From the pharmaceutical industry to private equity

24 August 2021

I had a great employer. Nevertheless, I moved to another company – to get to know something new. Today, three months later, I can say: private equity is fun. Clichés really 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 – as 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. By now, I can say: I'm learning much more than just new business vocabulary. Time for a quick look back.

Frowns before the move

Admittedly: When I told friends and acquaintances about Novum Capital before I changed industries, some frowned. I heard sentences like: "What? Private equity? Those vultures are nothing more than a group of stuffy suits and workaholics!" Such prejudices about private equity are widespread. I, too, used to have some. But what is really true? When it comes to Novum Capital, I now know.

Cliché 1: Help, the vultures are coming!

This is surely the most persistent of industry clichés, isn't it? Comparing a private equity company to a vulture. Swooping into companies – and quickly swooping back out again when enough money has been made.

I have to disagree. Private equity, as I have come to 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 very different: private equity companies invest in companies to develop them and help them grow. Professionalising companies and perhaps even buying more companies to merge with existing portfolio companies often results in new hires! Sure: sometimes, jobs have to be cut (for example by selling non-core divisions); this usually has to do with the fact that companies have to be restructured in order to (once again) become sufficiently profitable and to develop from an organisational and technological perspective. Novum contributes to this. I see us more as busy bees who even bring honey to the portfolio companies – in the form of capital or know-how.

Cliché 2: Oh dear, only stuffy suits!

When I used to think of the financial sector, I mainly had fancy skyscrapers and conservative, stuffy-looking gentlemen in dark suits in mind. The reality is quite different here: firstly, there are, of course, women working 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 debates to fun 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 when I first started going to nightclubs, I noticed a number of suits who were knocking back litres of champagne on a Friday night – 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", is a perfect fit in my opinion. Every now and then we will have a fancy party, too. But for the most part, we socialise over a beer and a 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 though the German national team contributed very little!).

From the bottom of my heart: "Yes!"

I could tell you much more, 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 a wholehearted "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 a part of it.

Find out more about the Novum Capital here.

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