What Will It Take to Launch a Successful Fund in 2021? [Video]

Alisa Wood, Thomas Franco, David Enriquez and Emily Kulback discuss what it will take to launch a successful fund in the next 12 months.

9 February 2021


This panel at SS&C Intralinks’ inaugural Alternative Investments Global Virtual Summit 2020 sought to answer a question that the industry has been ruminating on for months: What will it take to launch a successful fund in 2021?

SS&C tapped industry veterans Emily Kulback, head of product, Americas from DWS, who also serves as global head of illiquid product specialists & development and global co-head of product management; David Enriquez, head of private equity in the Office of the New York City Comptroller; Alisa Wood, a partner and head of private market strategies & product at KKR; and Thomas Franco, a partner at CD&R. Kamran Anwar, SS&C’s managing director and head of private equity services, EMEA, served as moderator.

In 2020, the industry playbook flew out the window. However, the panelists all saw reasons for optimism in 2021, citing the “new normal” advantages. Wood noted that less travel offers better efficiency and a reset of priorities. Enriquez saw remote work as a level playing field, enabling connection with more people in more places. Franco found private equity’s resiliency and adaptability encouraging. And Kulback lauded opportunities to streamline operations and dismantle internal siloing.

According to Enriquez, consistent pacing and diversification had remained priorities — a hard-learned lesson from the 2008 financial crisis. He explained that even in a pandemic, the key factors and underwriting criteria change very little — the basic tenets remain.

Wood added that the digital-first approach and the embracing of technology had opened the door to a broader group of participants. More inclusivity means many more eyes to spot opportunities, she said. Wood also advocated the benefits of transparency and a focus on the human element and the greater good. Her firm had encouraged some portfolio companies to pivot into PPE manufacturing, for example.

Franco pointed out that times of disruption are where private markets shine. In fact, March 2020 to December 2020 was his 42-year-old firm’s most productive period. Limited partners (LPs) have been anxious to look for opportunities, he said, and more people have been open to meetings, especially when travel isn’t required.

Kulback’s firm sought areas of dislocation in the real estate markets. Although on-site visitation limits slowed due diligence somewhat, her firm pivoted quickly in U.S.-based credit.

Taken together, all of the participants described a tumultuous 2020, but one whose lessons could yield solid gains in 2021. The key takeaways were flexibility, continual communication, and a willingness to seek out opportunities amid disruption. Wood reminded the group of the adage: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

You can watch the panel discussion in its entirety below.

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