What could a UK/US visa deal do for Global Infrastructure & Energy Finance?

Just as it did within a fortnight of Britain’s vote for independence earlier this year, the violent eruption of discontent at the outcome of the US presidential election is starting to cool. Generation Snowflake have stopped setting fire to your car and gone home for thanksgiving (most of them not having even voted in the first place) and the world is starting to contemplate what happens next.

As an Infrastructure & Energy Finance recruiter who splits his time between London and NY, I have a very specific hope for what the world starts to look like when the dust settles (and the early signs are good). I want to see a bilateral trade deal between the UK and the US which allows much easier movement of professionals in both directions across the pond. This would be beneficial to both countries as they face the urgent challenges of safeguarding their power supplies and making their national infrastructure fit for purpose. It would also enable hundreds of well-qualified, top-bracket tax paying Infra & Energy Finance professionals to work and live on the other side from whence they came – whether temporarily or for the longer term.

As someone who spends a lot of time meeting both London and NY-based candidates for a range of global mandates across my client portfolio of funds, banks and sponsors, I deal every day with top caliber individuals whose skills could well be utilized by their counterpart country, especially as market dynamics shift on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, as the energy dominated US market potentially (finally) looks to get the pipeline of infrastructure projects it so desperately needs – many perhaps via P3 – there is a deep, rich pool of former PFI/PPP financiers in London who would not need asking twice to relaunch their careers in the land of hope and glory. Indeed, if Trump is to be believed, the revolution is going to be so dramatic that staffing it will make his current cabinet-filling exercise look like a lazy autumnal walk in Central Park.

Over in London (which, post-Brexit, will still be the undisputed European capital of Infra & Energy Financing and investment, whatever the good people of Frankfurt might tell you), where Power & Renewables mandates continue to represent an increasing share of the overall pipeline, how valuable some of these tremendous, plentiful energy financiers in the US could be. How often are we at One Search tasked with finding very specific candidates with specialisation in, let’s say, midstream or a particular renewable technology. When you factor in other specifications such as level of experience (we recruit at all levels from Analyst to CEO), we often find ourselves fishing from a very shallow pond indeed. How different it would be if we could shortlist our searches from the same, combined trans-Atlantic candidate pool. How much richer I would be. I mean…how much richer both respective markets would be…

This may all sound rather fanciful and I have to admit, with Islington’s progressive cry-baby MPs and our esteemed Lords of the realm (who might actually turn up to a vote, for once) to overcome before the UK can even start the two-year countdown to independence, combined with the question of where President Trump will prioritise rebuilding America’s infrastructure against his other pledges of wall-building, swamp-draining and the imprisonment of crooked politicians, my UK/US visa dream does still feel distant. However, the stars have never been so well aligned for it, certainly not in my lifetime. And if the UK does trigger article 50 by Spring 2017 – by which point the most pro-UK President in living memory has his feet under his Oval Office desk (next to the rightly reinstated Churchill bust) – who is to say that by 2019 it can’t be a reality? One thing is for sure; if it does happen, the good people of the Infrastructure & Energy Finance industry will be among the first to embrace it.