Brad Heshmaty is a Vice President at New Energy Capital (NEC), a renewable energy focused investment firm, where he is responsible for transaction execution, portfolio monitoring, financial modeling, valuation, and due diligence. Prior to joining NEC as an Associate in 2017, Brad was an Analyst in the Global Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group at Lazard in New York. While at Lazard, he worked on a variety of transactions in the power, energy, and infrastructure sectors, including strategic advisory and M&A assignments totaling over $35 billion in aggregate transaction value. Brad graduated in 2014 from UNC Chapel Hill where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a minor in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).
A Conversation with Ben
(1) Can you describe your career path?
Like many students, I came to Chapel Hill open-minded about what I wanted to do for a career. Fortunately, I was selected for the assured admission program in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, which allowed me to start taking business classes early on and helped narrow down my decision. I interned with Lazard the summer between my junior and senior years and received a full-time offer to join after graduation. I spent two years at Lazard working on a variety of transactions in the power, energy, and infrastructure sectors, including strategic and M&A advisory work. At the time, clean energy sources like wind and solar were already proven technologies, sustaining significant growth each year as costs continued to fall making these renewable options more competitive with conventional power generation like gas and coal. Given the rapidly growing and dynamic nature of the renewable energy industry, it presented an exciting next opportunity in my career. The renewables space is relatively capital-intensive, so when considering my next move, I knew I wanted to get experience on the investing side specifically. I took a job with New Energy Capital (NEC), a leading alternative asset manager that invests across the capital structures of clean energy infrastructure projects and companies. I was initially attracted to NEC because of the people, their extensive history as one of the first investors in the sector, and their track record in the space. It has been a great opportunity for me to gain a wide array of experience investing and partnering with various companies within the industry. Over the past six years with NEC, I have worked on many deals across solar, battery storage, transmission, energy efficiency, and more.
(2) What led you to minor in PPE at UNC?
I decided to do the PPE minor because I enjoyed the introductory courses in economics and philosophy, and at the time, I was particularly interested in behavioral economics. Additionally, I thought the interdisciplinary focus and emphasis on reason, logic, and ethical reflection in both political and economic applications would be a great complement to the classes I was taking in the business school, which focused more on gaining real-world, direct knowledge and skills to prepare for careers after school.
(3) How has what you learned from the PPE Program helped you in your career?
That’s a great question and a difficult one to answer. The PPE program taught me an invaluable lesson to question everything and apply logic, reason, and morality to anything you do in life, be it personal or professional. This is particularly helpful in careers and mine is no exception. Economic and political factors exist in virtually all careers and industries and influence market dynamics and outcomes. Learning the tools to study and evaluate these forces makes you a more knowledgeable, marketable worker or entrepreneur. Power and energy in the US is a great example of the interwoven nature of policy and economics within an industry. The tremendous growth and adoption of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, have been primarily driven by a combination of government policies (through tax credits, grants, subsidies, and renewable portfolio standards) and economic forces (significant cost declines and economies of scale, increased access to capital markets, increased focus on ESG metrics). In my career, we are constantly evaluating federal, state, and local policies, as well as market-specific and general economic forces, when structuring and managing investments. The tools and frameworks I developed within the PPE program have definitely helped me in this aspect of my career.
(4) What is your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
Given that I work with private companies, it’s challenging to provide a specific example here. Generally speaking though, I am proud of the role my firm and I play in the industry by providing capital to help grow clean energy companies that are making a positive economic and environmental impact. For more details on NEC and this impact, you can check out NEC’s 2022 Impact Report (https://newenergycapital.com/2023/06/30/2022-nec-impact-report/).
(5) What professor or course influenced you the most during your time in the PPE Program?
The PPE gateway course with Professor Michael Munger was influential for me. He’s a distinguished professor and knowledgeable on various subjects, and his humor made the class even more enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the classes on markets, market failures, and game theory. I also distinctly remember the term paper because we were allowed to choose a topic of interest within the PPE space, and given my interest in finance, I wrote about the history and causes of market crashes, bubbles, and speculative asset prices. It was the most enjoyable paper I wrote in college and the experience definitely influenced my career path.
(6) What was your favorite PPE extracurricular programming (e.g., reading groups, weekend seminars, speaker series, etc.)?
The speaker series was a highlight for me. Two speakers in particular that left a lasting impression were Dan Ariely (behavioral economist/Duke professor) and David Gardner (Motley Fool co-founder).
(7) What advice do you have for prospective PPE students?
I might be dating myself here, but in the words of Billy Madison: “For the love of god cherish it.” In all seriousness though, enjoy your time, try new things, and take classes that interest you. Also, focus on building strong relationships with those around you since that’s ultimately what the experience is all about.
(8) What advice do you have for recent PPE graduates?
While your first job is important, it won’t be your last. Focus on building strong relationships and a solid foundation of knowledge/skills you can use wherever your career takes you. Your career is also a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t neglect your life outside work and make time for things like family, friends, relationships, your health, and hobbies.
(9) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Retired on a beach somewhere, spending most of my time golfing, fishing, and traveling with my wife. Jokes aside, in all likelihood I hope I’m continuing to advance in my career and maintaining a balanced, rewarding personal and professional life. Hopefully in that time, I’ve at least knocked a few strokes off my golf game, had a few more successful fishing trips, and traveled to a few more places on my bucket list.