The iPad generation

What sort of technological aids do front office staff value the most? And what would they like to have that they currently don’t?

Ben Davis, vice president, The Riverside Company

I’ve now started taking my iPad to all management presentations or board meetings, and the thing I’ve really started using in the last 12-18 months is Notability. It’s got a nice little feature where you can write easily in large handwriting and it will shrink it down so that you end up with what looks like normal hand-written notes on a PDF. So I have enjoyed being able to keep all of my presentations and notes in one place – it’s so much easier than lugging around 30 different board books.

We still use Excel pretty much exclusively for internal analysis when we’re looking at a deal, and I think there’s got to be a better way. We ought to be able to leverage those data analytics and business intelligence platforms to help us better analyze and due diligence our companies, without having to recreate the wheel every time. We have something called BRAD (Big Riverside Automated Database) that we use that to track portfolio performance – but we don’t have anything to help us analyze companies before we get started.

Graeme Gunn, partner at SL Capital Partners

We utilize a software system, Equitrak, as an end-to-end solution from our private equity investment process through to monitoring, reporting and sales CRM. For example, we can easily analyze a high volume of underlying primary, secondary and co-investment commitments to understand the ongoing performance of these funds, and it’s easily accessible when we are on the road through a secure online environment. We also recently moved all our investment team onto iPads to reduce paper usage and increase efficiency.

Conrad Yan, partner at Campbell Lutyens

We have our own CRM, and I[‘ve started] to use LinkedIn more often. I would like to see a CRM developed more specifically for our industry, with more mobile capabilities.

IR professional, large-cap firm

The iPad has been transformational for me, because it makes it much easier to store and share fund documents while I’m on the move. For instance, I can have instant access to all our pitchbooks, which is handy if I’m pitching a particular fund to an LP and they suddenly decide they want to see something else entirely. We have an internal dashboard system that the deal teams use to collect information on portfolio companies; it would be useful for me to have access to this dashboard remotely, in case investors start asking very specific questions about a particular portfolio company.

Thomas Nokin, CTO, eFront

In our 12 years as a business we’ve found the private equity industry to be largely working in Microsoft Excel. The lifecycle of an investment is so long that people have been able to live with [that]. But now the industry is getting bigger and more complex, it’s accelerating. There are always new ways to optimize investments, so you need software that handles the subtleties of these structures. Copying cumbersome spreadsheets won’t work any more.

People are struggling to exchange data. We’ve been working on Alt-exchange, a data format that will allow it to flow faster across the whole ecosystem. This is going to be huge in the future.

Marcus Thompson, chief executive, Headland Capital Partners

We use Intralinks, which is like a virtual data room where we deposit distribution notices, quarterly reports and things like that. It is really [useful] for printing costs – so instead of having to bulk-print quarterly reports and annual accounts, we just prepare a PDF copy and distribute it on the Intralinks platform.

To the extent that technology makes those things better, it is a positive. But to the extent that it detracts from the interpersonal aspects of decision-making, it is a negative.