By Richard Bethune, second-year Daytime MBA student in the Class of 2014.
As Co-President of the Duke MBA Energy Club and a second-year MBA student with a passion for energy finance, I was thrilled to see two exciting developments occur this past summer. First, energy banker Ralph Eads donated $5.5 million to Duke, most of which will fund Duke Energy Initiative programs and an energy finance professorship. Second, Fuqua announced the creation of the Energy Finance Concentration partly because of the energy club’s lobbying efforts including our well-attended energy finance speaker series last spring. I jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the new Energy Finance Concentration courses because I came to Fuqua to take advantage of the school’s already fantastic combination of finance and energy offerings.
Energy finance involves general finance topics such as mergers and acquisitions along with specialized topics such as Master Limited Partnerships, solar leasing, and project finance. It involves some basic science and engineering knowledge. It is a hot topic now because the United States and other countries are undergoing seismic changes in how they generate power and produce oil and gas. These changes are leading to hundreds of billions of dollars in merger and acquisition activity and value creation opportunities. Energy firms and their advisors are desperate for MBAs with the financial and scientific knowledge to understand and capture these opportunities.
New MBA Courses Provide Detailed Insight & Path to Opportunity
Key faculty support for last year’s energy finance speaker series came from former J.P. Morgan banker John Buley, who is Director of Fuqua’s Center for Financial Excellence. He is also supporting the concentration by co-teaching the new Project Finance course with Professor Vish Viswanathan, which I plan to take in the Spring Term 2. We will study large-scale infrastructure projects that rely mainly on the cash flows generated by the projects to repay loans and earn a return on investment for equity investors. I just completed a couple of energy finance case studies for Vish’s Advanced Corporate Finance course, and I look forward to covering these topics in greater detail during the spring course.
Other new courses for the Energy Finance Concentration include a seminar series led by Dan Vermeer, Executive Director of Fuqua’s Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE). I took his two-term course in the fall, which included a fascinating variety of speakers, from a Siemens smart grid executive to the former CEO of mining giant Rio Tinto. It was great to understand the energy finance challenges faced by some of the largest corporations in the world.
In addition, an academic travel program was added that’s focused on energy. The in-class portion of the program was led by the former U.S. Ambassador to oil-rich Venezuela, Patrick Duddy. Students heard from some great guest speakers in Durham before traveling to speak with energy policy experts in Washington, D.C., and drilling experts in shale gas-rich Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was glad the class was able to visit EQT Corporation, the natural gas company where I completed my energy finance internship this past summer. Previous energy banking experience and my involvement in the Energy Club demonstrated to EQT that I had the experience and interest in energy to succeed as an MBA intern. My Fuqua finance, accounting, and energy courses prepared me to raise equity capital, analyze the pension, and model natural gas well production for EQT.
I am excited about the Energy Finance Concentration because it gives me the opportunity to develop hard finance skills in courses like Corporate Finance and Derivatives while better understanding the science and business of energy in courses such as the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP). In the FCCP course, I joined a team of students to consult on a commercial energy efficiency program for the Alliance to Save Energy. Tremendous innovations in renewable energy and oil and gas are creating many jobs for MBAs at investment banks, consultancies, utilities, clean tech VCs, energy conglomerates, renewable energy firms, and oil and gas corporations. I believe the Energy Finance Concentration gives me an edge in the job search.