crisis may be disrupting business and normal ways of life, but it doesn’t need to hurt your brand in the minds of interested candidates. Follow these simple steps to stand out, make a good impression, and land top talent quickly when business rebounds.

One last thing… a recruitment pep talk

If you’re a manager, this next comment may cause some discomfort, but try to see the bright side – millions of candidates are more available than ever as they work from home. Don’t withdraw from the market. Reach out to them!

Your target candidates are at home and available to talk. It’s an amazing opportunity to recruit, so get out there.

(Shameless plug) What if you don’t have time to make phone calls or build a pipeline of talent? We do! It’s our profession. Reach out to us – we are here to listen and to help you attract the talent you need to power your business. We may already have a relationship with your next impact hire.

Sean Locke is Managing Partner and Founder of TLG |

Tom Hudson is a Partner and Head of TLG’s Quantitative Services practice |

The Locke Group (TLG) is a specialist executive search firm which has served the financial industry since 2003. As a boutique, we are deeply invested in our clients – our care for their experience and the experience of their candidates is second to none.

Check out our 2020 Candidate Experience Manifesto for 10 Keys to an excellent recruitment experience. It has the facts and even has bonus tips which you can begin to implement today.

(Bloomberg) Why Direct Lending Is a Booming Part of Private Debt

(Bloomberg) Why Direct Lending Is a Booming Part of Private Debt

Investor demand and their search for yield has contributed to the continued growth of Private Credit and specifically, direct lending in 2019. There seems to be no signs of slowing down in 2020 with 39% of investors saying they expect to increase their commitments to private debt funds in the next 12 months.

What happens when things slow down? Can the non-bank lenders survive?

Read our 2020 Candidate Experience Manifesto

Click to read our 2020 Candidate Experience Manifesto (PDF).

83% of candidates will share a positive interview experience with their inner circle*, but 66% will also share a negative experience – a figure which is growing year-over-year. Either way, how you recruit impacts your brand – your reputation spreads among candidates and influences their decisions. What are hard-to-reach, passive candidates hearing about your company?

In our inaugural Candidate Experience Manifesto, TLG provides the 10 keys to an excellent candidate experience, complete with helpful tips which you can begin to implement today.

Announcing The Locke Group

Announcing The Locke Group

To our clients, candidates, and friends—I am excited to announce that Locke Careers Inc. has re-branded as The Locke Group (TLG). It’s a simple change in name, but one which reflects a story of excellence, growth, and the opportunity to provide a better recruitment solution to the marketplace.

In 16 years since our founding, Locke Careers has served the recruitment needs of some of the most successful and well-respected companies across investment banking, asset management, alternatives, and fintech. As a boutique, we built our reputation on the concept of quality, by taking a consultative, flexible approach, and by internalizing our clients’ strengths in order to represent them in the best way possible. This approach will always be in our DNA.

I am proud to say that company has evolved. Our market expertise has deepened along with our relationships, allowing us to undertake and fulfill many of our clients’ most critical hires. We have formed a nuanced understanding of the industry landscape and constructed living market-maps with exceptional detail. With a consistent approach and deepening expertise, we have built a track-record of delivering hard-to-reach leadership and specialized talent.

But through this experience, we have come to believe that traditional search providers aren’t meeting the needs of today’s market. Retained search providers provide an excellent service but are often focused on the sale and rigid on cost. Contingent search providers work quickly and more cheaply, but the experience they provide is not suited for leaders or elusive specialist talent.

Thus, we have re-branded as The Locke Group to provide a new kind of solution – we call it Performance-Driven Solutions (PDS). PDS is a high-touch recruitment model which is driven by the alignment of interests in the recruitment process. The model allows us to deliver top talent and an excellent experience swiftly, and at a significant savings compared to executive search providers. At TLG, our mission is to make our clients more competitive for top talent while providing a cost-sensitive recruitment solution. We’d welcome the opportunity to show you how it can work for you.

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to thank our clients past and current for partnering with us over the past 16 years. Your partnership shaped our mission and defined who we are. We are re-branding, but our DNA remains the same. As a boutique, we will continue to offer flexibility and high-touch service while forging ahead on our current path. We look forward to serving you through the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

Warm regards,

Sean Locke, Managing Partner and Founder