Even the staunchest defenders of Wall Street or the City of London will admit that the private equity industry, rightly or wrongly, has developed something of a bad rep in the past couple of decades.
In the popular imagination, venture capitalists are all sharp-suited "greed is good" spouting Gordon Gekko-types, buying distressed businesses or household brands before stripping them bare and slashing employees to turn a quick buck.
But all this antipathy towards private equity however distracts from its rather sober, utilitarian aims: to turn a flagging enterprise into a flagship of success. Private equity is meant to inject working capital into a promising business and refine products, operations or management, while keeping shareholders suitably compensated for their risk taking.
According to David Hutchison, former head of UK investment banking at Dresdner Kleinwort and chief executive of Social Finance, a non-profit set up to improve third sector access to private financing, there is "considerable mileage" in bringing investment disciplines to bear on socially minded organisations, "particularly a focus on performance management and a sense of accountability for delivery."