Achieving its success as a ‘buy and build’ firm, Blackstone has evolved into one of the largest private equity players on the planet. London is the firm’s European hub where it offers alternative asset management and financial services covering areas such as M&A, restructuring and real estate.
- Excellent guidance and management
- World-class colleagues and brand recognition
- Market leader in PE
- Very demanding hours and at times poor work/life balance
- Chances to progress are often limited
- Communication can be rather poor
You barely need to scratch the surface to uncover Blackstone’s roots, but since being founded in 1985, it has quickly sprouted into an international player with a reputation as an alternative asset management and financial services company. In layman’s terms, Blackstone achieved success as a ‘buy and build’ firm: purchasing significant stakes in companies, improving its operations and then selling the shares for a profit. Over the past two decades, Blackstone has evolved into one of the largest private equity investment firms in the world, also specialising in real estate and marketable alternative investment strategies.
A Bit of Background
Founded by Stephen Schwarzman and Peter Peterson – former head of M&A and CEO of Lehman brothers respectively – Blackstone started out with a staff of four and a balance sheet of $400,000. The firm now has personnel exceeding 600 and offices in the US, London, Paris, Hamburg, Mumbai, and Hong Kong. This meteoric success was achieved by following five core beliefs outlined by its founders. This would see Blackstone retain a small firm approach; only invest in friendly takeovers; expand by attracting professionals who would create affiliated businesses; stake its own money in investments; and finally, avoid conflicts of interest to maintain objectivity.
A Closer Look at Divisions & Departments
Blackstone’s largest European site is in London, where it employs 70+ professional personnel. The office functions as the locus of European operations and comprises four business segments: corporate private equity, real estate investment, marketable alternative asset management and financial advisory. The firm is most widely known for its private equity practice – one of the world’s largest in terms of committed capital – which focuses primarily on leveraged buyouts of more mature companies. Employing more than 120 investment professionals globally, Blackstone’s roster of heavyweight clients has included diverse companies such as Celanese, CineWorld, Freedom Communications, Graham Packaging, HealthMarkets, Hilton Hotels Corporation, Legoland, Madame Tussauds, Orangina, SunGard, Travelport, TRW Automotive and Universal Studio Parks.
In addition to its formidable private equity practice, Blackstone also does some big business in real estate. The firm developed this branch of business in 1992 with the acquisition of a series of hotel businesses. Up until the time of its IPO filing in 2007, Blackstone invested more than $13 billion in 200+ real estate transactions. Blackstone’s real estate arm is now a global operation with 122 investment professionals on staff across the US, Europe and Asia.
Not to be outdone, the firm’s alternative asset management arm is now one of the largest credit platforms in the business. Established in 1990, as a fund of hedge funds to manage the internal assets for Blackstone and its senior managers, this operation quickly evolved into its current form of asset management. In 2008, Blackstone acquired GSO Capital Partners, bolstering operations and turning this business unit into a market leader.
More than just Banking
In more recent news, Blackstone has also demonstrated its dedication to being an accountable corporate organisation, which takes social and environmental responsibility seriously. Particularly the company’s charitable foundation offers a strong foothold in supporting initiatives and activities that promote economic growth and innovation.
With a horde of candidates applying each year for a coveted graduate or internship position at Blackstone, expect competition to be fierce. The best way to stand out from the crowd is with a spot on CV that boasts lots of extracurricular activities and any business-related work experience. All applications are submitted online via the company’s website and the firm also offers some roles abroad – so keep an eye open for these if you are a keen traveller.
Although the company hires people with diverse backgrounds, Blackstone wants analytical minds with outstanding academic or professional track records. If you are a fast learner and a good communicator who is genuinely enthusiastic about the capital markets industry – even if you don’t have a strong finance background – Blackstone will also be happy to hear from you. Team players with strong commercial awareness will naturally fit in with the company culture so if you’re good on an interpersonal level, it’s certainly worth having a go at the application form.
The Hiring Process
If you’ve been successful with your online application, a first round of interviews will get your adrenaline levels going. Expect interviews to be held in January or February at either the firm’s office or on campus – if you’re lucky enough to have Blackstone visiting your uni. Impress in your first meeting with the firm and you’ll be called back for a second evaluation. Interview questions are likely to focus on your career motivation, your choice of business unit, relevant work experience, as well as your technical knowledge.
Make it through this stage, and before being thrown in the deep end, Blackstone will send you on a three-week training course, taking you through the basics of accounting, corporate finance, corporate history and operations, financial modelling and the firm’s own technology systems.
Graduate Programmes and Internships
Graduates can apply for roles in various business units, including advisory, hedge fund solutions or private equity. Blackstone runs two internship programmes for recent university leavers or final-year students who are welcome to apply for analyst positions, with the associate programme available to second-year MBA students only. Both internships last ten weeks and typically take place during the summer months.
Both analysts and associates can expect a fair amount of responsibility and involvement during their placement. With the firm being smaller in size than the other investment banks, the number of staff and size of teams will be relatively small, meaning your role as an intern or trainee will be quite hands on. Expect to assist on a range of projects and be appointed to several assignments at a time. Typical duties can be as diverse as competitive analysis, computer modelling, financial analysis, research and the development of client presentations.
Employees company-wide: 1,400
London senior employees: 77
Analyst: £30,000 - £50,000 (Approx.)
Advisory & restructuring
Alternative asset management
Closed end mutual funds
Hedge fund solutions
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