Private Equity People - a Q&A with Maria Carradice, Managing Director and ESG Specialist at Mayfair

Private Equity People - a Q&A with Maria Carradice, Managing Director and ESG Specialist at Mayfair

Welcome to BDO’s Private Equity People series, where we speak to some of the most interesting figures from across the private equity industry to hear their insights and share their experiences. Inspired by recent studies showing there is still far more to be done to encourage diversity in private equity, the aim is to create a platform to showcase a broad range of role models who are successful founders, investors, private equity professionals, Chairs and entrepreneurs.

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In the latest interview of our Private Equity People series, BDO spoke to Maria Carradice from Mayfair Equity Partners about how she got into the industry and the benefits private equity firms gain from hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“Better diversity starts with recruitment and should encompass socio-economic and neurodiversity, as well as the current focus on gender and race”
Maria Carradice, Managing Director, ESG Specialist at Mayfair Equity Partners

Can you give us an overview of your current role and the firm?

Maria is one of the specialist managing directors at Mayfair Equity Partners, with responsibility for ESG across the business and the portfolio of companies the firm has invested in. Her role is very broad and very varied – Maria works on projects ranging from due diligence and tax issues to cyber security, insurance and the ‘E’ in ESG, looking at climate risk and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayfair Equity Partners focuses on the tech and consumer sectors, investing in growing businesses in the UK and internationally. Its target range is companies with EBITDA of £2 million to £100 million with ambitions to expand into new markets.

How did you start your private equity journey?

Maria came to private equity on a fact-finding mission for six months – and never left.

"I was a senior manager in a professional services firm, and I moved to their M&A tax team," she explains. "I didn't really have a background in private equity, and I expressed an interest in going on a secondment to a private equity house to get more experience of the industry and a better understanding of the broader investment process.

"I was there initially for six months and, because I really enjoyed it and I think the firm really enjoyed having me there, they extended the secondment for a further 12 months, following which they offered me a full-time role. And I never went back to the professional services firm," she says with a smile.

When it comes to your career, is there any advice you'd give to your younger self?

"I'd speak out more and not be afraid to say no to people. I believe you can challenge the status quo more than you think in your early years." She continues to reflect, "You also need to have the right people around you, who champion you and want you to do well in your career. Spend time and learn from those people as they can be very beneficial sounding boards and help to nurture you through difficult periods. This doesn’t necessarily need to be people you work with; networks outside your organisation, including friends and family are extremely valuable as they can provide a refreshingly different perspective."

Tell us more about why you feel PE is an attractive part of the market to build a career in? And what – if any - is the biggest misconception about private equity?

Answering the second part of the question first, Maria says, "Even today, I still get people accusing us of being nothing more than asset strippers." This is frustrating because "that hasn’t really happened for about 20 years", and yet it can still make management teams at prospective portfolio companies wary of working with private equity firms, she adds.

"As an industry we have still got a lot of work to do to champion all the good things we are doing and showcase the way we work with the businesses that we are invested in."

For Maria, the reality is that private equity teams work with management teams with mutual respect and a high degree of commitment and enthusiasm. This is what makes it such an appealing industry to work in.

"I can honestly say for my role that no two days have ever been the same," she says. "The work is always very interesting and varied. It's a really fast-paced environment to work in and you get to interact with some very passionate people from all walks of life who’ve had an idea and turned it into a fabulous business," she says. "We have the privilege of working with them at the point where they're looking for a partner with to help them grow their business to the next stage of its life cycle. And that's super, super exciting."

What do you think it will take to improve diversity in private equity, and what are the benefits?

Better diversity starts with recruitment, says Maria, and should encompass socio-economic and neurodiversity, as well as the current focus on gender and race. There also needs to be a greater willingness to question outdated recruitment processes and demand better.

"If you get a candidate list and they're all white males of a certain age, then you have to be comfortable to challenge that and say sorry, but this list isn't diverse enough," she says, but with the pressure to find and recruit someone into a role quickly, this is often hard to do.

The prize for more diversity is creating a business that is fit for the future. "The risk of getting this wrong is that we don't have a team that can connect with our future business owners and the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow. They won't speak the same language. For example, if I was a young female entrepreneur with a really great business looking for investment and that investment team turned up with no senior females in the team, I would probably be a little bit uncomfortable and I probably would find it quite difficult to connect and engage with them."

What’s in store for your business in the next 12 months?

"I'd like to think that we are going to be kept busy with more deals, more exits and more M&A transactions across our portfolio, as well as completing a third successful fundraise," says Maria. "But I think as we've seen recently, life has a way of throwing us curveballs. So, we're preparing ourselves for all manner of situations and making sure that we are agile and prepared enough to deal with anything."

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