Virginia Bottomley chairs our board practice. I mention this not because I’m
showing off the circles in which I move, but because she is well known and is
therefore asked to speak at a number of conferences.
As a result, I have a pretty good idea of what’s coming up on the rails as
critical for the next six months. And the topic of the day is flotations, or
initial public offerings (IPOs).
Indeed, a very well known and influential City figure ran a conference last
week on this very subject, and the main thrust of the day was that they are
coming back. Private equity is going to struggle to offload businesses, while
the leveraged model is out of favour. The wealthy are not quite so wealthy any
more and their ability to fund substantial purchases has been reduced.
And so, finally, the market is turning full circle, and public ownership is
back in vogue.
Now this is all very interesting – but exactly what relevance does it have to
you? Well, it’s simple. Who tends to do most of the work in the run-up to a
public offering? The CEO, the FD, the chairman, the finance function and the
On this basis, there is a decent chance that the readers of this magazine
fall into at least four of those five groups.
However, my point is much wider-ranging than this. Involvement in an IPO is
incredibly useful experience to obtain. At whatever level you work, the chance
to help take an organisation through an event like this has far-reaching
The challenge, the network you develop, the change management exercise, the
exposure to investors, the governance aspect – I could go on. All of these are
in which to gain exposure.
Any business going through an IPO is going to need people within its finance
function to step up to provide support. It is going to need an FD that can lead
the business through it; and it is going to need an audit chairman, and a
All of these create opportunities for the finance community – opportunities
that will reward you in several ways. You will gain great
experience, but you will also be able to market yourself to businesses that
are planning to go through an IPO
in the future.
For opportunities like that,
experience in that space is worth its weight in … well … share options.
Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Berndtson
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