Natalia Sergeeva, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley
11 May 2021
Interview conducted by Emma Shewell
Could you tell us a little bit about your background and journey from your education through to joining the energy industry?
I am Russian by origin and hence I learnt about importance of the energy sector in economic, political and social development early on. I came to the UK having finished a high school in Moscow, Russia. My academic background is in Economics but I wanted to marry my academic studies with my origin (energy sector is vital for my home country). And that is how I have decided to pursue a career as an investment banker, working with clients in the energy sector.
What is it that drew you to work in the oil & gas / energy sector?
Variety, global nature, the role energy sector plays on the global arena and in fostering economic development. Variety within the sector ensures that there is always something new to learn. Global reach gives me opportunities to interact with professionals and colleagues across the globe. Today more than ever before this sector offers many exciting opportunities.
Do you expect the events of the past year will have a lasting impact on investment banking in energy, and if so in what ways?
Events of the past year have accelerated what has been in the works long before and if I can summarize it in two words they are “energy transition”. The lens through which we look at the energy sector today is much wider than before as it includes verticals within the energy transition. That means that the landscape of players in the sector is evolving and new companies and products will compete for our attention. As established companies in the sector transition to become more holistic energy players, they will need more advice and tools to help them achieve their ambitions. And we will serve our clients to help them with these important agendas.
Many observers are predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the energy transition, however there are still constraints on the competitiveness of clean energy investments. From your experience would you say clean technologies and projects are competitive enough to maintain the momentum of a move toward cleaner energy production?
I am confident that the direction of travel in the sector and beyond has been set firmly and it is towards energy transition. The momentum has reached the level that we no longer have an option to turn the dial back. The question of competitiveness of clean energy investments is a matter of time. We need support from governments, authorities and regulators to facilitate these investments as the returns gap between traditional energy investments and clean alternatives still prevails. We have already seen costs of renewable projects go down and I believe they will go down even further, helping the competitiveness.
Do you expect that capital which has moved away from traditional energy sources such as oil & gas will return to some degree as the industry recovers, and what might draw investors back in to the space?
Yes, and we have already witnessed that. There will be investors who will choose to put capital to other pockets, however, traditional oil and gas is not going away. The net zero future is not a fossil fuel free future. We have to recognise that. And I believe oil and gas investments can be both profitable and sustainable. The traditional energy has been subject to a lot of criticism and now the focus is on costs, breakevens, longevity and sustainability. The challenge for the traditional players is to withstand the rhetoric of “dirty” sector as that is a very simplistic way of looking at things.
What would you say have been the biggest challenges you have faced as a female leader in this industry, and what did you do to overcome these challenges?
Lack of role models. I still find myself a lot of the time as “the only” in the room. I do have great male and female mentors, who have taught me a great deal and continue to support me. I think we are making good progress and the statistics are improving, but at a slow pace. The good news is that we know what the problems are. The challenge is in execution – it takes time and requires a collective approach to foster a change we need to create a more balanced leadership.
Where do you think employers most often fall short in supporting their under-represented employees, and how might they improve this support?
Not fully understanding challenges that the underrepresented part is going through. We need to build awareness to make a meaningful change. We need more feedback loops, focus groups to build better understanding of each other’s strengths as well as challenges. You can’t expect someone to sympathise with another’s challenges if these are not well understood. Transparency in communication, emotional intelligence, curiosity towards colleagues and also time we so often fall short of are all things we need to improve the support we give to each other.
Although there has been much devastation as a result of the past year, in the wake of destruction there is opportunity to build back better structures from the ground up. How do you think companies might best utilise this opportunity to rebuild more equitable frameworks within their organisations?
Last year we were all faced with similar challenges, that is equalising already. Last year has also given us a chance to humanise our relationships and allowed us to get to know each other from a different perspective. We learnt more about our colleagues than we would have if it was not for Covid. We have more input and knowledge now to understand what works better for some employee groups or individuals. Let’s reflect on that and build on these learnings to construct better organisational structures to fit a diverse workforce. The key for me here is not to default back to where we have left it pre-Covid as that would be a missed opportunity to make meaningful improvements.
Natalia is an Executive Director with Morgan Stanley's Energy Group in the Investment Banking Division, with focus on oil and gas and energy transition. Natalia joined Morgan Stanley in 2014 and before that she spent 3 years with UBS in the European Energy group.
Throughout her career, Natalia worked on a number of M&A assignments for leading companies across oil and gas sector, as well as assisting in raising both debt and equity financing for a wide range of companies globally. She holds degrees in Economics from the University of Nottingham and a Masters in Banking and International Finance from (Cass) Business School.