Jennifer Skylakos
Global Head, Infrastructure and Energy Funds Practice
DHR International

Talent and the Energy Investment Market

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 13:54

With the Energy Reform in full implementation mode, it is important that the new government carry out ongoing initiatives at the current pace, says Jennifer Skylakos, Managing Partner and Global Head of the Infrastructure and Energy Funds Practice at executive search firm DHR International. “There will need to be a continuation of efforts to accomplish Mexico’s energy goals to maintain the trust of international investors and developers already in Mexico, and provide confidence to those deciding if it is the right time to enter the market,” she says.
According to Ministry of Energy estimates published in the Strategic Program of Human Capital Training for the Energy Industry, in 2018 alone, 50,000 additional, well-trained professionals will be required to meet the needs created by the country’s energy security goals. To that end, Skylakos explains that the gaps in high-level talent are starting to show. “Organizations are looking for top talent, with experience in infrastructure and energy investing and experience with foreign organizations, not just local development and operational experience.”
In addition to the challenge of finding more talent for the industry, Mexico must also tackle the generational gap between the talented professionals who made a career working under the now-defunct monopolies of CFE and PEMEX and the new professionals trained to develop renewable energy projects and who are now working in an unlocked energy industry. “There is, of course, significant value in senior talent from PEMEX. And those professionals who seek to bring their knowledge of, and commitment to, the energy space and greenfield projects within the renewables sector will need to adapt to working with institutional capital in transparent organizations with proper governance.”
Corporations are another interesting entrant into the renewables sector. “Corporates are getting increasingly involved in renewables. Of course, tax breaks relating to carbon footprint-reduction measures can be very attractive,” she says. But also “some companies are looking at renewables projects as a way to help with efficiency in their supply chain. Thus, there is the potential for talent needs to grow in the corporate space specifically – hiring candidates to invest balance sheet money into the necessary greenfield projects, that in turn can also help local communities.”
DHR International works closely with investment funds and their respective portfolio companies behind energy and infrastructure projects, giving it a clear understanding of each link in the value chain. “Understanding an organization from its roots, as well as its fundraising initiatives, goals for growth, and portfolio makeup, allows us to better understand their culture for recruiting and long-term organizational purposes, and to become credible brand ambassadors in the market on their behalf.”
For Skylakos, it is all about market approach. “Our group exclusively focuses on the energy and infrastructure market, allowing us to delve much more deeply into what is happening on the ground,” she says. “We not only talk to those putting capital to work, but bankers, lawyers, equity researchers and government officials to really understand what is driving the market and talent.” The company’s holistic perspective of the market is present in every country and region it covers, whether it is Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Asia or the US.
Skylakos notes that the Mexican market has particularly unique features. For example, as “private equity is relatively new in Mexico, the number of qualified professionals with principal investing experience is light. Also, for groups looking for institutional capital from abroad, there must be an understanding of how important fund management, fiduciary duty, governance and transparency is to the LPs.” The Global Infrastructure and Energy Funds Practice recruits across all levels and assists in the design of talent management and retention practices adapted specifically to Mexico’s energy industry. “We want to do our part to bring more talent to Mexico and to raise awareness about the opportunities and investment potential it offers,” Skylakos says. The company also wants to focus on solving Mexico’s diversity issues. “As more foreign investment comes in and foreign institutions seek more diverse talent, we want to help encourage women to enter the space and those already involved, to stay long-term.”