Advent's talent wrangler

The global private equity firm has created a new role dedicated exclusively to creating and managing relationships with operating talent.

Advent International last month announced the creation of a new position that will focus on building and upgrading the firm's network of operational talent: head of portfolio board management. The firm appointed Conor Boden to the role, formerly of the UK-based 3i Group, where he acted in a similar capacity.

Boden will be responsible for expanding Boston-based Advent's existing operating-partner program, in which experienced industrialists and operating partners collaborate with Advent through the entire investment cycle, from sourcing opportunities through to value creation. He will also be responsible for setting up and managing a broader network of chairmen, non-executive directors and CEOs. The program currently includes 50 high-level industrialists, many of whom have been involved in multiple investments with the firm. Boden will be based in the London office and report to John Singer, chairman of the firm's European operations.

Prior to joining Advent, Boden spent nine years at 3i where he was responsible for the development and management of a group of executive chairmen and industrialists for 3i's European buyout business. Earlier in his tenure at the firm, he headed 3i's CEO program. He has also held senior marketing positions at Andersen, Linklaters and Mercer Management Consulting.

?It's really about business development,? explains Boden. ?I'll be working with colleagues to identify top performers in a variety of industries, develop the right terms for their engagement and explain the value proposition for teaming up with us.?

Part of his case will stress Advent's reputation for operationally driven returns, strong sector focus and an understated culture that stresses team performance over individual stars. ?I think that will resonate with plenty of corporate executives,? he says.

In addition to reaching out to new contacts, Boden will be looking at better ways to tap Advent's existing relationships. ?The firm has a robust network already,? Boden explains. ?My first priority is to discern the best ways to use the talent we already know, properly matching individuals to opportunities.?

He notes that in certain cases the right manager can provide a proprietary angle when sourcing a deal. Boden will coordinate his efforts with deal professionals to address talent needs at current or potential investments. ?Maybe there's already an operating partner we know that can step in to fill a gap at an existing portfolio company,? he says. If there's no executive already within their network, Boden will work with executive search firms, intermediaries and conduct his own hunt to find the right fit.

According to Boden, Advent created the position as part of a broader expansion of the firm's activities. ?We're looking at larger, more complex deals, over a wider geographic spread so the firm wants to institutionalize how it sources and uses its operating talent,? he says. He views one of the chief competitors for top managerial talent as multinational corporations who are emulating private equity. ?In some ways they're starting to plot strategy along a private equity cycle of finite, four to five year projects with incentive programs to match,? he says.

He knows other private equity firms are vying for operational talent as well but Advent enjoys a reputation for valuing the contribution of their operating partners. ?In some ways, my hire is the latest example of the firm making operational talent a real priority,? he adds.

Boden will be focusing his efforts in Europe, though he will also be in close contact with Advent deal professionals in North America to develop best practices for working with operating partners and other industrial talent that can be applied throughout the firm, which has offices located in Asia and Latin America as well.

?That was really the appeal of making the move from 3i,? Boden explains. ?While I was there, I was operating as part of an existing framework, but here I get to design the role from scratch, at a firm that has no shortage of high caliber talent to work with.? For the time being, Boden has no other staff supporting his efforts. ?At the moment, it's about fact-finding and determining what the role can, and should be.?

Boden's performance will be gauged though a mix of soft and hard metrics though he hopes there will be plenty of tangible evidence of his value. ?If the operating partners that colleagues and I work with deliver more deals, better performing portfolio companies and greater returns, I think my contribution will be fairly evident.?

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