Preng & Associates conducted a survey of the financial community to better understand their perspective of the energy industry and future leadership. The survey includes responses from both the public and private equity investors, as well as bankers and consulting advisory firms. To those who participated, we want to express our deepest gratitude! Below is a summary and the key opinions expressed. Below are the full results.
There is a consensus that the oil and gas industry needs to focus on exceeding its cost of capital, generating free cash flow, and cutting costs, while reserves and production growth are consistently ranked as least important. Additionally, investors want their investments to pay off; public equity wants to see dividends and private equity wants profitability. Capital discipline is the key factor effecting the industry over the next five years. Oil and gas prices and ESG are also seen as very impactful. However, just as companies cannot control oil and gas prices, ESG risks are also inherent to fossil fuels and therefore ESG ranks low on what oil and gas companies should focus on today. Once oil and gas companies can survive and thrive, then the focus turns to ESG and building public trust once again.
The financial community agrees that leadership, capital discipline, and financial acumen are the most important qualifications of an executive. Executives who are focused on cash flow and corporate returns are also preferred amongst the financial community. While compensation structure did not rank highly, a handful investors ranked it as paramount; executives need to have their compensation more closely tied to shareholder returns. The investors felt that most current executives do not understand how to make money and many expressed a desire for youth as the old way of doing things is not working and new faces need to rise within the industry.
While diversity consistently ranked as the least important qualification for executive leadership, many believed it was important for boards. Public equity investors ranked diversity as most important and also felt that experience from other industries was the least sought-after trait for board members but not necessarily undesirable. Only 20% of survey participants would only consider board members with energy experience. The industrial, financial, and technology sectors led in desirability for non-Energy industry board members. Survey participants want to see board members who understand the investor and share a similar background in the financial industry. They also want to see board members who are innovative, which the technology industry is best known for. While no bankers or consultants recommended tobacco industry experience, investors saw the benefit of hiring from an industry that already had to adapt to adverse ESG pressures.
In conclusion, our industry needs to focus on free cash flow and return of capital with a long-term outlook towards ESG and companies need board members who understand the investor and can bring new ideas from outside the energy sector.
Thank you again to those who participated and made this a success!