Jakub Čížek comes from Pelhřimov and graduated from IES in 2015 with a Bachelor's degree. During his studies at IES, he was an exchange student at Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, where he studied business analysis, and gained work experience in consulting working part-time for Accenture. In 2016, he graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Management. After spending three years at Arthur D. Little as a business analyst and consultant, Jakub decided to make a career change and move into private equity in 2019. He is currently a Vice President at Oriens Investment Management and is responsible for investments in industrial automation and intralogistics. In his spare time, Jakub enjoys playing musical instruments, singing or composing house music. He also relaxes by playing board and escape games.
Let's first talk about your early days as a student, Jakub. What did you get out of studying for your bachelor's degree at IES?
IES teaches you how to think about problems in a structured way. Although I never directly used mathematical proofs, derivations of demand curves or econometrics in later life, all these subjects led to my personal development and taught me to think logically about a wide range of practical problems.
You did your Master's degree at the University of Cambridge. Why did you choose the MPhil in Management programme?
I found the education system abroad to be very different from the Czech one. The emphasis is on soft-skills instead of technical knowledge. Both are very important, so I think that combining IES with a foreign school is the ideal choice. Moreover, like most IES students, I was motivated to work in consulting, so I wanted to broaden my horizons beyond economics and finance to strategic management.
You started your career in consulting, where many of our graduates work, but then you decided for private equity. What led you to this career change?
Consulting has many advantages, but you also have to look at the disadvantages. These arise mainly from being a consultant rather than an owner within companies. As a result, consultants often find themselves at the bottom of the decision-making chain, working long hours on projects that, moreover, may have only marginal benefits for the client. At the same time, you are not directly responsible for the results, so apathy or even a conflict of interest (selling a follow-up project even though it makes no sense) can gradually set in. I see the main advantage of private equity as the fact that you are directly responsible for the functioning of the whole company, its profitability and growth. You are not so much a small cog in a large conglomerate, but the main builder in a medium sized company.
What would you recommend to our students who are cosidering working in private equity?
Think about what you want out of the job. Write down the pros and cons of the industry and try to answer whether a particular position meets your expectations. If you're not sure, meet someone in the sector for coffee and discuss it with them, I'm sure they'll be happy to advise you. I think private equity specifically is ideal for people who are interested in both finance and management and want to learn how to buy but also directly build companies from an owner position. De facto it is a middle ground in terms of accountability for results and associated risks between consulting and entrepreneurship. However, to some extent it combines the positives of both and I see the job and the associated self-fulfillment as more interesting.
You are currently working at Oriens Investment Management and recently became its Vice President. What does this demanding position entail?
It is a complex position, especially given the wide range of activities and skills required. During the lead process, consistency in detailed research and an understanding of megatrends is first required. Subsequently, analytical skills are required to reflect these findings in the valuation. In particular, effective communication and project management consultants are needed in the next phase of the business purchase. Then ownership is just the beginning - you need to understand the company's business very well and focus your time on managing and developing it effectively.
What sectors are you currently involved in within Oriens?
Oriens has mainly industrial and retail companies in its second fund, but we are planning to expand into new sectors in our emerging third fund. Generally, we buy 100% stakes in companies with growth potential based on megatrends, which for some reason they are not achieving. We then seek to remove these barriers through our active involvement. This is where I see the main difference from other financial investors who often buy minority stakes in growth companies but do not actively participate in the growth themselves. Personally, I am responsible for our investments in industrial automation and intralogistics within Oriens. Our involvement within Oriens changes every 1-2 years - for example, I was in retail a year ago and took over automation from a colleague who is now studying at MIT within Oriens.
Working at Oriens took you to Budapest for a year. How did you find living in this beautiful city? And how did you feel about the political situation there?
Budapest is very similar to Prague and there are a lot of beautiful parks and bars, so it's a nice place to live. The political climate doesn't directly affect you during the working day if (like us) you avoid any kind of relationship with the public sphere. It's amazing how much harder this is in Hungary compared to the Czech Republic, which is also why we have most of our investments in the Czech Republic, even though Oriens was founded in Budapest. I think it is important to read between the lines and understand that the fact that Viktor Orbán's (not to be confused with Krisztián Orbán, the managing partner of Oriens) speeches are becoming more and more intense, speaks of his desperate situation and his desire to stay in power at all costs. Like other populist politicians, he is empty of opinion and all his actions lead only to this. So, although these steps are frightening in themselves, they are a very positive sign and a harbinger of change for the better.
How do you relax in your spare time?
I really enjoy learning to play musical instruments. I can play a bit of saxophone, drums, guitar, sing and more recently compose house music on the groovebox. I also like to solve problems in the form of board games and escape games.