Intern Tells All... Andrew Zhang's Co-Op Experience at RE Royalties
Four months ago, I sat across from Bernard and Talia with my most confident and convincing smile that not-so-subtly hinted at my desperation as a second year finance student looking for my first co-op position.
A week later, I was welcomed into the team. I still remember walking out of my first team meeting with Bernard and Peter thinking, “so it seems that you can be experienced and decorated in your career whilst retaining your humility”.
This only served as a prelude to what I would really learn, outside of technical skills, during my time here.
And if I had to summarize using one sentence: I learned what innovation, vision, and a supportive team looked like.
Climate change is obviously a big issue, we’ve all heard of it, and we’ve all seen the new technologies and ideas that can help. But how many of these have been in the finance sector? Aside from the concept of ESG, SDG, and Green Bonds, which are helpful but only as a form of labelling that help institutions raise capital, how many true innovations that help climate change have been developed in the finance sector? Perhaps I simply do not know any, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been none. ESG and SDGs have helped provide investors with another layer of discretion when investing, but this has also created a systemic case of greenwashing. Furthermore, if you’ve ever inspected a green bond thoroughly, you’ll see big oil companies and enterprises that are completely unrelated to anything “green”.
So when I eventually realized how innovative royalty financing was, I was amazed. Although royalty financing only serves to fill in a small gap in capital, its impact on projects can be huge. Another misconception that was cleared for me was the definition of innovation. Royalty financing was developed long ago and commonly used in the mining sector. The founders realized that this method could be similarly applied to renewable energy to create not only a positive impact, but also attractive economic returns. Innovation became a new combination rather than a complete, brand-new idea.
I was amazed by not just the idea, but also by the initiative and vision of Peter and Bernard. Sure, they’ve found an amazing method to help fund renewable energy projects financially, but how well was this idea executed? To be fair, I can’t fully say that RE Royalties has become what the founders have in mind in terms of size, but seeing them speaking with clients everyday, sourcing additional capital to grow, and immediately looking for new doors when previous ones are shut in their faces, I can’t help but admire their tenacity and unyielding vision for the company.
Unlike traditional tech companies that have immense growth prospects and easily attract institutional and venture-level capital, RE Royalties was a small company that looked to create long-term value and achieve market-level returns through continuous compounding. As I flipped through the company documents and looked at previous deals during my first few weeks with RE Royalties, I noticed many things. The founders were fluid in all their methods to source capital, flexible in all their company plans, and always had multiple options open in the case that some close. I eventually realized that this level of fluidity and adaptability was absolutely necessary when faced with the headwinds of a small-company. But one thing that never changed was the vision for RE Royalties to reach a size where they can pursue deals of all sizes to maximize both their environmental impact and economic returns.
To navigate and consider all these options whilst maintaining a constant vision was something I found to be incredible and admirable.
In terms of my own learning process at RE Royalties, I do admit, there was a learning curve and there were (still are) days where I walked out of a conference call with no idea what I just spent the past hour listening to. There’s always more to learn at RE Royalties and there’s always new deals and technologies appearing in this exciting industry.
What has made the biggest difference for me, however, is the support that the team has shown towards my learning. I am always left with enough space to experiment. While there is plenty of support to make sure I can be successful with my duties, the one thing I value the most is the space that is given to me to experiment with my own methods and approaches. Personally, I learned best by trudging through something myself and trying different combinations—and the team here has given me the freedom to do that, something I endlessly appreciate. Upon completion of a project, there’s also always ample feedback from the entire team.
Having RE Royalties as my first co-op has been an incredibly fortunate experience. To understand the difficulties and potential of working in a small finance company was an experience I never expected to have—and going forward, I know that my time here will shape the way I approach my entire future career. For what I’ve learned here and the people I’ve been exposed to, I feel incredibly fortunate and appreciative.
From all of us at RE Royalties, thank you Andrew for your hard work and dedication. We will miss you at the office!