FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Hal Kvisle
November 27, 2012
My recent conversation, an hour with Hal Kvisle, CEO at Talisman Energy Inc., was not intended to be focused on Talisman analysis – there is plenty of that out there and I’m not a financial analyst. I was interested in what explains the current direction at Talisman and to come away with an understanding of what makes Hal tick, what qualities that took him to the top and kept him there and to get a sense of the near future through his eyes. I was not disappointed.
My first interview with Hal Kvisle, several years ago, when he was CEO at TransCanada Corporation, for a column I wrote for Alberta Venture Magazine gave me a glimpse of his directness, openness and also left me honoured that he made time to discuss some complex issues around nuclear power with me. When Hal was appointed CEO of Talisman this September I didn’t hesitate to ask for an opportunity to interview him again.
Several weeks and rescheduled attempts later, we met last Monday in his office:
I began our conversation by thanking one of Calgary’s most successful and busy executives for taking time to spend in conversation with me and, by proxy with our readers, and asking about that background, growing up in Innisfail and farming.
… Hal is the first member of his family since the 1600’s to not grow up on a farm. His father immigrated from Norway during the depression, when farming was a very tough life – trained for teaching, and taught school. More about current farming adventures later.
On career . . .
. . . Shell offered a summer job opportunity at the Bowden Refinery to high school students planning to enter engineering. That summer job at a small refinery experimenting in formulas for lead-free gasoline was more appealing than one stacking lumber at the lumber yard. This interest in engineering, fueled by interest in future large pipeline projects (Alaska and Mackenzie Valley), sent Hal down the civil engineering track, though throughout his stellar career (highlights were first job in the production department at Dome, starting Fletcher Challenge, CEO at TransCanada) he never actually practiced civil engineering.
Key to success?
. . . understanding what drives value
Prior to coming out of retirement to run Talisman, what have you been doing for fun?
… lots of skiing, building (and paying people to build) and working on three farms – the residence in Bearspaw, the hay farm, and the ranch northwest of Cochrane.
What is your plan for Talisman?
. . . in short, I believe we can accomplish a lot. I expect a two year turn around and to recruit my successor. This company has great assets. We need to do some repositioning. And, to keep good assets you have to drill them. We are far stronger in shale gas than a lot of people realize. In terms of the North Sea, we are one of the largest operators there but we are in a trough on production right now as a lot of our producing wells are older.
On the current climate for oil, for gas?
. . . some companies are struggling, so there will be bargains – but some of the most successful firms really don’t like to part with their money. That isn’t a bad thing.
. . . people are highly motivated to work for a company that is moving in the right direction.
I had to ask about pipelines. How could I not?
. . . Keystone XL will go ahead. The issues are mostly fear and politics. Facts and science will overcome the criticism. The pipeline will cross areas where there are lots of pipelines already.
. . . Gateway is a far less difficult build than many pipelines already crossing British Columbia, but getting it approved will be difficult – the issues, more political and public perception, relate to when the pipeline reaches tidewater. The facts are well proven all over the world – oil can be loaded and shipped safely.
. . . Toyota trucks. And on weekends, bikes - Harley on the highway, BMW on the gravel.
Most recent great read?
. . . Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
What qualities have contributed most to his success in business?
. . . forty years of making mostly good decisions
Especially that one to take the summer job at the refinery instead of the one at the lumberyard! Thank you Hal, for revealing so much of yourself for our readers.
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