How to get a job at KKR: Joe Bae on the people they’re hiring now

Investment firm KKR has long been a favorite outlet for bankers looking to leave jobs in mergers and acquisitions and capital markets for private equity. But as junior bankers line up to join, there are signs KKR’s requirements could change.

Speaking to Alison Mass, president of Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division last month, Joe Bae, co-chief executive of KKR (and former Goldman Sachs analyst), said the firm was “hires many, many more people every year, especially young people,” but unlike in the past, many of them are straight out of college. Today we receive resumes from over 100 universities in the United States,” Bae said. “Technology has been a game changer in our ability to find this talent all over the United States, not just in the Northeast or the Ivy Leagues. 50% of KKR’s junior recruits are women.

Junior bankers still have their place. LinkedIn offers some information on the latest generation of bankers hired by KKR. In London, they are Astrid Palmstierna, who spent 19 months in Morgan Stanley’s EMEA media and communication investment banking team, Lu Li, a former Goldman analyst in Frankfurt, and Habib Salihijo. Ahmad, a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In New York, there is Martina Starc, another former analyst at Morgan Stanley, or Caroline McQuiston, a former partner at Bank of America.

However, prospective KKR recruits may need specific industry experience. As inflation rises and leveraged trades become harder to fund, some industry sectors are expected to offer better returns than others. Bae said KKR is, “looking for very resilient companies that have pricing power, that are not price takers in the market. He said a few sectors fit that description, including food security and ESG.

However, it is the infrastructure works that really interest Bae. When you think about yield in this kind of low interest rate environment, when you think about assets that really have inflation protection, that’s infrastructure,” Bae told Mass. “You are thinking about fiber. You are thinking about data centers. You think about towers.” Private equity will also play a huge role in decarbonizing the economy by investing in renewable energy like solar and wind, Bae said.

The implication is that anyone with an ESG or infrastructure background will be popular with KKR in the future. Indeed, and unsurprisingly, many of this year’s recruits have a background in sustainable investing or come from impact investing funds like Blackstone.

Although KKR is increasingly focusing on sustainability, it still pays outrageously well. Its filing for the first quarter of 2022 describes how staff are compensated in the form of salary, equity compensation, cash bonuses and deferred interest. In the first quarter of this year alone, $3.1 billion was added to the pool of carried interests, which is a lot – especially since KKR only employs 2,000 people, of whom only 650 are investment professionals eligible for carry.

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