Philip Corbett, Head of Investor Relations at Hurricane plc on his career change from Equity Analyst to Investor Relations
Philip made the switch to Investor Relations after 12 years as an Equity Analyst and talks us through why (and how) he made the initial move from Deutsche Bank to Genel Energy plc, how his banking skills help him in his current role and the biggest change he experienced moving from the sell-side to a corporate environment.
Philip Corbett is currently Head of Investor Relations at Hurricane Energy plc. He started his career in 2001, after completing a PhD in Statistics at the University of Warwick. After 12 years as an Equity Research Analyst in Oil & Gas, he left his role at Deutsche Bank to join Genel Energy plc as Head of Investor Relations. He subsequently joined GasLog Ltd before leaving to take up his current role in June 2020.
You spent the first 12 years of your career in Equity Research – what made you decide to start your career in that way?
I was in my final year of a PhD and decided that I wanted to pursue a career outside academia. Equity research was a natural fit - I could apply the skill set I'd developed in my postgraduate studies towards analysing companies instead.
How did you find yourself working in Oil & Gas– was it an active decision?
I've always been interested in earth science - and I have an A Level in Geology to prove it! So it felt like an obvious choice. But it's also a truly global industry with a significant geopolitical overlay, in turn generating a lot of interest from the investment community. Looking back I have no regrets about making that choice, but looking forward the transition to a lower carbon economy is representing a significant challenge to the conventional upstream business model and it no longer generates as much interest and enthusiasm as it once did.
You moved to Investor Relations at quite a senior level - what made you move to the other side of the fence?
Equity Research was always very enjoyable and fulfilling as a career, although as an analyst there will always be a limit to understanding how companies really work. Over time, moving "in house" became an increasingly attractive option - not only understanding how companies work, but also being part of a team trying to create a successful business. While there have been some pretty challenging periods during my time in IR and performance has not been as positive as I would have liked, again I have not regretted the move.
How did you get your job at Genel and were they specifically looking for someone from the sell side?
I covered Genel as a research analyst and had a positive view of the business and share price potential - which no doubt helped! On a more serious note they wanted a Head of IR who could understand and communicate the financial and technical performance of the business effectively, in order to free up time in the C-suite to build the business. As someone who already knew the company quite well and had a sell-side background, I think this ticked a lot of the boxes for them.
How useful are the skills you learned in Equity Research to your current role?
Very useful. Equity research analysts have many demands on their time and there is increasing pressure to focus their coverage on larger companies. So research coverage should not be taken for granted, particularly for smaller companies like my current employer. Understanding what information and insight an equity research analyst needs, when they need it, and how to communicate it can strengthen the relationship between the company and the analyst and maximise research coverage.
What was the biggest change in moving from the sell-side to a corporate environment?
I'd say the day-to-day variety of the role. As a sell-side analyst, you'd wake up every morning not knowing whether there would be a major company announcement or sector development. While that can be quite stimulating and exciting, there is a lot of pressure on analysts to make snap judgements. It can also play havoc with your work and social schedule! There is certainly more "routine" in the IR role, although doing the simple things well (financial calendar, consistent and timely reporting, investor engagement etc.) is an incredibly important part of the role and valued by all stakeholders.
What’s been the best career advice you ever received?
A bit obvious, but it's more important to listen than to talk. There's an old quote which the new BP CEO used recently - "You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason". Some of the most effective and successful colleagues I have worked with would listen carefully and reflect on what they have heard before commenting. Also, try and find a mentor who you respect and help you through your career. Most business operate such programmes these days, but if not, then actively seek out someone who you feel you can learn from.
What advice for anyone considering starting a career in equity research now?
Choose your sector wisely. In recent years, sustainability/ESG has become a major investing theme and touches all sectors, some more than others. Furthermore, growth (i.e. tech) continues to dominate value as an investing style. No one has a crystal ball, but it is important to try and anticipate trends, as this will impact your sector and importantly, how many investors will want to read your research and talk to you.
How do you think the role of Investor Relations will develop in the next 10 years?
Due to recent regulatory changes (i.e. Mifid 2), corporates are increasingly required to shoulder more investor engagement and outreach than has been the case in the past. As a result, Investor Relations is gaining more importance and prominence within listed businesses, which in turn affords greater opportunity to engage with senior management, the C-Suite and the Board of Directors. As a result, I think the next 10 years will be a great time to be in IR, so let's see where that leads. In addition, the energy sector is on the cusp of a dramatic change, with conventional oil and gas companies seeing less capital availability and investor interest. As a sector, we must do whatever we can to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint, which in turn may bring other opportunities our way to capitalise on the energy transition. That's also going to be an incredibly interesting process to be involved with.