Beth Houghton is a Partner at Palatine Private Equity and head of the £100m Impact Fund, one of few private equity funds in the UK run by a woman, and an MBA graduate from Alliance Manchester Business School.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am a Partner at Palatine Private Equity, a lower mid-market private equity (PE) house in Manchester, UK. I am also head of their £100m Impact Fund. The Impact Fund invests in companies that create social and environmental change as well as delivering market returns to investors. Prior to my current role, I lived in Asia, the US and across Europe where I was an IT Consultant helping multi-nationals all over the world implement SAP. It was great to travel but after 10 years I decided to do an MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School which enabled me to change career and move into private equity.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, not really, but I have been fortunate to have two interesting careers. When I first left university, I thought consultancy would be a good fit as it would enable me to use both my IT skills but also my interest in business. Working in IT in the 90s was fast paced and exciting as companies embedded IT into their business processes for the first time. When I finished my MBA, I was attracted to private equity because of the variety of companies and business situations you come across, and it was the perfect place to put all the things I had learnt on my MBA into practice. Raising and investing an Impact Fund is my dream job – putting all the knowledge of private equity investing into the impact space and really making a difference is amazing.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Changing career in my mid-30s was certainly a challenge – I was a senior consultant managing teams and working on large IT projects and I had to start again in private equity. There were times when I thought I had made a mistake and should go back to my previous career but I stuck it out and got promoted quickly as there was a lot of my previous experience that I could use in the private equity world as well.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Raising the first Impact Fund was a fantastic moment. It took 18 months from start to finish. Returns focused impact funds were a relatively new concept in PE at the time so closing on a hard cap of £100m was special.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My parents encouraged and supported me from a young age, they never set limitations for me or told me I couldn’t do something because of my gender and that belief system enabled me to have two successful careers in very male dominated industries.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I haven’t really had any formal mentors but I’ve learnt a lot from my colleagues and managers over the years. I had a business coach before I became a Partner and she really helped me to focus on what I was good at and develop that area rather than trying to be good at everything – that gave me a lot of confidence to step up to being a Partner.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I think it would be creating a level playing field for men and women, HR polices that treat men and women the same for maternity/paternity leave for example, workplaces addressing unconscious bias in recruiting and promotions – there are lots of areas to address if you want to have a truly inclusive workplace.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Not everything goes in a straight line in life or your career. There will be setbacks and challenges to overcome but to keep going as it is how you react to these challenges that determines where you end.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
The next challenge is to raise Impact Fund II. We are eight deals in now so just starting to prepare the strategy for the next Fund, to continue to invest and grow companies that create social or environmental change.
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