SECTIONS

Can bankers learn renewable tricks?

Oil and gas dealmakers, once the darlings of banking, must plot their own transitions to lower-carbon careers. [Courtesy]

They may need to in this climate, judging by the experience of Douglas MacKenzie, a Citigroup banker who has spent decades advising global energy giants on fossil fuel deals since joining Goldman Sachs as an associate in 1985.

"I cover Big Oil. I'm a supermajor guy," the 63-year-old said. "Now all of my clients are focused on the transition."

He decided he had to get up to speed with greener energy sources in 2018 and is now EMEA chairman of Citi's new Natural Resources and Clean Energy Transition team, which was launched last March, part of a wider pivot by investment banking towards helping energy clients move away from fossil fuels. 
Oil and gas dealmakers, once the darlings of banking, must plot their own transitions to lower-carbon careers.

Many are being retrained and repurposed as major banks including Citi (CN), Credit Suisse (CSGNS) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) merge them into bigger teams that include clean power and sustainability specialists.

"I spend 12 hours a day reading," said MacKenzie, whose past deals include BP Plc's $48.2 billion (Sh5.4 trillion) merger with Amoco in 1999. 

"As an oil and gas banker, I would stay current with geopolitics, get up in the morning and click the BBC website to make sure hostilities hadn't broken out somewhere. But now I'm trying to follow the technology."

There is still a lot of money to be made in oil and gas, with bankers striking about $290 billion (Sh32.7 trillion) in deals globally in 2021, roughly 10 times the level transacted for renewables, according to Refinitiv data.

A changing of the guard is underway though, with the volume of renewables M&A in 2021 growing more than 11-fold versus five years ago, while the annual number of oil and gas deals is down by a quarter over the same period.

"If you're a renewables banker you are going to be busy for the next 30-plus years," said Ralph Ibendahl, head of a new Energy Transition group at RBC Capital Markets in Europe.