By Davide Martellozzo
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Massimiliano Manniello, Vice President at EQT Partners and Bocconi alumnus.
Founded in 1994 by the holding company of the prominent Wallenberg family, and headquartered in Stockholm, EQT is a differentiated global investment organization investing in private capital, real assets and credit with over 700 employees in 15 countries across Europe, APAC and North America.As one of the first PE firms in Northern Europe, EQT has grown in the past 25 years to become one of the largest private equity firms in the world raising since its inception more than €62 billion in commitments and currently retaining €41 billion AUM in 19 active funds.With a proven track-record of attractive, consistent investment performance across multiple geographies, sectors and strategies (average annual sales growth of 12% for the companies owned), EQT managed to raise some of the largest buyout funds in the world (in February 2018 EQT VIII closed at €10.75 billion and this January set target fund size for EQT IX at €14.75 billion) and lead the largest PE deal in the continent with the $10 billion acquisition of Nestlé’s skincare unit.
Mr. Manniello, thank you for accepting our invitation to this interview. Can you present yourself and give a brief overview of your professional and educational background?
Regarding my academic background, I did both my Bachelor and Master of Science at Bocconi University where I graduated in 2012 from the International Management double degree program with Fudan University. I discovered my passion for PE during my first internship experiences. After, I joined McKinsey in Milan as a business analyst and worked there for two years. At the end of my consulting experience I attended an MBA program at London Business School during which I attended an international exchange program at Columbia. After this wonderful experience, I joined BC Partners in London where I worked until December 2018. Then, I decided to join EQT where Federico Quitadamo, a former colleague at CVC, was about to open the first Italian office of the firm in Milan.
Can you elaborate on your Bocconi experience and what you remember from your time at the school? Why did you pursue the MBA at LBS and was there anything you felt that you missed from Bocconi?
I had a great time at Bocconi. Bocconi prepares students very well and is very connected to the job market. Thanks to Bocconi I had international experiences such as a campus abroad in India and Australia and a year in China at Fudan University during the Expo where I developed my personality and got in touch with different cultures. I decided though to pursue an MBA at LBS for two reasons: first academically an MBA program provides you with a more practical approach and is tailored to people who, thanks to a previous work experience, can grasp different aspects of financial and management subjects; also, an MBA is an incredible life experience. During my time at LBS I met my wife, I created a worldwide network of close friends from very different cultures (my MBA class had people coming from more than 90 countries), and I spent much of my time on a start-up initiative that I likely wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Also, obviously, a prestigious MBA program opens the door of an international job market.
When did you start to become interested in private equity?
At Bocconi, attending the courses of professor Gatti acquainted me with the topic and particularly my internship experiences made me realize this is what I wanted to do.
Can you describe your journey within EQT and how you ended up in Milan?
Federico Quitadamo, who I worked with at CVC, was looking for somebody for the new Milan office of EQT. I was very attracted by the idea of a quasi-entrepreneurial experience of contributing in setting up a branch of such an organization. Also, I had just married and consulting with my wife, who is not Italian, we decided that raising a family in Italy would probably be easier than in London. So, the Italian part did also play a role.
What differentiates EQT from other firms with offices in Milan?
The culture and the people are something that make EQT really a unique place to work for. Also, EQT is a truly global organization; I am based in Milan but I spend a considerable amount of time in other offices and I work closely with my International colleagues within my sector of coverage – so far, I have worked on two deals outside of Italy.
In connection with being a global firm and having Nordic origins, what can EQT provide for those companies?
We have a Nordic heritage and an industrial DNA. We spend a lot of time doing thematic work on the sectors of interest. We involve at every stage of the investment and ownership period our Network of Industrial Advisors. Over the years we have created a network of more than 500 Industrial Advisors from more than 40 countries.
What is the ideal target company for EQT in Italy and what are the procedures when choosing targets to invest in?
We thematically identify sectors that we like and within those we target companies that have a defendable competitive advantage, a sustainable leadership position and a strong growth track record.
How do you view the market at the moment with stocks breaking all-time high records? Do you have a hard time finding companies to invest in?
I believe that investing in high quality assets such as companies with a defendable leadership and growth potential can hedge against downside risk in case of a correction in valuations.
What are your tips for reader contemplating a career in private equity?
I believe that the most important aspect is having a true passion for the job. Also investing in education is extremely important. An MBA program, an experience in IB or in consulting are all preferred paths to enter the industry given the training they provide yet some people move to PE even from the corporate world. My experience in strategic consulting was very helpful because it allowed me to strengthen my strategic mindset and problem-solving skills. Of course, an experience in PE is valuable, even without the prospect of a job offer, since it is a good way to get a taste of the industry and understand if that is your real passion.
Thank you for your time Mr.Manniello!