Interview Oscar Sondermeijer
Investment manager PE Evergreen team
The first hundred days at Egeria
‘If you get enthusiastic about having real responsibility and if you want to take companies further beyond giving advice, this is a role for you. You stay involved through the good and the bad times, and that entails responsibility. That’s really cool and exciting too.’
Oscar, you started as an Investment Manager for our Evergreen team around 100 days ago. How do you look back on your first 100 days?
That’s a great question. I can actually divide that time into three periods.In the first month everything was new – it was still the holiday period – but pretty soon I had a good feeling about the team and the atmosphere at Egeria. On the one hand you get the conviviality of a larger firm, and at the same time I experience the intimacy of the smaller Evergreen team, where I get to work closely with colleagues. As a result, I fitted in quickly during that first month and felt at home at Egeria. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy here and one thing I particularly liked was that young and old and the various teams all mingle together at Friday afternoon drinks.
In the second month I started getting much busier, I got up to speed with the portfolio companies and things really started moving. I’m familiar with working with management teams from my previous role. It gives me energy and I was looking forward to it. At the same time, the shareholder role really is different from the advisor role, and that’s new to me. Almost every day I had to tackle new subjects: the legal side, devising management participations, etc. That puts you back into a learning mindset, which is great.
Now, in the third month I’ve really found my bearings. It’s not all new anymore, I see opportunities to add value and there’s good contact with colleagues and management teams. I’ve really got into my stride!
What did you expect from this job and has it met your expectations?
The conversations I had here, before I started, made me expect this role would suit me well. But I went into it with a very open mind, because I knew I would learn a lot and that with each portfolio company there would be things that are new to me. The first 100 days exceeded my expectations! The involvement in the portfolio companies, and the position of the Evergreen team within Egeria, is exactly as I had hoped. I also really like the culture, how people interact, the approachability of colleagues and the role you have within a team. Here they say: ‘we take things personal’, and you really feel that!
What motivated you to switch to private equity and Egeria?
I really wanted to be involved with companies over the longer term and to engage with a wide set of subjects. In my previous job I had an advisory role; we were often in and out within a month. Now I’m more involved in the overall picture, how things are going with a company and all the aspects that arise. When things are going well, but also when times get a bit more challenging. Here you get to work on strategy or the composition of the management team, and then for instance you and your colleagues take a look at the monthly results or the financing side. Basically you get to do everything that really matters to help a company move forward. You’re more involved in the ultimate success and results.Yes, that’s an aspect of the work that appeals to me.
And what weren’t you expecting?
What I had underestimated was the fragmentation of ‘everything that really matters’ in the day-to-day business and at the same time the need to keep an eye on new investment opportunities. That wide range of subjects makes things fantastically varied, but combined with a lot of responsibility it’s also intensive.
One of the values at Egeria is ‘we keep it personal’. We let people take their own decisions. How do you take decisions?
Taking decisions is certainly a key element in this field. In the case of minor or straightforward decisions you don’t really notice it. But it’s the difficult decisions that really matter. When does it get difficult? When you don’t (or can’t) have all the information, something really depends on it, there’s no clear ‘right or wrong’ and the consequences are not entirely clear. Doing nothing is not an option, and so you make a conscious choice based on logical reasoning. What if things turn out differently? You learn the lessons, make adjustments and move on. That suits me.
What has been your main learning after 100 days?
I think I’d already realised it on day three, partly because it’s a focal point of Egeria, but the main learning is that: the management is crucial. They’re involved in the day-to-day business, and if there’s a strong team, that makes a big difference to us.
And what has surprised you at Egeria?
Things here are much more informal and much smaller-scale than I’m used to. You can do things more in your own way and you have the space to be enterprising or pioneering. I’ve also been surprised by how strong the team spirit is; even though everyone is busy with their own area, we all contribute to the success of (in my case) the Evergreen fund. The people have a no-nonsense approach and the atmosphere is relaxed. I really like that team spirit combined with the responsibility you carry.
What’s the thing you like most about your job? If you had to choose?
I’m a goal-oriented person and taking steps towards a goal gives me energy. I see and feel this when I’m making an impact in companies, together with the team. For example, having a good discussion, developing insights together and then acting accordingly. It’s great seeing things moving in the right direction – or making adjustments if they don’t.
What would you recommend to others thinking of a move to PE?
If you get enthusiastic about having real responsibility and want to take companies further beyond giving advice, this is a role for you. You stay involved through the good and the bad times, and that entails responsibility. That’s really cool and exciting too. You have to like that, you have to want to go for it. Burying your head in the sand is not an option. You’re thrown in at the deep end here, but not without buoyancy aids: you can take on a lot of responsibility, but you also get support. Everyone is helpful and willing to give you a hand. That means you can also learn really quickly.
How do you see the months ahead?
I’m really still learning a lot. You don’t get to see the entire spectrum in 100 days. Over the next three months I’ll see and experience more of the various aspects. I think that will give me a better overall view, I’ll be better able to anticipate events and I’ll grow as an Investment Manager. I’m looking forward to that!
- Upload date
- November 2, 2022