16 February 2021
In conversation with Silverfleet’s junior investment team: Jesper Steffensen
As the newest member of Silverfleet’s investment team, Jesper provides his thoughts on the Nordic deal-making landscape, disruptors across the Firm’s core sectors and the role private equity has to play in enhancing ESG performance of companies. Jesper joined as an Investment Executive in Silverfleet’s London office in September 2020.
You joined Silverfleet’s London office last year; what first drew you to the firm?
Silverfleet stands out with a 30-plus year history of partnering with businesses across Western Europe, helping them to pursue international growth both organically and through acquisitions. Having focussed on mid-market investments in Scandinavia in my previous role, I was keen to use this experience at a manager that has a long track record in the Nordic region, with the firm having made its first Nordic investment in 1994 and still having a high activity level there.
How is your time split between various aspects of your role? What elements do you enjoy most?
At the moment the majority of my time is split between origination and deal execution. I am also increasingly involved in portfolio management. I really enjoy the dynamic day-to-day work that the private equity industry offers and especially the people aspect – whether it is learning from industry experts, collaborating with management teams and boards or working closely with colleagues to meet tight deadlines. Another element that I enjoy is the interaction across our teams and offices - hopefully we can meet in person again soon.
With regards to deal making in the Nordics, how have you seen that landscape evolve in recent years, and what do you think the future holds?
Some key characteristics of the Nordic countries are the strong sustainability agenda, highly digitalised societies and gender equality. Although these are not unique to the Nordic region, companies that leverage those characteristics have certainly advanced in recent years and are hence well-positioned to become local and global market leaders in the medium to longer-term. This is particularly the case for mid-market companies that are usually very dynamic and often led by visionary entrepreneurs and managers who successfully identify growth opportunities early on. As such I believe the Nordic mid-market landscape will continue to be very interesting for investors.
Technology has truly come to the fore during the pandemic; which areas do you see becoming most attractive to investors post-crisis?
Clearly it is vital to help your employees stay safe and continue operations during the pandemic, and technology is playing a key role. Many companies have been pushed over the tipping point, realising both the requirement for - and potential of - technology-led transformation. I think we are now starting to see the shape of post-crisis business priorities and policy outlook, which include demand for increasing digitalisation and cloud adoption, responding to growing climate change concerns and new patterns of living. It should be attractive to provide services that facilitate these transitions, or to partner with companies as they execute their transformations.
What do you see as the next big disruptor affecting the sectors you work on?
When we finally emerge from the pandemic, we will witness significantly higher implementation and maturity of technologies such as 5G and machine learning. In fact, many of the new technologies are complementary and are fuelled from data stored in the cloud. This means that we can likely soon see more powerful solutions within e.g. robotics, telehealth, augmented reality or additive manufacturing than we see today. One potential implication of this is that the services and value that businesses can deliver to clients can improve significantly in a short amount of time. It will thus be important for owners and managers to track innovation more closely with the risks and opportunities it represents.
ESG considerations are steadily climbing the industry agenda; how can private equity firms make a concrete difference?
Private equity firms as active owners are in a unique position to influence how businesses impact our environment and society. To be effective owners in raising ESG standards, it is important that appropriate processes are embedded throughout the investment lifecycle; from assessing both risks and opportunities during due diligence, explicitly discussing and outlining clear ESG initiatives with boards and management, and with clear reporting throughout and at exit to new owners. I think it would be a mistake to collectively shy away from companies that score low on ESG – we will make a bigger difference by supporting companies in their endeavours to improve their ESG performance.