Consultancy PwC has started searching for a new head of its private equity funds unit in Singapore to replace Mike Byrne, who will transfer back to the UK in September.

Byrne was originally sent across to the Lion City in September 2012 on a two-year secondment from Jersey, where PwC houses its private equity centre globally. He is one of 10 partners/directors for PwC in its asset management practice headed by Justin Ong in Singapore.

Over the past two years Byrne has helped the firm to build up the technical expertise and resources to establish its private equity funds unit, which now has four to five staff. This forms part of the overall asset management practice, which encompasses more than 50 staff.

“His [Byrne’s] job is to go out into the market and to interact with service providers and see new entrants coming through,” said Ong. “He highlights our capabilities in regulatory advice, set-up, audit and tax, among other things.

“But the demands for his time back in Jersey given the level of activity we are seeing across Europe in recent times has meant that we have to give him up for now.

“So we are moving to replace him. This could be a like-for-like replacement, or taking a technical versus business development approach separately. We are considering what is the best fit given the market profile and maturity of the industry in Singapore today.”

The private equity funds unit deals with asset management assurance-related work (due diligence, compliance, audit and assurance).

PwC also runs a private equity practice that assists with everything from due diligence to strategy and advisory required for private equity mergers and acquisitions. It helps portfolio companies with their financial reporting systems and in building up their internal infrastructure before a trade sale or IPO. 

This process is carried out by a separate PE deals team under Long Tok Hong, although the two private equity teams work together.

Ong explains that PwC took the decision to do more in the private equity arena in Singapore three years ago - a period that has seen a healthy pick-up in deal activity in Southeast Asia, from a low base post-crisis.

He estimates the firm spoke to 100 potential start-up funds in Singapore last year alone, split evenly between hedge funds and private equity/real estate funds. Of these, Ong says at least 50% have launched.

Ong notes, also, that venture capital has become an interesting sector for PwC, which has been striving to grow in the arena through what it calls PwC Accelerator, through which it works with young start-ups to help them with business planning and expansion.

PwC Accelerator is run by Greg Unsworth, the firm’s technology, media and telecoms leader. Ong notes that Byrne has been working closely with Unsworth on sourcing venture capital opportunities.

“We hope to build up a relationship [with a entrepreneur]. If and when they become international players we hope they will keep trusting us as their adviser,” he explains.

This will be part of the function for Byrne’s replacement, although private equity funds will be the primary focus.