After record investment in the clean-tech sector last year, 2012 has so far been unpredictable. This is having a detrimental effect on hiring strategies for investment banks, hedge funds and private equity firms.
Although certain sectors within clean-tech, such as in fuel cells and hydrogen, have outperformed the market, companies are cautious not to endure another boom-and-bust scenario and are looking at sustainable options in global energy.
M&A activity in the industry has been up in 2012 due to consolidations in the solar and wind sectors, and this trend looks likely to continue, with a high level of outbound investment deals coming from the Asia Pacific region.
Uncertainty about whether to bulk up clean-tech teams within financial institutions is also driven by the limited access to capital which is afflicting the clean-tech and infrastructure markets.
Private equity firms that focus on fuel-cell investments have been the biggest winners so far this year. This has clearly been noted by the financial services industry, with Goldman Sachs recently announcing a US$40bn investment in clean energy.
In terms of market moves, the most high profile in Asia was HSBC hiring Jenny Cosgrove from RBS in Hong Kong to become global head of clean-tech equity research.
Clinching a clean-tech role
In general terms, junior to mid-level professionals who have some experience in energy, utilities or technology teams are best positioned to break into clean tech at a bank. In equity research, for example, clean tech usually sits under the head of utilities. In Hong Kong, the most sought-after candidates are those who can speak fluent Mandarin and can open doors into China. This is especially the case for M&A roles.
A science or technology education, Mandarin skills, and some experience in a leading investment bank (corporate finance or M&A) is the ideal gateway for analysts and associates to enter clean-tech jobs on the buy side or in private equity. These roles are highly sought after and many will even take a salary cut to move away from the sell side.
James Incles, managing director, ESG Search