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Semaphore's 2020 Confidence Survey Results Are In!

Semaphore's 2020 Confidence Survey Highlights

“Bubble, baby!”

This was my favorite economic analysis comment in this year’s 12th Semaphore Confidence Survey. You have opinions!  In our dozen years of surveying the confidence of our industry, personal abilities, institutions and issues of the day we have never enjoyed such wide expression of viewpoint. Usually 10 or 12% leave a comment behind. This year 41% of you were motivated to give us all a piece of your minds.   Other commentary ranged from political prognostication “The Democrats will choose a candidate based on ideological purity rather than electability - setting the stage for a Corbyn-style wipeout in the election”, to a #MeToo confession “I admitted guilt in last year’s survey. Truth. I’ve not changed.”   In the outline of our results we’ve appended an extensive sampling of your viewpoints.  Enjoy the good, bad and ugly.

One thing is clear, as one of our respondent’s stated “I continue to be amazed at how damn easy it is to make money.”  Apparently it is. 72% earned more in 2019 than the prior year with only 16% earning less.  A full 69% expect to earn still more in 2020.  This follows along with the continued expression of confidence expressed in ourselves - a full 95%.  This despite a 51% confidence rating in the US Economy (up from 37% last year) and only 21% believing one should be confident in the International economy.

One person you are not confident in is President Trump. While 69% express little or no confidence, down (or is it up?) from 81% last year, fully 62% believe he will be reelected.  We have a pretty good track record in politics, predicting in 2018 the Democrats regaining the House.  93% also predicted, during the impeachment trial, that Trump would not be convicted.  How prescient you are.

Congress did not fare any better with a 72% lack of confidence rating. In the Capitol, Speaker Pelosi won the confidence head to head battle 34% to 13% with Majority Leader McConnell.

79% agree that sexual misconduct, harassment and gender bias remains an industry problem, tipping down from 88% last year, in hopes that the spotlight has afforded both recognition and changes in behavior.   Fewer self-identified females took our survey this year with a gender mix of 86% Male, 9% Female (down from 19% last year) and 5% choosing Gender X.

The top six states offering response remained 22% New York, 21%, California, 20% Massachusetts, 6% Texas and 4% Connecticut. Washington DC, Pennsylvania and Illinois came in each at 4% and no other state represented more than 1%.

Canada topped this year’s international responses with 19%,  16% UK, 6% Germany , 6% China, 5% India and 2% France and Italy with multiple respondents in descending order from  Israel, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Columbia, Spain, Viet Nam,  and single responses from 6 other nations.

Of the record 614 participating this year 24% were from PE shops; 20% were VCs; 4% Hedge Funds; 9% were LPs; 12% were operating executives; 11% were Investment Bankers; and 20 % were third party vendors/advisors to the industry (lawyers, accountants, etc.) – reasonably consistent with last year.

One of my favorite comments was a rather direct two word reprobation of “poor survey”.  It may be true but you were no doubt engaged.   A dozen years on, the Semaphore Confidence Survey may not be very good but it does take a pretty good temperature in the moment.  We’ll all find out in the next 11 months how accurate it may be.  Count on us asking you once again next year. Please take some time away from your Master of the Universe duties and peruse the results yourself and perhaps be entertained – and informed - by many of the comments expressed about our industry, President Trump, sexual misconduct and what it all reflects about ourselves by clicking here.

Mark S. DiSalvo is the President and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore,, a leading global professional services provider of troubled Private Equity, Venture Capital and Hedge funds under management. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for nine funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit provider and advises Limited Partners around the world. Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York, London and Dallas.



Topics: Semaphore, Survey

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