- Programme: Project and Infrastructure Finance
- Nationality: Australian/British
- Job Post-programme: Project Manager GBM Minerals Engineering Consultants Ltd. Also Director of PEL Ltd
Sally works with GBM Minerals managing teams of engineers and sub consultants in project engineering. In 2011 she established Parker Engineering Ltd (PEL) to undertake infrastructure, water and mining projects for several clients. She has also worked on world stage infrastructure projects, including two years as Design Manager on the London 2012 Olympic Games.
I came to London Business School to gain an in-depth, international perspective on project finance. I also wanted to improve my financial knowledge and gain skills that would benefit my career, my employer and the work I do in the minerals processing and infrastructure industries. Working on numerous projects across many territories, it was important for me to build my network on a global scale. I found this programme to be more comprehensive and more specific than those offered by alternative schools, and crucially, it was open to people like myself who are not strictly from a finance background.
As my work involves making engineering and financial assessments for different countries, I needed to learn how sovereign risk is approached across the world I also wanted to understand how best to model the economic and technical feasibility of a mineral deposit and how structuring debt can improve economic returns. The faculty were extremely knowledgeable, approachable and engaging, each giving different perspectives and each with their own style. The lead professor came from a resource industry background and another had experience in minerals and mining companies, and had advised mining boards on financial strategies. Their combined experience was invaluable to me. It was fantastic to get so many interpretations and views and to experience such a positive, open and flexible learning environment.
An interactive environment
The case studies – in particular one relating to a pipeline in Africa – were extremely relevant to me. Based upon those real-life examples I came away with a deeper understanding of how projects that share cross-country borders can encounter project financing difficulties and conflicting interests, and how they can be resolved. Following one of the case studies, when I delivered our group work to the class, I realised how much I had absorbed in just five days. It was an intense learning curve.
I also appreciated the balance between theory and group work. My peers were an inspiration, coming from all over the world and with professional backgrounds very different to my own. The group work and discussions were always lively! Hearing from others about their project finance experiences (both good and bad) revealed a lot about the various ways in which project finance is implemented depending on country, culture and levels of civil or political risk.
Applying the learning
Project finance delivery can present many unforeseen challenges, and to succeed you need to think creatively. I learned very quickly that my preconceived views on how to deliver a finance model for a given project can be disrupted by political issues, sovereign risk, availability of finance, and acceptable levels of debt. Since completing the programme I have been more aware of how to calculate and evaluate risk and contingency, and have a deeper knowledge of how best to structure debt.
Although my corporate base is London, I am currently working in Beijing for a year, adjusting to a new environment and cultural setting. The techniques and principles that I learned on the programme have been a huge benefit to me. I now make sure to consider financial variables beyond just metal prices and I’ve applied this learning to projects in South America, Asia and Africa with great success.