Best jobs for STEM: Not banking, not tech, but batteries
Andrew Waranch has been around. He's worked as an energy trader on the sell-side (Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank). He's worked as an energy trader on the buy-side. These days, he's doing something entirely different again: he's set up Spearmint Energy, a Miami-based company that's all about battery energy storage, and battery storage trading.
As the world's energy system is reconfigured, Waranch says it's the renewables sector that provides the best opportunities. “We are in the early days of the renewables revolution," he declares. "The most desirable career for top graduates has gone from banking to Silicon Valley to renewables.”
Waranch isn't exactly impartial in his evaluation of the importance of renewables careers, but he's not alone in his judgement either. Alan Chang, the 28-year-old former star of British fintech firm Revolut recently quit his comfy seat in Canary Wharf to found an energy company that builds assets to generate renewable energy and then sells it back to the consumers. Chang informed us last month that it was his "duty" to do this: "There is a lack of talent in energy. The average age is maybe in the 50s and there's not a lot of young talent. It's a very problematic industry and it has a very big impact on the world."
Waranch isn't quite as evangelical, but he does suggest that trading battery storage offers an opportunity to both make money and to solve the most meaningful problem of the moment. “This is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to solve the climate crisis and to make money in a tangible way,” he says. “There’s a new generation of graduates who understand the seriousness of the problem and who want to help solve it.”
Experienced gas and commodities traders from Wall Street are equally keen to have a go. Last month, he hired Nick Vamvakas from alternative investment firm Investcorp as chief strategy officer.
Trading battery storage is to be distinguished from trading actual batteries. It's trading "around" batteries, says Waranch. “We’re trading the battery’s capacity to hold energy," he explains. "We’re trading storage. Batteries are fundamentally warehouses for electricity and we are trading that storage. As regulation changes, the market is changing dramatically. I expect car companies will be involved in trading around battery storage in the future as they already have batteries within people’s homes.”
While there are plenty of people trading power already, Waranch says there are far fewer trading battery storage, suggesting that this might be a good time to start. For the moment, Spearmint Energy only employs 10 people, but it's expanding. Waranch won't say by how much, but he points to similarly sized companies in the renewables sector that have gone from five to 40 people in a year. He points, too, to VC and private equity enthusiasm for companies in the space. The implication isn't spelled out, but it's clear: if you want stock in a young company, a battery trading start-up is a good place to be.
Trading isn't the only arm of the business. "We develop batteries. We own batteries and we trade around them,” says Waranch. Traders aren't his only employees: "Our team comes from across Wall Street, where they were previously modelling commodities or natural gas storage, because the skills for quantifying the value are similar."
He's interested in hiring from across banks. “What we are doing is a combination of quant modelling, research and trading around the energy markets," concludes Waranch. "We’re also financing the acquisition, construction and ownership of batteries – essentially optimizing project finance."
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