Background: The client, Hudson Sustainable Group, LLC (Hudson), based in Miami, is one of the world’s leading asset management firms in the sustainable investing sector. Given Hudson’s strong track record of incubating Independent Power Producer (IPP) businesses in other regions of the world, and leveraging the recent acquisition of their first solar assets in Japan, they were looking to further increase their activity in the Japanese market. This would entail acquiring solar and onshore wind assets to become the seeds of a new IPP platform they are establishing in Japan — as a springboard to APAC — called Hudson Pacific Power (HPP).
Assignment: Hudson tasked HCCR with assisting them to find a deeply experienced, well-rounded, English-Japanese bilingual CEO for HPP to help it acquire, develop, finance and operate renewable energy power facilities in the Japanese market. Hudson’s goals were ambitious. The CEO would be expected to grow the business to become market leader, and deliver at least 2X+ returns on invested capital in three years. At the same time, the CEO would push the company culture to support and sustain these initiatives. It was estimated that reaching this goal would require growing the portfolio to up to 250MW of assets, including 100MW+ in operation.
Approach: Given the preference for finding someone with strong leadership experience who could drive the establishment and subsequent scaling of the new IPP platform, HCCR set its sights firmly on a specific group of candidates. These were either regional leadership of foreign operators in Japan, business unit leaders in Japanese organizations, or business development leaders with direct experience in renewable energy portfolio development. In order to inspire and motivate candidates and ensure their values aligned with Hudson, HCCR utilized its internal design agency, Engin10, to create a bespoke candidate pitch deck to precisely frame Hudson, the role, and the jobs to be done.
Risks: Based on recent challenges relating to the development of renewable energy projects and frequent negative media headlines, there is a general bearish consensus amongst many participants on the future of Japan’s renewables sector. In addition, numerous foreign market players have entered, and subsequently exited, the Japanese market since the inception of the feed-in-tariff program in 2012. As a result, many candidates perceive foreign players as transitory in nature and are hesitant to join such companies. Given these circumstances and an already limited pool of suitable candidates in the market, HCCR anticipated some of the main risks to the execution of this search to be:
- Longer than normal delivery lead times
- Smaller sampling of short list candidates vs. other market norms
- Additional “courtship” required by the client to attract talent
- Wage inflation due to perceived market risks
Findings and key lessons learned: Despite increasingly bearish attitudes toward the Japanese solar market, HCCR was able to find the perfect candidate for the job. The candidate possesses a wealth of experience and a drive to succeed. Most importantly, the candidate shares Hudson’s vision and understands that Japan’s solar space still has a lot left to give. We look forward to watching HPP grow and thrive under the candidate’s leadership. Coming out of this search, it is clear that HCCR's deep expertise in the energy and infrastructure space, combined with their extensive knowledge of the Japanese talent market, were indispensable in helping Hudson seal the deal.
Author: Aaron Mollin, Senior Consultant, HCCR
Casey Abel, Executive Director, HCCR
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caseyabel/Agilium Worldwide link: https://www.agiliumworldwide.com/global-locations/asia-pacific/tokyo-hccr
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