With credit totally frozen and markets totally awful, anyone out of a job now – and anyone who thinks they might soon be out of a job – can be forgiven for hoarding canned sardines and buying underwear in Primark. But something is still good: renewable technology.
In the second quarter of this year, global investment in renewables was up 65% on the second quarter of 2006, according to research company New Energy Finance. Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan are all in the sector. But the real action, and the odd job or two, are in the private equity funds and the tech firms themselves.
Ben Dear, a partner at New Leaf Capital, a fund of funds investing in the clean tech sector, says clean tech funds offer opportunities for M&A bankers with specific sector backgrounds. “If you’ve spent time in real estate [someone needs to buy land to site windmills], utilities, or power and gas, you may be able to move across,” he says.
Renewable tech isn’t going to mop up the 12,000 people predicted to lose their jobs in banking before Christmas. However, it might catch a few drips.
For example, New Leaf only employs five people, but they all have a banking background.
HG Capital’s small renewables team also seems to have been lifted straight from Credit Suisse and Goldman. But Charlie Hunt, a consultant at Private Equity Recruitment, says most funds are only interested in bankers who’ve worked directly in oil and gas and utilities teams.
William Morgan at Spanish renewables fund Si Capital (which counts an ex-M&A banker and an ex-private banker among its employees) says moving into clean tech shouldn’t just be seen as a short-term career fix for bankers: “There are opportunities, but you need to be guided by what you’re interested in.”
With most funds looking for specific expertise, Morgan says bankers without it will be better off focusing on tech companies and start-ups. “You can bring your knowledge to businesses that are looking to grow.” It might be hard to find many of those outside the renewables and debt management sectors for a while.