For the second installment of our Meet the Team series, we are profiling Trevor Riback, Vice President at CAI Capital Partners. Trevor has been with our firm since February 2019 – and has been an incredible asset to the CAI Capital Partners team ever since. Read on to learn more about Trevor, his entrepreneurial roots, and his pathway to private equity as a career.
Why did you want to work in private equity?
I see private equity as a unique intersection of finance and entrepreneurship – a perfect mix of everything I enjoy. The profession offers variability on a day-to-day basis, which I really appreciate after coming out of more specialized roles in accounting, tax, and M&A advisory. One day can be devoted to strategic planning, the next to HR and recruitment, and so on. I also enjoy looking and analyzing different businesses – it is always a different story, but it is remarkable what these business owners and management teams have been able to accomplish. My dad is an entrepreneur and I knew that I wanted to combine the entrepreneurial experiences of my upbringing with my passion for finance and analytics, so when I learnt about private equity as a career opportunity, I knew it was the right one.
Do you have any advice for professionals looking to break into this field?
This is not an industry in which opportunity will passively come your way. You need to create a viable plan to break into the industry and talk to people already in the private equity space to ensure you are heading down the right path. It is all about networking and, even more importantly, listening to the advice you are given. Experience is also key. The kind of training you receive over two to three years in investment banking, consulting, or other M&A advisory services is invaluable and difficult to replicate elsewhere. I received great advice from veterans in the private equity industry – they told me to focus on getting as much deal experience as I could from start to finish on transactions. I listened to this advice and shaped my career path accordingly. Learn as much as you can while in these positions, and then use that experience to propel yourself into a career in private equity if that is where you want to be. This will also help you with the transition once you land a role.
What about a more all-encompassing piece of advice for students as they join their new teams?
Adopt a ‘team-first’ mentality. At my first job, when I was fifteen years old, my boss told me to never be a ‘clock watcher’. Leave when the job is done, not just at the end of your shift. Essentially, if you are going to do something, finish it. Otherwise, another member of the team is left to pick up where you left off. This is a core philosophy I have adopted and carry forward to this day in my approach to teamwork.
What was a challenging part of taking on a role in private equity?
With a background in accounting, tax, and M&A advisory, I had always been focused on analyzing past results and trends. However, private equity requires that one shifts this focus to be more forward-looking. Private equity focuses on predicting future trends and growth, so you have to ask yourself, “Will this business grow?”. This was certainly a challenge that I faced as I transitioned to my first role in private equity.
Do you feel that there are any misconceptions about your industry that you would like to address?
There is a widespread impression that a junior role at a private equity firm entails modelling all day long. This is far from the case, at least in my experience. Modelling skills are certainly important, but there is a lot more to the role than this. You will be interacting with investors, investment bankers, lawyers, and management teams. You could be reviewing legal documents, preparing decks and presentations, assisting with due diligence and memos – quite a broad range of responsibilities! The size of the firm will often be a major driver of how broad your responsibilities are. Smaller firms tend to offer a broader set of responsibilities, so firm size is an important consideration when making the move to private equity.
What about in terms of the markets you operate in?
A misconception I encounter in this respect is the perception that all areas of the market largely resemble one another in private equity. However, this could not be further from the truth. Upper market deals have very different needs and processes than lower market deals. Even the management teams vary enormously and, along with this, their needs. In lower market deals, you tend to interact directly with entrepreneurs and their original senior management teams, whereas with upper market deals, you will more likely be interacting with recruited professional management teams. This is a very important point to keep in mind if you are looking at a career in private equity – working in different parts of the market requires different skillsets to approach their specific needs.
What do you like to do in your downtime?
I like to hang out with my wife, our 10-month-old daughter, and our dog. The beaches in Vancouver are great during the summer months. Pacific Spirit Park and the spaces around the Fraser River are also great for walks with the family. We are also looking forward to when we will be able to start traveling again!
Can you tell us a fun story about yourself?
When I was an intern at PwC, the firm was quite infamous for pulling off some impressive pranks. One day, my boss asked me to go to the parking lot twice a day and take inventory of all the parking spaces – empty spaces, full spaces, time of day, etc. I was told that this was a confidential job with Cadillac Fairview which required the utmost discretion. I diligently drew up the records, believing that this was a real file; however, a few days later, someone sent around an email saying that a partner’s car had been vandalized in the parking lot and the vandal had been caught on camera, with a picture of me. A partner at the firm proceeded to call me into his office and tried to extract a confession from me, saying that they would need to call the police if I did not confess! I am leaving out a lot of details here, but it truly was a great prank.