Louise Kingston, who grew up in a small town in rural Scotland, took a conventional path into the private equity industry. Kingston, a director at Baird Capital within the global portfolio operations team in London, spoke with PE Hub Europe about her journey and Baird’s outlook.
Kingston’s early job as a corporate finance adviser often involved deals with private equity on one side. “Once I was in for long enough, my eyes were opened to the scale of the industry and the different options and career paths available.”
Kingston, then in her mid-20s, leapt at the chance to join private equity firm Risk Capital Partners. “It was just before the global financial crisis, when the market was hot and there was a lot of activity in private equity.”
Some 15 years later, after several years at private equity company Livingbridge, she now works at the value creation end of the process for Chicago-headquartered Baird Capital.
Kingston urged people with an interest in private equity to learn more about the industry. “At Baird, I’ve been impressed with the amount of focus we place on culture and DEI. Our priority is on ensuring inclusion and equity around decision-making.”
Diversity is top priority for the industry, said Kingston, and not only in terms of gender. “I think if more people understood what we do and the breadth of roles in and around PE, then it would be much more appealing to a broader range of people.”
The career is still demanding, however. “I have had two children, and my husband is a partner in a private equity firm as well. We split everything equally.”
Kingston acknowledged that private equity has lagged in terms of gender equality. “It does seem to be changing a lot. The fact that PE is male-dominated hasn’t been a bad experience for me. But I think the gender balance is something that people want to address generally. As an industry, there’s a lot of focus around this now, and we certainly give it attention at Baird Capital.”
She feels there is a need to greatly broaden the pool of candidates for private equity positions, which will accelerate growth. She also emphasised Baird’s focus on creating the right conditions to strip out bias from decisions and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. “We don’t focus on seniority but rather on trying to make sure we’re getting the absolute maximum optimal value from the team.”
Kingston added: “PE will become a much more attractive workplace for people to come into, whatever their background, and this should enable us to recruit from more diverse backgrounds too.”
Kingston said Baird intends on “doubling down” its focus on new investments. It will keep its focus on B2B tech services with international growth prospects and expanding those businesses into the US.
Data-driven decision-making is one of the big themes for Baird. “There are a lot of different businesses that we’re seeing that are facilitating that, whether it’s the underlying technology or service providers around it. And generally, those businesses that are already established in the UK want to enter the US market as demand drivers are similar but its multiple times larger.”
Renewable energy has also been a big focus for Baird. Kingston cited a deal in that sector as one of the firm’s highlights of 2022.
“At the start of the year we invested in a business called Subsea Technology & Rentals, which has had a phenomenal start.”
Editor’s note: PE Hub Europe’s interviews with senior women in private equity will appear throughout March. Read our interview with PAI Partners’ Julie Gautier here.