Private equity investment in professional firms: unleashing growth and transformation

6 September 2023 / Insight posted in Article

In recent years, private equity investment has emerged as a powerful catalyst for the growth and transformation of professional services firms. Traditionally associated with manufacturing or technology industries, private equity has now turned its attention towards service-based sectors, recognising the immense potential for value creation and revenue generation. This article explores the impact of private equity investment in professional services firms, delving into the benefits, challenges and implications for both stakeholders and the broader business landscape.

The rise of private equity in
professional firms

Historically, professional services firms, such as law firms, property agents, consulting practices, recruitment agents, architects and accountancy firms, have been characterised by a partnership model with slow, organic growth. However, as market dynamics changed and clients began demanding more specialised, innovative and global services, professional firms faced pressure to adapt in regulated environments. Private equity firms, equipped with substantial capital and expertise in operational efficiency and business development, stepped in to bridge the gap.

What are the benefits of private
equity investment?

Accelerated growth

Private equity backing enables firms to invest in cutting-edge technologies, expand their service offerings and penetrate new markets, all of which contribute to faster growth and market dominance. We are seeing this happen mostly through acquisitions.

Operational enhancements

Private equity investors may bring their operational expertise to the table by streamlining processes, optimising internal functions and implementing best practice, which can boost efficiency and productivity within the firm. Additionally, it means that board governance can move away from a partnership model and create a more streamlined approach to decision-making through a C-suite board.

Strategic direction

Often, professional firms seek private equity partners not just for capital but also for their strategic insight. With a fresh perspective and a focus on long-term value, private equity houses help firms refine their business strategies and align their goals with market trends.

Access to talent

Private equity investors typically have a vast network of industry connections, which can be a valuable resource for professional firms in attracting top-tier talent. Access to specialist experts and experienced professionals strengthens the firm’s capabilities and competitiveness.

What are the challenges of private
equity investment?

Cultural integration

Introducing private equity into a partnership-driven culture can lead to discrepancies in values and priorities. Balancing the need for short-term returns with the long-term vision of the firm may require careful management.

Exit strategies

Some private equity investors typically seek an exit strategy within a few years, which can create uncertainty among the firm’s partners and employees. This pressure to deliver returns in a limited timeframe may not always align with the firm’s preferred growth pace. Pressure and uncertainty can be alleviated with careful strategic planning.

Managing debt

Depending on the structure of the investment, the firm may assume a significant amount of debt. Managing this debt burden while ensuring steady growth and profitability requires strategic financial planning.

Changes in the sector landscape

The professional firms sector will change as these firms grow and diversify their services. Firms taking on private equity backing may increasingly compete with more traditional, established players, potentially disrupting market dynamics.

Furthermore, the infusion of capital and expertise from private equity investors can lead to the emergence of new market leaders. Smaller, niche firms that secure private equity backing may rapidly expand, challenging the dominance of larger, traditional competitors.

“These are exciting times in the professional services sector with unprecedented interest from private equity. The challenge is to find the right balance between financial return and preserving culture; these should not be mutually exclusive concepts.”
Matthew Meadows, Partner and Director of Moore Kingston Smith Corporate Finance


Private equity investment has become a transformative force within the professional services industry. By injecting capital, expertise and strategic direction, private equity firms empower professional services firms to scale new heights of growth and profitability. However, successful integration and management of cultural, operational and strategic considerations are paramount to harness the full potential of private equity investment. As the partnership between private equity and professional services firms continues to evolve, the industry can expect a shift in the way business is conducted and services are delivered.

How we can help

Moore Kingston Smith can help firms prepare for any of the challenges mentioned through our specialist People Advisory services, corporate finance and business advisory services.

Moore Kingston Smith has recently become the first professional firm in the UK to win investment backing from private equity and retain its partnership structure.
Read more here.

If your firm is considering taking on investment or if you want to understand more about Moore Kingston Smith’s recent private equity backing, please get in touch with our professional firms experts.

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