In 2015, South Jersey Industries (SJI) CEO Michael Renna set out an ambitious goal to reach $150 million in economic earnings by 2020, to reduce the company’s reliance on investment tax credits, to maintain a low-to-moderate risk profile, and to strengthen the balance sheet. As the holding company for a regulated gas utility, South Jersey Gas Company, and several nonutility businesses, significant capital expenditures are essential to grow SJI—and to improve service and benefits to its approximately 377,000 utility customers.
Much of the responsibility for that growth falls on Ann Anthony, SJI’s vice president and treasurer. Because utilities are so highly regulated, she faces some unique challenges. For example, SJI doesn’t generate profit on its sales of natural gas supply. “We earn a set return for each customer and can earn a return on capital improvements,” she says. “By investing in improvements, growing our rate base, and focusing on customer growth, we increase net income.”
Another recent nonregulated capital investment is its PennEast Pipeline project, a new 120-mile pipeline designed to provide an affordable energy source to families and businesses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. SJI is a 20 percent equity partner in the project. “When the business people are negotiating the deal, treasury is behind the scenes figuring out how it’s going to be paid for,” Anthony says. “My responsibility is to understand the business need and find the means to support the strategy.”
Like any corporate financial professional, that means determining the optimal balance between internally generated funds and a blend of debt or equity. For Anthony, it also means following strict compliance requirements, such as segregating finances between the company’s regulated and nonutility businesses and adhering to complex guidelines to access capital markets.
“Everyone should get involved in outside activities that align with their personal interests. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll be more devoted, you’ll find it more rewarding, and you’ll grow in different ways than if you stick exclusively to your normal routine.”
This process demands a great deal of forethought to accurately determine needs, balance priorities, and incorporate market trends. “It’s a balancing act to address all the pertinent factors,” Anthony says. “History helps guide us to a degree, but with volatile markets, it’s not perfect—and the regulatory process itself inserts lags into the process. So we constantly fine-tune our forecasts, look forward, and try to be as proactive as possible.”
Anthony must also sometimes carry out that balancing act within an extremely tight time frame. In one instance, the company made arrangements for $200 million in long-term private placement debt to be executed three months later. Those proceeds were intended to repay and extend an existing $200 million bank term facility, which would close a week after the private placement. The company negotiated legal documentation for both facilities concurrently, and closing for the second facility predicated on closing the first, which left no room for delays.
To work through this, Anthony relied on her confidence and ability to work under pressure. “You can’t pick and choose your timing, so you have to be comfortable with your data, trust your team and your colleagues, and move forward,” she says.
To make sure the treasury team is well prepared to face most any eventuality, Anthony is a firm believer in having the right people in the right roles. Aside from helping them develop appropriate technical skills, she emphasizes soft skills that facilitate a team’s ability to work together.
To help broaden her own skills, Anthony sits on the boards of the Darlington Arts Center in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, and the Association for Financial Professionals. Both roles give her the opportunity to confront new challenges and develop insight into unique solutions. She is currently heading the search committee for a new CEO at the arts center, which demands very different capabilities than her role at SJI.
In turn, she encourages team members to find similar learning and growth opportunities. “Everyone should get involved in outside activities that align with their personal interests,” she says. “If you’re passionate about it, you’ll be more devoted, you’ll find it more rewarding, and you’ll grow in different ways than if you stick exclusively to your normal routine.”
Despite all her expertise and experience, Anthony did not originally intend to focus her career on treasury. In fact, her career in the field came about as a bit of a fluke. In her first job after graduating college, she was placed in a management training program, and because the company treasurer was impressed with her interview, the company created a treasury rotation for her. At that point, Anthony was given three days to get up to speed on all the details of a newly acquired company and to begin integrating its financial processes.
“That’s when I got the treasury bug,” Anthony explains. “I saw that you have to touch the business in direct ways on a daily basis. I also realized that treasury makes history; accounting records it. I wanted to help make history.”
Wells Fargo congratulates Ann Anthony for being featured by Profile magazine. It is an honor to have Ann as a business partner and see all she has accomplished in her career. We’ve watched her successfully manage the financial matters that affect the company’s short- and long-term financial success, including banking relationships, cash management, and capital-raising activities. Ann is active in her professional life through leadership roles with the American Gas Association and the Association of Finance Professionals and she is also an active contributor to her community through the Darlington Arts Center. Her involvement and willingness to work to make a difference are what make Ann special and a great customer. Ann, we value our relationship and wish you continued success.