Finance leaders of recently acquired or existing portfolio companies (portcos) are facing the same challenges but with added urgency to transform in a shorter time frame. With the average holding period for a portco of three to five years, they are often racing to find ways to enhance value while managing risk to increase the value of the investment, decrease costs and confirm there are no unwelcome surprises in diligence and deal closing caused by inefficient processes or lack of qualified staff.
This complex balancing act requires a leader who can find ways to manage investor pressure for return on investment in a short window, while also being able to execute on transforming business processes to enhance company value. If you’re not already on the path to tax and finance transformation, private equity (PE) investors will look to you to radically rethink the way you operate your tax and finance functions.
While every portco’s circumstances and needs are different, outsourcing and co-sourcing can help ease cost, risk and staffing pressures while adding significant value. Below we examine three different tax function scenarios at deal close to illustrate opportunities to enhance value based on the portco tax operating model: the portco has an existing tax department, the portco is a carve-out from a parent company and has no tax function, and the portco is part of an add-on deal or integration with multiple tax functions.
Portco A: existing tax department
A global private investment management firm purchased Portco A, a global entertainment company. Portco A had an existing tax department; however, employees were necessarily focused on compliance with minimal time left for planning and other value-generating activities.
This is a common scenario. With the growth in regulations and compliance requirements, along with the dearth of talent available in tax specialties, tax departments in even the biggest companies are overloaded with compliance activities and are struggling to manage what’s required of them, with no time for more strategic activities. And yet, the expectations of adding value continue to grow.
To prepare for the eventual exit, the investment firm and Portco A leaders decided to engage a third party to co-source their tax department. As noted in the TFO survey, “In many cases, it is easier to work with a vendor that invests heavily in developing its own tax professionals who are also knowledgeable in leveraging data to meet obligations and bring insights to the broader enterprise.”
The third party hired the majority of the department as full-time employees who were assigned to Portco A to complete similar functions to their original jobs. The cost savings were significant — approximately US$32 million — and the remaining management-level tax professionals were freed up to spend their time on strategy and planning. Other benefits included a deep bench of tax professionals for Portco A to call on in case of turnover or leave; access to leading industry, tax and regulatory knowledge; and access to advanced technology without having to invest in software and licensing.
The co-sourced employees also benefited, gaining access to more career growth opportunities beyond their traditional job functions, new skills and information, and the ability to work for different clients beyond Portco A.