Gerard Reid – co-founder and Partner at Alexa Capital and a member of the Global Future Council on Advanced Energy Technologies at the World Economic Forum – chats to Mary McCarthy
There are massive winners in a world of high energy prices, among them gas traders. If you have access to a LNG ship you could be making €200m by filling it up in the US and delivering it to Europe.
If I compare the Irish consumer to other countries, they have not been nearly as badly hit by the ongoing European energy crisis as the British or Germans. My own electricity bills will be doubled compared to last year but I don’t have gas. Many German gas customers are paying four times more.
The only way out is for European countries to take emergency measures and come up with common policies on how to share limited resources.
At school I made my handwriting illegible. I knew I had dyslexia but didn’t want a label put on me. Now I wish it had been picked up.
I avoided history because of the essay writing even though I loved it. I went to Terenure College in Dublin and did not enjoy it. Not because of the school – it was to do with me. I had a crazy upbringing. My parents were separated and my mother moved to Germany, so I lived with my grandmother and great aunt. They were both very old and I spent my teenage years looking after them.
Only recently I found out I had ADHD, although I always knew. A couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast with a guy describing it and I rang my mum who laughed I was only realising that now.
In fifth year I knew I had to work hard if I wanted a good life for myself. I did well in the Leaving in 1987 and studied Business, Economic and Social Studies in Trinity. It bored me somewhat and I wasn’t the most committed student and ended up playing a lot of soccer. But again, the issues were more with me than Trinity.
I spent a few years teaching maths and PE at primary and secondary. I loved it and learned lots
In my mid-20s, I thought teaching would be interesting and rewarding, so after my H-dip, I spent a few years teaching maths and PE at primary and secondary. I loved it and learned lots, but knew I would not do this forever.
I spent some time in Germany to be closer to my mother, and I had two brothers and a sister there. I can now speak German fluently, albeit still with a strong Irish accent. I married a German and moved to Berlin, to do a doctorate to become a finance professor. I started teaching at universities in Germany but in 2001 my life went in a different direction when I was asked to join a research and brokerage group.
I have never once in my career done a formal interview for a job. I met someone at First Berlin who knew I was trained in finance. One of our clients was looking to invest in a solar company in 2004 and I went to look at it and told him not to as the costs were exorbitantly high. Then I met the founder who blew my mind and explained how solar was going to revolutionise the world.
One of our clients said: ‘Ger, I have 50 million. Will you manage it in the renewable space?’ Suddenly I was managing a public market renewable fund
My client invested and made a lot of money and became the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Because I knew a bit about solar, in 2005 one of our clients said: ‘Ger, I have 50 million. Will you manage it in the renewable space?’ Suddenly I was managing a public market renewable fund. Lehman Brothers invested €150m and I had a team buying and selling stocks. Then in 2008 our biggest client took money illegally out of the fund. We closed the fund and I didn’t know what was next.
Through contacts in 2009 I joined US investment bank Jefferies where I covered solar, wind, hydrogen, batteries and the utility space in Europe. We even covered Tesla because the automobile team thought it was a joke.
I liked working as an analyst, but it’s highly regulated and hard to make a difference when everyone has similar information. I was also fed up with the travel and the lifestyle.
In 2012, with Bruce Huber, head of the tech investment banking business in Jefferies, we set up Alexa Capita, a corporate finance and M&A advisory focused on the energy transition.
Trust in the finance world is everything and Bruce and I had this, and connections. It took longer than we thought for things to set off though. Our first year we spent helping Dialog Semiconductor make an acquisition which would have seen them gain Samsung as a client. The deal was to close end of December but when Tim Cook, Apple CEO, heard about the acquisition, he called our client and said if you do this you will be out of Apple’s next generation products. So the deal fell over. But it was very exciting and I learned a lot.
As the Alexa business grew I wondered how to differentiate. As an analyst I was always communicating, so I started doing blogs on LinkedIn. Now I’m an avid blogger, with a strong following within the energy transition space.
With a good friend, I also co-host a podcast, called Redefining Energy, which I do from my home office. It’s great fun; in many ways my career has gone back to where I started out – as an educator.
I do it because it is difficult for governments and businesses to make the necessary changes quickly enough to be successful in this energy transition. I have been fortunate to have built up extensive knowledge and connections across the energy and technologies sectors. It is now my personal mission to leverage that experience to help others understand the complexities.
I’m up at 6am. I’m used to it. For years as an analyst I had to have reports ready when the markets opened. Until 8am I’m reading and answering emails. I walk the dog and start my calls, which go all day. I changed my diet as I had high blood pressure, and now practice intermittent fasting – a brunch at 1pm and my evening meal – and I eat (Irish) meat just once a week.
At 7pm I stop working, unless I’m travelling. My phone goes into sleep mode and I don’t look at a digital device until the next day. I work weekends but only a few hours a day and if I feel drained, I take one off.
The World Economic Forum is next Thursday and Friday where I am a member of the Energy Council
I work from home, but each week is different. Last week I spent two days in Finland giving a workshop to the Finnish utility Fortum. Next week I’ve a renewable energy conference in Berlin. The World Economic Forum is next Thursday and Friday where I am a member of the Energy Council.
The most stressful period of my life was my teenage years and university, so today I’m better at coping. I play seniors 11-a-side soccer, exercise has always helped.
My other hobby is gardening. We have a 10-year-old daughter and live in a small village outside Berlin. I have an Irish garden – the area has clay soil – with more than 400 rose bushes and golf course grass imported from Ireland.
A huge rethink is coming and this gets me excited. There is an opportunity to rejuvenate Ireland, from importing three quarters of their energy to where natural resources supply this from wind, solar, tidal and biogas installations.
There is an opportunity to rejuvenate Ireland, from importing three quarters of their energy to where natural resources supply this from wind, solar, tidal and biogas
Short term, I see significant risks that Irish energy prices will go up more next year. Ireland is one of the most heavily energy import-dependent countries in Europe with basically zero storage capabilities and almost complete reliance on one UK pipeline for its gas. That means shortages in Europe will impact Ireland. To make sure Ireland is protected, the government needs to get a better understanding of the international gas import contracts and where necessary push for changes. They also need to prepare the public for shocks to the system.
But I look to the future very positively. We have never had so many great minds competing with each other across the world, with innovation taking place at breath-taking speed to solve all the challenges. We must use this crisis as an opportunity to allow these innovations to come quicker to market.