It was written in the stars that Hans Buysse would do doctoral research. But, before his dream turned to reality, he pursued a demanding career in M&A and fundraising. Along the way he became acquainted with Private Equity houses and Family Offices. But how are the two connected? Hence his DBA topic at Vlerick.
Hans graduated as a licentiate in commercial and consular sciences and went straight into a practice lectorship at KU Leuven, extended with Vlerick and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam at a later stage. In the interim he obtained a Master in Management and became a Certified European Financial Analyst (CEFA). But, for the time being, that doctorate was to stay on the back burner. He combined teaching with a fascinating career in M&A. His journey has taken him to Generale Bank, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, NIBC Investment Bank and, most recently, Clairfield. He and a former colleague at KPMG set up the organisation's Belgian wing. “We now have twelve employees. And what's our core business? We do takeovers, and we do fundraising.
About two years ago I heard about the DBA programme from a couple of colleagues at Vlerick. So I revisited an old dream of mine. The fact that you can choose a research topic that ties in with your day job was what got me over the line.”
That research topic was on the investment behaviour of Private Equity Houses compared to Family Offices. “I want to investigate the differences, and I intend to do that by zooming in on the point at which a Private Equity House or Family Office decides to invest, and by looking at the criteria governing the decision to invest or not.”
Hans furnishes us with a definition of the two investor types. “In the simplest of terms: a Private Equity Office or Private Equity House receives money from an institutional investor, which it uses to fund participations in industry. For its fund provider it is required to give predefined, short-term returns.
A Family Office is in fact an entrepreneur who has sold his business and invested in another one. A process that was usually handled by a private Equity Fund. But over the years Family Offices have professionalised and they can handle everything themselves, as do the Private Equity players. It is just that the investment type is different. When should a growing business, which needs funds, turn to a Private Equity House or Family Office? This is what my research will look into.”
He began the doctoral journey two years ago. What are his thoughts on the programme up to now? “It's been tough. In the 19/20 academic year I attended the courses and sat the exams. There were fewer contact opportunities this year, and you are expected to continue the research under your own steam and make a start on writing it. This year I am missing the feeling of being part of a group, of being in it all together. Last year you spurred each other on, but this year you rely on yourself more, and you have to motivate yourself. It's a quite a task on a 70-hour week. But it's the same for everyone.
The last two years have taught me to walk before you run. One piece at the time. You have to narrow your research down and divide it into pieces. And although it's tough, the guidance is first class. The academic and personal support I mean, certainly in the first year. A recommendation for the second year: a little more community-building.”
Hans is two years into his research. How far has he come and what does he hope to achieve? “I hope my research is of some significance both academically and in practical terms. And I am thinking beyond my current job at Clairfield. But again, to begin at the beginning, giving businesses the best possible guidance when fundraising, by choosing wisely between Private Equity and Family Office. My ultimate dream would be to develop a tool for the job. But I am still at a very early stage in this research project. There may be very little to differentiate between the two. Or, equally, family offices may have professionalised to a point that they are beginning to act like private equity houses. "To be continued" in other words.”
Hans Buysse, Managing Partner at Clairfield