12 October 2017

Jón Ferrier CEO, Gulf Keystone Petroleum

Interviewed by Slimane Bouabbane

A few words about your career in the industry

I have been with Gulf Keystone for just over two years and have spent more time than I care to reveal in the industry. I joined GKP from Maersk Oil where I enjoyed a business development and strategy role based in Copenhagen. Before Maersk I was at ConocoPhillips, Paladin, Petro-Canada/Suncor, living and working in a number of regions. My background is as a geologist and my first job after qualifying was in fact in the mining industry.

When it comes to negotiating transactions, what do you think are the biggest challenges?

As ever, the challenge is for both sides to walk away, happy to have done the deal and feeling they have got a good result. There’s a natural tension between a buyer and seller and a combination of knowledge built over time invested in getting to know the people and organisation you are dealing with is invaluable. The greatest challenger really is trust in the counter party and working together in good faith.

What is your key advice for a good deal?

There is always a risk of being seduced by a deal. You need to be able to walk away if it’s not the transaction that you want to do.

Are there specific issues with equipment transactions that you think companies should be careful with?

From my perspective, which is not that of an engineer, but having run projects on a critical time path as a business leader, you can quickly be knocked off course by long lead items. This can have a material knock on effect on a project. On one hand there may be no getting away from it but I always encourage my teams to try to keep things simple, and to do the basics well. You may not need to choose something that’s perfect, sometimes good will do. I once worked on a project in Syria and facing a very long wait for two much needed compressors to be reach us via ship and truck, we saved a couple of valuable weeks by flying them out. You need to be pragmatic.

Can you share one story with us about an interesting transaction you have been involved with?

For me it’s more of a cocktail of experiences of transactions throughout my career, rather than any specific one. I think I have been very fortunate to have led deals in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Working in all those places you have to recognise and accommodate a huge array of cultural differences, especially as a guest in a foreign country. Of course, there are moments of frustration but more often than not it is a hugely rewarding experience. What doing deals the world over has really shown me is that wherever you are in the world, people are pretty similar and have similar drivers. It’s about understanding what those drivers are. The industry continues to provide me with the most remarkable experiences and friends. I think it can do the same for generations to come.