This blog is the first of a two-part series introducing the founding members of Tierra and providing some background on who we are and what has motivated us to pursue this opportunity.
When the idea for Tierra was being formed, we realised that finding the right expertise was key to the proposition. Getting the right balance of experience from the insurance and project financing fields was never going to be easy but we hope that we have succeeded in doing just that.
First up is Gerard Pieters who joined Tierra in June 2021.
With his in-depth knowledge of project financing, built up over 15 years working for Nord/LB, Gerard Pieters provides Tierra with its core analytical capabilities. There are few trends in the renewable project finance market that Gerard hasn’t seen and it is this experience that helps Tierra to stand out from the pack. By utilising Gerard’s expertise, Tierra is able to undertake in-depth analysis of all the projects we see and get to the core of the risk issues quickly. But Gerard is more than just a renewable finance expert. He also brings his passion for environmental issues to the company and this helps to drive our mission forward. We did a brief Q&A with Gerard to get some more background:
What motivated you to join Tierra?
My first steps into business after university were taken by launching a small tech startup with a few friends. However, the appeal of joining a bank in the global centre for finance was too big. In the end I got lucky, ending up in a fantastic project finance team within Nord/LB London. Despite the financial crisis, I enjoyed many aspects of working in finance and had a great time. I’m one of those people that really love what they do. The constant changes and challenges within banking and the renewables sector meant I kept learning and developing myself.
When we started discussing Tierra, I quickly realised this was a great opportunity to combine my dream of being more entrepreneurial with my passion and experience in renewables. It was a chance to have high impact in a sector I love, and work in an environment that allows us to determine our goals and values from scratch, plus leave some of the corporate bureaucracy behind. Who could resist!
How have you found the switch from the banking to insurance industry?
When I joined banking it was pre financial crisis and quite different to the period thereafter. The effects of the financial crisis have been long-lasting and there has been a constant tightening of regulations and capital. By the time I left the banking sector, most discussions were about internal processes, rather than the merits of the underlying deal.
The insurance industry strikes a better balance, retaining a strong focus on deal quality and client needs and less about internal models. There seems to be a sensible pragmatism, but unlike those earlier banking days, a good level of discipline and personal accountability. And everyone is very friendly and collaborative, which has helped with the transition!
How hopeful are you for the future of the energy transition?
In my view the future effects of the climate crisis are typically underestimated, and the effects of future action and technologies are overestimated. The result is that the energy transition isn’t happening fast enough, especially in rich western economies, where the key responsibility lies. The constant approvals of new fossil fuel projects is one example of things that are incompatible with a low carbon future. I don’t think the world will reach its Paris Agreement pledges to limit warming to 1.5C. This worries and sometime angers me.
However, I never underestimate the innovation humanity is capable of when it comes under pressure. I’d like to stay positive and there are many green shoots that indicate the vested interests are making way for real progress on the green agenda. I want to be an optimist here and like to think we are still on a path where we can find a way to live using the Earth’s resources sustainably, with a bright future ahead.
What is your favourite renewable technology?
It has to be solar PV in the end. While offshore wind is just magnificent due to its technical achievements, true utility scale output competing with all traditional power stations (and it is my close second), in the end I love the simplicity and low costs of solar panels. Just screw it in, hook it up to the grid and start generating power. For large parts of the world, especially developing nations, the very low cost and simplicity offered by solar PV are just revolutionary.
How focused are you on the environmental agenda in your personal life?
It’s integral to most decisions we make in our family, which is both positive and negative. Negatively, it means that for most decisions you realise the climate impact, which is invariably higher than you would want it to be. But positively, we try to do our best to avoid any excess or avoidable CO2 and as a result we’ve reduced our household emissions substantially over the past years. We support a few environmental charities, which is a great way to get the kids engaged with the environment too.
How do you relax and get away from work at the end of the day?
I’ve really gone all-in in terms of climate! I’m reliant on sun and wind for both my career and hobby. After years of windsurfing, I recently switched to Wing Foiling, which I absolutely love. The feeling of flying over the water is second to none. As a prudent risk underwriter, I’ve recently hedged my climate bets though by picking up tennis, which luckily is all-weather proof!