Being able to combine her passion for finance and numbers with social interactions is what drew Tanja Lukas, investment director at Schroders Capital, to private equity. She started her career at Deloitte Corporate Finance in Denmark, her home country.
“What I realised during my six years there is that I wanted to follow an investment for a longer period of time. When you work in M&A and investment banking, it’s one project at a time, and when you’re done with that, it’s on to the next.”
Lukas and her husband moved to Switzerland, where she was “extremely lucky” to find Schroders Capital. She leads the firm’s activities in the UK and the Nordics with a focus on technology and software, utilising her established relationships in the Nordic region.
Private equity allowed Lukas to focus on developing longer term connections. “Private equity is a people business – establishing long-term relationships and being a trusted partner is key to sourcing the best investment opportunities.”
Lukas wanted to highlight two co-investments made while at Schroders. One was a global provider of food-related commodity prices, forecasts and advanced analytics to the $9 trillion food industry. “This company is a great example of what we look for in co-investments; it is a market leader in its niche with strong margins and the opportunity to grow through expansion and buy and build. Additionally, we identified a strong alignment with the GP we invested alongside.
“The business is well-positioned to navigate the current environment and has seen increased demand as customers strive to control their costs given the inflationary environment.”
The second was an investment in a UK-based travel agency offering sports holiday packages. While the target also filled Schroders’ key criteria – a strong market player and the opportunity for significant transformation – Brexit and covid impacted the investment. Customers became more cautious and booked fewer holidays, and the company had to pay back customers for cancelled holidays. “Navigating these challenges in a business that relies heavily on discretionary choices was a great learning experience for me.”
Alongside her work at Schroders, Lukas spearheads the firm’s internal DE&I efforts. She established a group for colleagues who are either on maternity leave or have recently returned to work. The group meets quarterly to discuss challenges around returning to work after having children. “I have two children, and I find that it is possible to combine a career in private equity with family life. That was also a driver for me to move into the industry.”
Lukas is very aware of private equity’s diversity figures in Europe. Women, on average, account for approximately 20 percent of investment teams, and only 11 percent at senior level. There is a “very clear case” for change, she said.
Diversity is about more than just filling a quota and Lukas is certain that women can bring a lot to the table. “It is a bit of a Holy Grail, especially in Europe. But it has been shown that you get higher performance and lower risk when you have a more diverse team. Having a female perspective on things can really change investment outcomes for the better.”
To anyone thinking about joining the industry, “I would say, be your own advocate and find somewhere that gives you space to speak up.”
Editor’s note: PE Hub Europe’s interviews with senior women in private equity appeared through March. Read our interview with Ardian’s Marie-Victoire Rozé here.