Private equity on the rise.
The 1990s in London were transformative times for the investment industry. Steven Glenn was an EY Tax professional during that decade and has fond memories of his global assignment to the UK serving Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm focused on growth investing. He had a front-row seat as new economies, such as the Czech Republic, opened their markets to private equity investors.
Today, Steven is CFO and Managing Director at Warburg Pincus, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. One of the world’s oldest and largest private equity firms, Warburg Pincus was instrumental in the founding of the industry and has had a strong relationship with EY for more than 40 years— longer than with any other service provider.
Shared history, shared concerns
It’s a rare business relationship that persists through the decades. “The durability of the relationship reflects its strong foundation and a level of trust that enables both parties to stay focused on the right things, even when the waters get a bit rough,” Steven says. He appreciates the challenges in serving his firm: “We know how difficult it is to serve a private equity complex. After all, we have investments in more than 125 companies at a time.”
There is plenty of capital, but there are very few platforms that can deploy it on a global basis.
Many issues that currently surround private equity are common to business in general, according to Steven. “There’s an ongoing conversation on how capital gets deployed and what constitutes fairness,” he says, citing taxation as one aspect. “As a global investor, we are trying to enhance the flow of capital around the world,” he explains. “Certain developments, such as BEPS [the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s rules for base erosion and profit shifting], could hinder that.”
Steven also anticipates greater scrutiny of private equity as part of increased attention to commercial entities in general. “As companies increase their global footprints, more nationalistic and local interests take hold,” he says. For the industry overall, the main challenge in the fall of 2016 is, in Steven’s words, “finding interesting investments in a low-yield environment. There is plenty of capital, but there are very few platforms that can deploy it on a global basis.”
Despite the challenges, Steven remains highly optimistic about the future of private equity. And he deeply appreciates the EY experiences and professionals who introduced him to the industry.
The bridge to Warburg Pincus
A summer intern in 1989, Steven was hired into the first “graduating class” of the merged Ernst & Young (EY). While serving in the Audit (now Assurance) practice, he caught the attention of Nat Adler, then a senior Tax partner. With Nat’s encouragement, Steven decided to move over to Tax. He went back to school, got his master’s in Tax and returned to EY working on transactions.
It seems fitting that as private equity was taking on greater global dimensions, Steven found himself increasingly drawn to the sector, with Warburg Pincus as his primary client. Two of his mentors at the time were Tax Partner Bob Feinberg and Transactions Partner Tim Curt. Tim went on to join Warburg Pincus in 1998 as Steven’s predecessor in the CFO role, from 2003 to 2014. (Tim remains at Warburg Pincus and oversees certain IT operations and global structuring initiatives.)
After getting his law degree from Fordham University, Steven returned to EY and soon found himself in London on that two-year assignment for the Warburg Pincus account, with a continued focus on transactions. “It was a very stimulating time to be working in Europe,” he recalls. “The Berlin Wall had come down, and with that, many market barriers as well. Private equity was really nascent in many countries.” Steven thrived on the atmosphere.
He has vivid memories of working “shoulder to shoulder” with EY partners in London. The experience made a lasting impression. In that environment, he “came to understand how EY served clients internationally: with a presence on the ground, bringing a local and global perspective.” He finds the same balance at Warburg Pincus, which is an active investor in 40 countries.
On his return to the US, Steven served as the lead M&A Tax partner for Warburg Pincus. In 2007 he was invited to join the client side. It was a truly unique opportunity. He entered as a managing director, focusing primarily on structuring and accounting, with a view to eventually step into the CFO role when Tim Curt moved on to other responsibilities. Today, in addition to his CFO responsibility for all financial administration and treasury functions, Steven is a member of the firm’s Executive Management Group.
A different kind of private equity firm
Warburg Pincus has always set itself apart through its core principle: seeking an alignment of interests between the firm’s professionals, its limited partners and the management teams at its portfolio companies. Today, the firm’s one-fund model means that every partner draws a percentage from the same pool of profits. “The arrangement fosters collaboration and complete shared interest,” explains Steven. “Essentially, you are looking out for the firm as a whole.”
Steven and Tim Curt are just two of the partners from EY who have moved over to Warburg Pincus: Errol Cook (now retired), Martin Dunnett and David Sreter also made the leap. From Steven’s perspective, the relatively high percentage of EY alumni who have landed at Warburg Pincus is due in large part to cultural commonalities.
On reflection, he believes that Warburg Pincus and EY share a collaborative, “people-oriented” culture. “I also think we share a commitment to a higher purpose and a sense of service to clients and community,” he says.
Community is very important to Steven. He served on the board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey for two three-year terms, six years in all and the maximum allowed. Steven is still involved in the foundation, where he appreciates being able to “work directly with the children, seeing the immediate impact of contributions.”
Steven’s sons also keep him busy: Maxwell, 16; Riley, 14; and Oliver, 9, are all active and involved in sports. And in recent years Steven has discovered another interest that finds him giving back to his community: organic farming. At first, it was simply a healthier and tastier alternative to store-bought produce. But it’s taken on another dimension: helping those less fortunate. Steven and a neighbor have teamed up to make weekly truck deliveries to Lunch Break, an organization in Monmouth County, New Jersey, that has been providing food to the less fortunate for more than 30 years.
The project reflects the many ways Steven has found alignment between his personal values and professional life, from EY to Warburg Pincus.