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Jonathan Bui

Working with companies like CAIA Cosmetics, Instabox, MatHem, momox and Swappie, Verdane Communications Manager and BSc in Business & Economics alum Jonathan Bui wasn't initially interested in working in finance. But he enjoys how private equity challenges you to perform, rethink, and improve on a day-to-day basis, and that his work allows him to engage in rewarding conversations with his audience.

Describe your role and what it is that you do overall and on a day-to-day basis.

I work as the Communications Manager at Verdane, a European specialist growth equity investor. Verdane-backed companies you might recognise include CAIA Cosmetics, Instabox, MatHem, momox and Swappie.

In brief, Verdane invests in and accelerates the growth of companies that have a proven business model (which you can also call product-market fit), are already growing fast, have achieved profitability or have a clear path to profitability through their unit economics, and that are looking to scale their business rapidly. We are specialists because we focus on tech-enabled businesses whose business models are supported by the digital consumer, software, and sustainable society megatrends – meaning they operate in areas of the economy that we expect to grow faster than the economy at large.

My job is to help connect Verdane with the world by building its reputation, engaging the community inside our portfolio of companies, demonstrating the impact Verdane ownership has for companies and the world, and to provide hands-on support on public relations-related tasks that help our portfolio companies grow.

I try to wake up at 05.30 am, and listen to the FT News Briefing and BBC World News Podcast on my way into work. I’m at the office by 07.00 am, which is when I try to publish the day’s LinkedIn post. After that, I’ll read up on the day’s news in Dagens Industri to stay updated on the local news agenda. A typical day might involve planning the press work around a new investment (press release, Q&A document, media training, pitching), planning one of our recurring executive events or sponsored event engagements, prepping digital content for use across our channels (anything from drafting the text, or ‘copy’ as it’s called in the marketing industry, of a report to providing speaking bullets to a colleague recording a podcast) to making sure all our new hires have their bios and images on the website.

It’s a very broad role that requires an ability to jump between tasks at a moment’s notice while keeping the level of ‘finish’ very high as you deliver to a lot of different stakeholders. For long-term success, it’s important to be able to have strong operational skills combined with an ability to lift your gaze and think strategically about how you want to develop the communications work whilst you’re super busy delivering day-to-day tasks.


What interested you about the field/company/role you are currently in?

I realised pretty early on at SSE that finance and accounting didn’t raise my heartbeat, which is a little ironic given that I today work at the very heart of the finance industry. But irrelevant of the industry I’m in, what interests me are conversations. Having a great conversation is such a thrilling experience – it holds the power to change the way you think about something, and to introduce you to new people, situations, and ideas. The challenge and thrill of working in communications lies in recreating that moment of connect, across channels and interfaces, by crafting brand stories that earn attention. And what better way to earn someone’s attention than by engaging in a rewarding conversation with them on a topic they care about?


What excites you most about your work? What are the challenges of being a communications manager at a private equity firm?

The private equity industry is a very intellectually stimulating place to work in because you get to work with some really smart people. Compared to working at a PR agency, which I did before joining Verdane, what stands out to me is the rationality and what I choose to call the “measured” character trait of many of my colleagues – in that we always take our time to think through any action to soberly evaluate upside, but also downside in order to make an informed decision. Private equity challenges you to perform, rethink, and improve on a day-to-day basis, because that’s how we help our portfolio businesses stay ahead. It’s an industry characterised by a very deep commitment to the work we do, which energises you as a team member. Drawing on that, I push myself to work a little harder and smarter every day.

The main challenge I face – as for any growth business – is finding ways to scale myself and the communications work we do in the most efficient way possible. Or in other words, getting the most communications out of any given activity we opt in to. I tend to be operationally strong, but maybe less naturally focused on the strategy bits of the job, so remembering to always keep an eye on the horizon even when there’s a lot to deliver right now can be a challenge. Comparatively speaking, based on my experiences working for consumer goods companies while at a PR agency, the PE industry isn’t yet at the forefront of communications. So forward leaning and ambitious communications professionals are likely to help their firm make an outsized mark, which is fun. For example, drawing on activities happening inside the firm and our portfolio, I’ve grown our LinkedIn presence by more than 7x entirely organically since I joined Verdane in 2018, and we’re outpacing a lot of other PE players.


Where do you think your work/private equity is going in the next 5-10 years?

Private equity firms distinguish themselves through their value creation capabilities, so I think we’re going to see continued expansion of in-house operational expertise at private equity firms to improve their ability to identify but more importantly support key growth initiatives during holding periods. Provided that the industry continues to outperform other asset classes, the total amount of global private equity is likely to keep growing. In a market with a lot of dry powder – which is what we call as-of-yet uninvested capital – specialist investors are gaining ground from generalists. If you’re offered the choice between an investor with a proven and long-standing focus on your kind of business versus a generalist, the data (see Bain’s latest private equity report, for example) shows that you tend to go with the former.

Sustainability is also likely to continue to grow in importance, as markets and regulators start to price in externalities (such as air pollution). At Verdane, we operate based on a conviction that sustainability will make the same journey as digitalisation - so growing from a niche asset class to permeating every sector of the economy. We’ve made close to 30 sustainable society investments since launching in 2003, so we’re ready to continue leading the charge in impact and sustainable society investing for tech-enabled businesses based out of Europe.


What was so appealing about SSE when you were considering where to do your Bachelor’s degree?

I knew SSE was the top school in its category in Sweden. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how SSE graduates go on to launch careers that actually shape the world we live in, from the board room through to running businesses that make life easier and better for people and the planet. It’s maybe hard to imagine when you’re still at school but ten years down the line, you’ll be either doing or cheering on some truly amazing things that the people who went to school with you are doing.


How did your time/education at SSE help guide you to the career journey you have embarked on?

I came into contact with Prime Weber Shandwick, the PR agency where I spent my first formative years after university, through SSE’s M2 career fair (I was event co-responsible together with Antonia Ansgariusson, who today heads global social media and influencer marketing for YouTube). A lot of my colleagues at Verdane have also graduated or are attending SSE. The SSE brand opens a lot of doors because the quality of SSE students has made the school a preferred source of talent for top businesses. 


Following your time studying, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current students?

Find a mentor to help you navigate career options, feedback on your CV and application letters, and to introduce you to stuff like the career portal early on. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t find the career portal until late into my first year at SSE – I wish I’d had someone to guide me or used that resource sooner. Do a little research on your fellow SSE:ers and challenge yourself to reach out to people working with things or that have done internships you’d like to do. Your småttingmamma and småttingpappa can be a great place to start if you don’t know anyone to ask – they’ll probably know someone if they’re not the perfect fit themselves. It’s perfectly OK not to know anything about an industry when you start off, but push yourself to dare to ask. People are often very happy to share what they know. 


What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Intensive, fun, life-defining.