Boardroom Insight

Consulting Sector News and Trends

Interview: BDO names Jamie Austin global head of private equity

BDO has appointed Jamie Austin, a long-time executive at its U.K. member firm, as the global head of its private equity practice.

The move comes at a time when private equity firms are sitting on a record amount of dry powder estimated at $4 trillion as of December. Some industry observers believe that those cash reserves will drive an uptick in deals this year. If the expected jump in M&A activity materializes, it could fuel increased demand for the kind of private equity advisory services BDO provides.

BDO is one of the world’s largest accounting networks with $14 billion in annual revenues as of its 2023 fiscal year. Besides assisting companies with financial tasks, it also provides IT services and operates in several other segments of the consulting sector. One of those segments is the private equity advisory market.

BDO helps investors perform due diligence on acquisition targets before they sign the dotted line. It also works with private equity firms on post-deal value creation at newly purchased portfolio companies. BDO can digitize manual processes at a portfolio company to drive down its OpEx, find supply chain optimization opportunities and identify other ways to streamline business operations.

Jamie Austin took the helm of BDO’s private equity practice on Jan. 1 following a 15-year career at the professional services giant. He was most recently the national head of private equity at U.K. member firm BDO LLP, as well as the co-head of life sciences corporate financing. BDO LLP grew its top line by 16% during its most recent fiscal year, several percentage points faster than the accounting network as a whole.

According to his company biography, Austin has advised clients on hundreds of deals since starting his career in the corporate finance and M&A three decades ago. Those deals included IPOs, acquisitions and other types of transactions across multiple sectors.

Boardroom Insight asked Austin where he sees the private equity landscape heading this year from his vantage point as BDO’s new top executive in this market. “In terms of trends for 2024, we expect to see more pan-European PE houses in the mid-market, and a greater differentiation with PE houses specialising in certain sectors,” he said.

He added that “we also anticipate a sharper focus on value creation, and a continuation of the trend that we have seen for carve outs and buy&build strategies.”

BDO executives also flagged the important role of carve-out deals in a recent end-of-year thought leadership piece focused on the private equity sector. The article, which was co-authored by Austin and two other BDO executives, raised the point that recruiting has emerged as a major factor in such transactions. “While carve-outs are an attractive option, they require experienced leadership,” the authors wrote. “Portfolio companies have faced significant talent challenges in the past year and need more creative ways to invest in talent and ensure they have seasoned leadership to execute carve-outs effectively.”

Value creation is also expected to be high on private equity firms’ agenda this year. Austin said that “alongside more traditional services, we predict there will be a greater demand among PE houses for services like behaviour change programmes, governance improvement initiatives, supply chain optimisation and tech enablement to help them achieve their objectives.”

The change at the helm of BDO’s private equity practice follows an eventful year for the broader sector. Market intelligence provider PitchBook recorded three private equity mega-deals worth over $10 billion in 2023. All three involved tech companies. Japan Industrial Partners took the top spot with its $13.6 billion purchase of electronics maker Toshiba, while the GTCR-Worldpay deal and Silver Lake’s investment in SAP’s Qualtrics subsidiary took second and third place.