Jon Fouts T’92 is a managing director in the Power & Utilities Investment Banking division at Morgan Stanley. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his experience after Tuck.
What was the most important part of your Tuck experience that you’ve taken with you to your job and/or life?The ability to work well with other people. When I was at Tuck there was a lot of emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, and initially, I didn’t appreciate or like it. Over time, you can teach someone the technicals—the finance, the marketing skills on the job, etc.—but it’s hard to teach working with other people, respecting other perspectives, and incorporating different views. There’s always going to be someone smarter than you in this world and the ability to work with those people and incorporate their views is critical. The culture at Tuck and the group work I think were critical in developing this appreciation.
What are some of the biggest challenges that your clients face in the power and utilities space and how are you working to solve those?
Our clients are concerned with understanding what our industry will look like in the next five or even ten years. There’s so much going on with changes in policy, regulation, gas prices, renewables, and how people buy energy from a business and consumer perspective etc. All very exciting and important on so many levels. They want to know what the best business model is for the industry; what services they should provide to customers; whether they should own generation assets; how renewables fit into their portfolio mix; what the future of coal and nuclear looks like; and they also have concerns with other issues like grid reliability and cybersecurity. Helping clients think through these issues and the impact on their ability to raise capital in a capital-intensive industry is what we focus on.
How do you expect the type of transactions to change, if at all, in the energy space?
We expect the current business model of a regulated utility—acting exclusively as an intermediary between producers and consumers—to become more disintermediated. Specifically, players like Google, Amazon, Facebook and other forward thinking companies are now buying energy either directly or through a partnership with producers. Some of these companies are the most aggressive developers for wind and solar assets. Likewise, distributed generation (think rooftop solar or community generation) is getting a lot of the discussion and feeds back into the question of what this industry looks like in the next 5 to 10 years. Therefore, we’re focused on helping our clients understand how to develop, finance, and stay in front of some of these trends and transactions.
What advice would you give to current students interested in working in energy?
There are so many aspects to the energy industry—from policy, to financing, to views on trading markets, both from electricity or gas perspective. If a Tuck student hasn’t previously had energy experience, I would try and focus on one of those silos and develop a point of view on that particular topic. Having a view or a perspective (whether right or wrong) if well thought-out can be worth ten IQ points.
The second observation or suggestion I would make is always consider the secondary or tertiary implications of particular view. For example, there’s a lot of discussion and debate around clean energy and implementing programs in this space. It’s easy to say let’s stop global warming, but the next question should be how much would it cost to stop global warming and understand if it’s worth it. What is the cost? It’s important to analyze the other side of a statement to be thoughtful about what the cost and alternative is for any policy.
What do you miss most about being at Tuck?
I miss the hockey rink because I really enjoyed playing hockey for Tuck and the camaraderie that was built on the rink and at the tournaments. The Dartmouth Skiway was also a fun activity on Friday afternoons before exams or after class to let off steam with your friends before heading back to town to have dinner or study if you needed to.