Four Trends on How PE and VC firms are Providing Transparency into Their Compensation and Carried Interest Plans
1. Aggregated Compensation Reporting is Being Produced to Provide Transparency to Employees
Given the common opacity of carried interest awards in private markets, some firms also include forecasts of projected earnings in their standard reporting. Forecasts allow employees to view their future earnings potential and their vested and unvested carried interest awards. Forecasts offer greater transparency and can be a helpful tool to retain key employees.
2. Participant Portals Are Offering Easier Access to Documents and Data
Before COVID-19, managers met with their teams in person to communicate bonus and other compensation figures. While some firms are back in the office, others operate extensively online and there is a growing trend to offer digital portals where employees can easily access their documents, data, and analytics. Additionally, employees can digitally sign and acknowledge their receipt of different employment documents and compensation statements.
3. Firms are Improving Firm-Level Analytics to Assess Overall Awards and Manage Joiners and Leavers
Fund raising is at an all-time high and as new funds are launched, employee carried interest awards need to be structured for these new entities. Companies conduct scenario analysis and reporting to ensure that they fairly compensate their existing and future employees. At the same time as firms are raising funds, the overall economy is faced with “the great resignation,” which the private funds sector is not immune to. With these market changes, management of carried interest and compensation activity comes with challenges for the already lean teams that manage this data. “Push-button analytics” on carried interest balances and scenario analysis on distributions are areas that firms are focused on as they improve their overall technology usage for private funds’ compensation.
4. Transitioning to a Carried Interest and Compensation System is a Requirement to Address Items 1 – 3
To address the above three trends, software applications are necessary to store, calculate, and report on employee compensation and carried interest allocation data. While spreadsheets offer familiarity, flexibility, and ease of use, they invite the risk of errors, inconsistencies, and functionality limitations. Many companies reach a breaking point when spreadsheets can no longer be the tool to effectively manage and report on compensation data, and they turn to systems to solve their challenges.
There are varying degrees of system use, with natural phases to iterate over long-term desired functionality and reporting. Most firms begin with migrating carry allocations, vesting schedules and carried interest reporting. After the foundation is laid, they add an employee portal, carried interest forecasting, co-investment tracking (from their core accounting), and base and bonus compensation to produce aggregated reporting and analytics.
Private Capital firms are growing rapidly by launching new funds and many face attrition at the same time, while also operating remotely. These factors have led to a tipping point of complexity and operational burden, leading to improvements to the management of compensation and carried interest allocations. Companies are deploying more comprehensive employee statements, better management analytics, and providing online portals to employees. These improvements allow employees and management to have “at-your-finger-tips” access to data as well as improved operational efficiencies. We at PFA are excited to be a part of this movement to help our clients improve their carry and compensation controls and reporting via the FirmView platform.