EQT Celebrates 15 Years in North America
To celebrate EQT’s 15th anniversary in North America, we posed 15 questions to EQT Partner and Head of EQT Infrastructure Advisory Team Americas Alex Darden.
Alex has been with EQT since 2008, when he helped open our first US office.
Read on to learn how much has changed for EQT in the US.
- What made you decide to join EQT 15 years ago?
I joined for three reasons. Firstly, it was a chance to do something “entrepreneurial” and build something special. EQT had an established private equity platform in Europe, but no operations in the US. That presented an interesting opportunity within the investing world.
Secondly, EQT had the right business model in terms of their governance approach, deep Industrial Advisor engagement, thematic deal origination, and a value creation mindset. I thought this would work in Infrastructure since few were doing this back then.
Third, culture. I spent a lot of time with EQT leadership in Europe before I joined and got a good understanding of the unique culture EQT has.
- What makes the culture so unique?
We continue to work hard to maintain the same culture from the firm’s founding nearly 30 years ago. We’re driven by our core values, including performance and transparency, and are proud of our entrepreneurial growth mindset. We still believe that everything can always be improved everywhere at all times.
- What are EQT’s other differentiators?
We’re laser-focused on our thematic investment approach that is combined with deep sector expertise. We invest in market-leading companies with the potential for even more growth within specific sectors buoyed by macro trends.
- Why was the first office in White Plains, New York?
We were mindful of cost and wanted to avoid being one of the most expensive offices in the EQT system when we had few employees, no fund, and no investments.
- What’s one of the most memorable moments from those first few years?
I remember when I first walked in the door of our temporary office before securing the White Plains office. I had no phone… just a laptop, a Blackberry, a headset, and an “old school style” teacher’s desk with the round wooden drawer handles. And, of course, lunches at the mall every day!
- Tell us about one of your favorite EQT “firsts” in the US.
Definitely our first investment in the middle of the global financial crisis. It was the first investment for EQT in the US and the first investment for EQT Infrastructure. It was a big deal.
- You’ve told us about the first investment; what about the first exit?
Midland Cogeneration… first in, first out. And since then, we have had many more firsts. In 2020, Certara went public, marking the first US IPO for an EQT-backed company. And this year, we launched the first US strategy for individual investors, EQT Exeter Real Estate Income Trust (“EQRT”).
- What would you say was your biggest challenge as you were getting the US platform off the ground?
Brand. We were starting with zero US Industrial Advisors and no name recognition. When we tried to recruit folks, they would say “EQT who?” A close second was maintaining the EQT culture. The US is a different market, but we wanted to maintain the unique culture steeped in our Scandinavian heritage. To help us do this, we prioritized maintaining a consistent culture and brought over a few folks like Kasper Knokgaard.
- The biggest opportunity?
Breaking into and expanding in the US market was and still is one of the biggest opportunities for the firm.
- How did things change after Eric Liu joined to start up the US private equity team?
Things changed with every hire! But prior to Eric’s hiring, the Infrastructure team had led the deal activity in the US. Then, with Eric joining the firm as an American to lead the private equity team here, this really cemented EQT’s focus on this market.
- 15 years later, you’re still here. What makes EQT so special?
Culture. Opportunity. Entrepreneurial mindset.
- What does our US footprint look like now?
We’ve grown our employee headcount year over year, now numbering over 400 full-time employees in North America. We have 28 portfolio companies* headquartered in North America.
*excludes EQT Ventures and EQT Life Science portfolio investments
- How have things in the US changed since the combination with Exeter Property Group in 2021?
Exeter gave EQT critical mass in the US and significantly expanded our real estate offering. With experienced leadership (check out Ward on CNBC), EQT Exeter put us in a strong position with many investors not native to EQT and gave the firm an entirely different position in the market. Given EQT Exeter’s deep experience and leading position in the logistics space, there are significant synergies from a sector strategy standpoint as we all work to create value across our collective portfolios.
- Can you point to a common theme that connects EQT’s investments across Infrastructure, Private Capital, and Real Estate in the U.S.?
EQT combines a thematic investment approach with deep sector expertise. And whether it’s a company or a property, EQT invests in high-quality assets that we believe we can improve, presenting meaningful opportunities for value creation.
- What do you think the next 15 years will bring for the firm?
Growth, growth, growth!