Overview: Julia Wilson tipped for the top

Downturn, markets upheaval and credit crunch are popular watchwords at the
moment. The M&A market at the top end has dried up, but there are still
plenty of deals going around in the mid-market, according to the experts.

By definition, private equity businesses have deep enough pockets to weather
the storm, so Julia Wilson winning the FD role in one of these companies,
especially one as prominent as 3i, is a major achievement and puts her only one
step away from the CEO throne.

What’s happened?

Simon Ball, 3i’s current FD,
said that he was heading for pastures new at the end of the month, paving the
way for Wilson, the company’s deputy finance director to step up to the plate.

Ball is leaving for a new challenge, which means Wilson will head the finance
function at 3i after only two years.

What’s going to happen?

At 3i she has responsibility for the group’s finance, taxation and treasury
functions. She will now have to add Ball’s market-facing strings to her bow, but
her meteoric rise may not end there.

Chartered management accountant Phillip Yea is still at 3i’s helm, but
judging by the company’s track record of promoting from within, Wilson could be
in pole position for the top job further down the line.

Wilson can look forward to a pay packet approaching £1m in her first full
year as FD, which starts on 1 April 2009. Ball took home £1.3m, but this
included £255,000 of deferred share bonus for the board position.

She was chosen as FD because of her excellent track record in international
business but she has a tough task ahead.

The main challenge she faces is accurately valuing the 100+ portfolio
companies 3i has bought but is yet to sell. Valuations for companies that are up
for sale are already starting to soften, so there could be many of them that
will not be worth as much as when they were purchased, back when the private
equity market was booming and prices were sky high.

Wilson will have to attach a value to all these companies before they are
actually sold, and be in a position to explain why the values of some companies
have been cut and the value of others has increased.

Of course, these are long-term investments, and in time multiples should
recover, but for now, the FD’s position will be anything but an armchair ride
for Wilson.

Related reading