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April 12, 2024

Private equity secondaries: everything you need to know, with Etienne Deshormes

In this Fund Shack podcast with Ross Butler, Etienne Deshormes, founder of Elm Capital, reveals where the market for private equity secondaries is headed.

In this engaging episode of the Fund Shack podcast, 🎙️ Ross Butler interviews Etienne Deshormes, CEO of Elm Capital, to delve into the intricacies of the private equity secondary market. Elm Capital, founded in 2004 by Etienne after his career in investment banking at JP Morgan, specializes in providing liquidity to private market investors.

Key Points Discussed:

  1. Private Equity Secondaries: Etienne Deshormes explains how the secondary market provides liquidity to an inherently illiquid sector. He outlines the development of the market from its early days in the 2000s when it was discreet and associated with distress sales, to its current, more accepted status.
  2. Global Financial Crisis Impact: The 2008 financial crisis was a turning point for the secondary market. Etienne highlights how the crisis forced many LPs to seek liquidity solutions, leading to a surge in secondary transactions. This period marked the only time in his career when assets were sold at a 100% discount, underscoring the desperation for liquidity.
  3. Liquidity Solutions: The discussion includes how the secondary market has evolved as a strategic tool for managing portfolios, not just in distress situations. Etienne notes the rise in the use of secondary transactions to handle overexposure and liquidity issues exacerbated by recent economic challenges such as inflation and rising interest rates.
  4. Current Market Dynamics: Etienne describes the current market conditions, emphasizing the impact of the denominator effect and rising interest rates on private equity portfolios. He explains how these factors have increased the need for secondary transactions as a liquidity solution.
  5. Denominator Effect: The podcast covers the impact of the denominator effect, where declines in public market values cause private equity allocations to exceed target levels, forcing LPs to sell stakes to rebalance their portfolios.
  6. Continuation Funds: Detailed insights are provided into continuation funds, which allow GPs to manage assets beyond the typical fund life by selling them to new vehicles backed by secondary investors. Etienne discusses the evolution of continuation funds from being a last resort to a strategic option for managing high-quality assets and mature portfolios.
  7. Investor Strategies: The podcast delves into how LPs and GPs navigate the secondary market to optimize their portfolios. Etienne discusses different strategies, such as selling single fund interests or entire portfolios, and the factors influencing these decisions.
  8. Market Pricing and Discounts: Etienne explains how secondary market pricing works, particularly during downturns when discounts can be steep. He provides examples from 2022, where buyout funds were trading at significant discounts due to market conditions.
  9. Role of Elm Capital: Elm Capital’s role in the secondary market is highlighted, including how they assist clients in finding buyers or sellers for secondary transactions. Etienne describes their integrated approach to serving both primary and secondary market needs.
  10. Future Outlook: Etienne shares his outlook for the secondary market in 2024, predicting increased deal flow and a gradual recovery in pricing as public markets stabilize. He also discusses the long-term potential for the secondary market to become more mainstream as more investors recognize its strategic value.


Etienne Deshormes explains the evolution of the private equity secondary market, highlighting its importance as a liquidity solution for LPs. Initially met with reluctance, the secondary market gained traction post-2008, providing a necessary outlet during financial crises. Deshormes discusses the current market conditions, emphasizing the challenges posed by rising interest rates and the denominator effect. He elaborates on the mechanisms of continuation funds, their acceptance, and strategic importance in today’s market. The conversation also touches on the operational role of Elm Capital in facilitating these transactions and the future potential for technology to streamline secondary market processes.

#PrivateEquity #SecondaryMarket #LiquiditySolutions #PrivateMarkets #InvestmentBanking #FinancialCrisis #DenominatorEffect #ContinuationFunds #InvestmentStrategies #Fundraising

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