2020 Europe and Africa Private Capital Compensation Survey
Compensation Trends

2020 Europe and Africa Private Capital Compensation Survey

Heidrick & Struggles' eighth annual survey includes a review of major hiring trends, an in-depth look into the structure of 2020 compensation packages, and a spotlight on trends in Italy.
Leanne Ryan
2020 Europe and Africa Private Capital Compensation Survey

Welcome to our 2020 Europe and Africa Private Capital Compensation Survey, the eighth annual edition. Our goal in producing the survey is to develop and share with the industry a comprehensive understanding of both the compensation practices and the backgrounds of investment, fundraising, and operating professionals at private capital firms. This year’s survey includes responses from 552 of these professionals working across Europe and Africa, as well as a section dedicated to private capital compensation in Italy.

Private capital

Private capital continued its long-standing healthy growth in 2019 but is now confronting the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Buyout and exit transactions in Europe and Africa have fallen sharply, although somewhat less than elsewhere in the world. We continue to see the development of non-traditional investment firms including family offices, sovereign funds, pension funds, and traditional asset managers that are growing their private markets businesses.

Hiring trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has constrained hiring, except for one key role: operating partner. Companies that were functioning well before the pandemic hit may not have the right management teams to run them post-pandemic; operating partners can supply missing skill sets or viewpoints. We also see an increasing need for tech-savvy operating partners. With the outlook for Brexit still uncertain, some UK firms are focusing on hiring professionals with language skills and networks relevant in other European countries.


In 2020, almost half of all respondents saw a rise in base compensation and almost as many saw a rise in cash bonus. In many cases, increases were substantial: 37% of those who reported an increase in base said that the increase was between 21% and 40%. Compensation continued to track with fund size, seniority level, and years of experience. Looking at compensation by investment strategy, co-investment and distressed displaced secondaries as paid most to managing partners and partners. For principals, the highest pay this year was in buyout, followed by distressed, with direct lending—last year’s top strategy—falling near the bottom.

Spotlight on Italy

The Italian economy is dominated by family-owned companies; private capital firms have been courting them for the past two decades to provide the capital that these companies were not finding elsewhere in the Italian economy. Now, COVID-19 is threatening that market. Nonetheless, fundraising conditions in Italy are generally positive for domestic sources. Financial institutions are investing in private capital with greater interest and attention, and there is new interest from pension funds. Compensation for private capital professionals in Italy is little changed from last year, and firms are hiring, as in the rest of Europe, operating professionals.

About the authors

Tom Thackeray (tthackeray@heidrick.com) is a partner in Heidrick & Struggles' London office and a member of the Private Equity Practice.

Leanne Ryan (lryan@heidrick.com) is a senior associate in the London office and a member of the Private Equity Practice.


The authors wish to thank Mohd Arsalan and Giulia Iuticone for their contributions to this report.

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