While fairly new to private equity, Julie Gautier has a strong background in transactions. The former M&A director at food retailer Casino Group joined the food and consumer team at Paris-headquartered private equity firm PAI Partners in 2021 as a principal.
“If you think about what we do on a day-to-day basis, it’s not that different – we still do transactions, but with a different focus and different timeline,” she explained.
So far, private equity and PAI have been the right fit for Gautier. “You always have the opportunity to learn, and I always tell the team that if they are a little bit tired,” she said. “You might be tired, but you learned something, right? And tomorrow, you will learn something else.”
Gautier’s first deal at PAI was a great learning experience and a good example of how the firm operates, she said. In early 2021, still in the middle of the covid pandemic, Gautier got to work with PAI’s US team. “At PAI, we always mix the sector and local teams,” she explained. “Bringing in expertise from both teams gives you more confidence and a better angle.”
Having local expertise is important in terms of standing out the industry too, according to Gautier. “I think it’s really important to differentiate ourselves because there are a lot of funds; we all have money to spend,” she said. “It’s a competitive world.”
Macroeconomic changes, particularly inflation, have been a big topic during Gautier’s time on PAI’s food and consumer team. “We helped our portfolio companies to make sure that they were making the right decisions,” she said, “because we really think in the end, after this crisis, we will have losers and winners.”
Gautier envisions an “exciting” future for herself and the consumer team. “This job is a long game,” she said. “I hope that I can be promoted to partner and continue to do what I do. At PAI we can obviously grow our consumer sector, and we have room to expand and do more.”
Putting in the work
Understanding that private equity as an industry has an issue in terms of diversity is “half of the battle”, according to Gautier. “Because most of the time, people just don’t notice,” she added.
PAI is aiming to tackle this topic by ensuring it recruits more women. Approximately 50 percent of the firm’s recruits last year were women, according to Gautier. “Whenever you have a recruitment process, you must make sure you include women in the process,” she said. “It sounds stupid when you say it, but most of the time, it’s not done.”
Out of the three portfolio companies Gautier supports at PAI, two have gender parity at board level, and nearly at management level as well. For Gautier, to reach goals like this, one must actively work for it. “If you don’t ask, it will not happen,” she said.
While Gautier acknowledges that a career in private equity is hard work, it does not exclude other ambitions around family and friends. “When you are younger, you might think, I want to have a life and family,” she said. “It’s possible. This industry is evolving a lot.” Retention is also a “big topic”.
For women considering joining the industry, Gautier offers some advice. “I think women should just join this industry and not be afraid, that’s my first advice,” she said. “My second piece of advice: we should come with our own style.”
Editor’s note: PE Hub Europe’s interviews with senior women in private equity will appear throughout March. Read our interview with Raymond James’ Sunaina Sinha Haldea here.