From the pharmaceutical industry to private equity

24 August 2021

I had a great employer. Nevertheless, I changed to another company - to get to know something new. Today, three months later, I say: private equity is fun. Clichés are clichés.

By Katrin Schwarz, Novum Capital

Culture shock or not? About three months ago, I switched from the pharmaceutical industry to the financial sector. To Novum Capital, a small and - I hoped - fine private equity boutique.  Instead of "PTA", "sight selection" and "package insert", it was suddenly "due diligence", "general partners and limited partners" and "multiples". And instead of a company with more than 400 employees in Germany alone, I now belong to a team of just 12 in Frankfurt's West End.

I take care of marketing at Novum. In the meantime I can say: I'm learning far more than new business vocabulary. Time for a brief look back.

A frown before the change

Admittedly: When I told friends and acquaintances about Novum Capital before I changed industries, some frowned. I heard sentences like these: "What? Private equity? There are only stiff suits and workaholics running around in the locusts!" Such and other prejudices about private equity are widespread. I, too, have had a few of them. But what is really true? For Novum Capital I can now judge.

Cliché 1: Help, the locusts are coming!

This is the evergreen among industry clichés, isn't it? The private equity company as a locust. Jumping into companies - and quickly jumping out again when enough money has been made with it.

I have to disagree. Private equity, as I know it at Novum Capital, does not simply want to cut jobs and save companies. What would be the point of that? In fact, it is completely different: private equity companies invest in companies to develop them and help them grow. Professionalizing companies and perhaps even buying more companies to merge with existing portfolio companies often results in new hires! Sure: sometimes jobs have to be eliminated (for example, by selling non-core divisions); this then usually has to do with the fact that companies have to be restructured in order to (once again) operate sufficiently profitably and to develop organizationally and technologically. Novum contributes to this. I see us more as busy bees who also bring honey to the portfolio companies - in the form of capital or know-how.

Cliché 2: Oh dear, only stiff suits!

When I thought of the financial sector not so long ago, I mainly had fancy skyscrapers and conservative and stiff-looking gentlemen in dark suits in mind. That looks quite different here: Firstly, there are of course also women at Novum. And secondly, no one has to wear a uniform to the office. Now in summer, when it's hot, some colleagues even prefer shorts (at least when there are no appointments with external contacts). In our office, things are relaxed, informal and lively: from heated discussions to funny meetings to serious discussions about the situation, everything is there in terms of communication.

Cliché 3: Work hard, play hard!

I grew up in Frankfurt - and on my first visits to clubs I noticed a number of suits who poured liters of champagne into themselves on Friday nights - presumably after an 80-hour week ("work hard"). They behaved as if they were the greatest. "Play hard" did not sit well with me.

For us at Novum Capital, the first part of the cliché is true: the team works hard, is fully committed. Our claim " Smart money with plenty of drive" fits perfectly, I think. Every now and then we have a fancy party. But mostly we just sit together with beer and pizza - at the Italian restaurant around the corner or simply in the conference room. This year, for example, we watched a few European Football Championship matches together. It was fun (even if the German national team only contributed a little).

From the bottom of my heart: "Yes!"

There would be much more to tell, of course. For example, what we do to make our portfolio companies better. By the way, we often say "no" to potential deals if we think they are not a perfect fit for us - and wholeheartedly "yes!" if we believe in companies and their potential.

After three months, I too wholeheartedly say "Yes!" to Novum Capital. I am very happy to be part of it.


Here you can learn more about Novum Capital.

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