In partnership with EPFL, Université Paris-Dauphine, Ardian, eFront, Unigestion and Wellershoff&Partners, this event strengthened the links between researchers and practitioners, each needing the other for their own success.
Unlisted investment products are on the rise. The amount of fund managers in private equity has almost doubled since the financial crisis in 2008. It is also a less abstract financial activity for a youth in search of meaning, with tangible added value. It means stimulating the real economy through investment, creating intellectual property, encouraging transparent governance, generating growth and employment. Value needs to be created at all levels if only to get out of an investment and make a profit. It is also an activity with varied human dimensions.
“Private equity is an activity largely dominated by human relations. It is a question of establishing a relationship built on trust to work together over time. This attracts talent, perhaps wearied by the statistical models of public equity and the dehumanising dimensions of stock markets” explained Cyril Demaria, speaker at the conference and Head of Private Markets for Wellershoff & Partners, a Zurich-based financial consulting firm.
Although most participants agreed that the private markets were nearing the end of a particularly good cycle, there is still great potential for Switzerland, a country which still accounts for relatively few private equity funds for a colossal amount of assets under management by private banks.
Participants of choice
Pension funds, insurers, cantonal banks, Zurich and Geneva-based private banks, family offices, investment funds: everyone wants to be up-to-date and most of the main Swiss financial players responded to the invitation to the conference. For good reason: the outstanding speakers. Per Strömberg, an economist at Stockholm University and member of the Nobel committee was mandated by the Norwegian sovereign fund (the second largest pension fund in the world) for an analysis of the opportunity to invest in Private Equity. He came to present the main conclusions of his report.
“We have time to ask ourselves questions and think about them. It is a luxury that practitioners don’t have. It is important that we can meet, as we did at EHL, to create and maintain a bridge between business and academic research”, he underlined in an interview.
His research, which served as a status report for the industry, was one of the topics discussed during the two days of the conference. Other high-quality interventions took place, with notably the participation of Tim Jenkinson and Ludovic Phalippou, both university professors at Oxford, reporting on the current and future state of private markets.
The connexion with EHL
The hotel business is changing, and so are the required skills. At EHL, faculty members engage in research like any other university, and finance is no exception.
“Hotels are an illiquid asset par excellence which we know very well”, Emmanuel Jurczenko, director of the Hospitality Real Estate Finance Institute at EHL and initiator of the conference, recently said. However, not only the hotel industry needs finance, but also the financial sector that needs EHL graduates. During the conference, Cyril Demaria confided that “EHL graduates are different from the purely technical profiles with standardised courses. They have decisive interpersonal skills to interact with entrepreneurs from various social and industrial backgrounds. Knowing how to listen to them and adapt is important for negotiating, convincing and then collaborating with them”.
This mix of business knowledge and human know-how is the reason for which, increasingly, EHL graduates are being offered positions in finance, but also in luxury, consulting and many other service activities.