The Executive Speaker Series is a valuable educational opportunity for students in Tulane’s Master of Management in Energy program. Frequently, Tulane’s Energy Institute hosts current executives to talk about their industries and share their professional experiences with the students. The speakers’ lectures often incorporate topics of integrated strategies and corporate analysis in the energy industry. In the past two months, executive speakers have included: Charles Swanson of Ernst & Young, James Carter of ExxonMobil, Anthony Valente of BP, and Tom Lane of Energy Capital Partners.
Charles Swanson is a managing partner for the Houston division of Ernst and Young (E&Y), a multinational professional services and accounting firm. While Mr. Swanson has spent the greater part of his career working as an accounting consultant in the energy industry, he is now E&Y’s lead audit partner for Koch Industries, Inc. On February 5, Charles Swanson presented a macro perspective of the energy industry. He began his lecture by focusing on the industry’s recent history in the southern United States; specifically, the Gulf Coast from the mid-1970’s to today. Mr. Swanson revealed that much of the energy industry’s success depends on both the price of a barrel of oil and geopolitics. Mr. Swanson proceeded to tie in how his firm consults with energy firms to formulate corporate strategies to reduce their risks. He then discussed the importance of adaptable corporate strategies so that firms can adjust to the conditions of a highly volatile industry.
James Carter started his career in the energy industry with Exxon Corporation. Several years and many positions later, Mr. Carter worked his way up to become a high ranking executive for Exxon Mobil Corporation. From 1999 to 2003 Mr. Carter served as the U.S. Regional Director of ExxonMobil Fuels Company. Mr. Carter is currently a member of the board of directors of Calumet GP LLC. On February 12, James Carter discussed the role of corporate strategy in mergers and acquisitions. In the process, Mr. Carter talked about his executive role at Exxon when the company merged with Mobil in 1998. He was in charge of finding corporate synergies by reducing corporate redundancies. In ExxonMobil’s first year, these synergies would save the company almost $100 million in operating costs with some estimates within the first five years as high as $700 million. Throughout the process of his presentation, Mr. Carter continued to stress a key to successful mergers and acquisitions: economies of scale, synergistic opportunities, and compatible corporate culture.
Anthony Valente started his career as a chemical engineer. He is now a manager of learning and development and executive trader for British Petroleum (BP). Mr. Valente is a lead trader for one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world. On February 19th, he discussed BP’s integrated trading strategy. Unlike other major energy firms, BP’s trading is integrated into every level of its supply chain. Ultimately, Mr. Valente utilizes integrated trading to minimize the firm’s operating costs and maximize income. Furthermore, Mr. Valente pointed out that BP’s trading desk represents a large part of the firm’s corporate strategy. The fluid nature of BP’s trading division helps insulate the company from market volatility. Contrary to its peers, BP’s trading division allows the firm to adjust its operations at a moment’s notice. After discussing his role in BP’s corporate strategy, Mr. Valente discussed BP’s corporate strategy when it acquired Amoco in 1998. Mr. Valente stressed synergistic cost reductions and geographic diversity when he evaluated the effectiveness of this merger. He pointed out that the cost of BP’s synergistic efforts were negligible because, excluding the overlap in Alaska, the two firms did not compete against each other geographically.
Tom Lane is a Partner of Energy Capital Partners (ECP), a private equity firm with over $8 billion in capital commitments. Prior to his position with ECP, Mr. Lane was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs with senior-level coverage responsibility for the U.S.’s energy industry. While Mr. Lane has been involved in a broad spectrum of investments in the energy industry, his focus is in the midstream sector. On February 26, Tom Lane discussed ECP’s strategy for finding undervalued investments in the energy industry. During his presentation, Mr. Lane discussed how ECP uses capital investments and corporate finance to create lucrative midstream Master Limited Partnerships (MLP). The tax structure of MLPs creates valuable investment opportunities for ECP and can be packaged as attractive purchases for preexisting midstream MLP firms. Fundamentally, Mr. Lane’s presentation discussed three strategic points: master a knowledge of the industry, recognize an exit value before entering into an investment, and provide a unique service that firms demand.
As a current student of Tulane’s Master of Management in Energy program, I find significant value in the Executive Speaker Series. I realize that these seminars give me an opportunity to ask executives questions that I would not otherwise. They are also ahead of the curve, and they are simply the best source of industry information. In conclusion, these executives challenge students to think dynamically. These executives were the individuals who have changed the industry we know. The speakers motivate the Master of Management in Energy students to continue improving the energy industry in their wake.