Stump Speaker

An Interview With Hallie Vanderhider

The Oil and Gas Executive Gives Stump Lecture

Hallie Vanderhider, managing director with SFC Energy Partners, a Denver-based private equity firm focused on the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry, received a BBA in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. Straight out of college she worked for Deloitte, a public accounting firm, auditing both private and public companies.

“I thought this was a great training ground because I have really learned to get a grasp on what financial statements mean and how to read them and what they can tell you about a company, but I [did not] want to do this forever," Vanderhider said. "This is not that fun now that I [understand] it. I [wanted] to do something more.” So, she decided to leave Deloitte and go work with one of her clients, which was a publicly traded oil and gas company.

“Right after I started, we were suspended by the SEC for late filing," Vanderhider said. "Then, unfortunately, we had the oil crash of 1986, and we weren’t going to survive. We did some interim financing to keep us alive until we could sell what we could of the company. Right when we were doing this, I had twins.”

Originally, Ms. Vanderhider had planned to stay home with the twins, but the company asked her to come back for a few months to help them sell. It ended up taking a year to sell due to complicated transactions, but Ms. Vanderhider said, "I was fortunate that after that I did stay home for four years with my boys, which were probably the best four years of my life. Then I learned I was going to be a single mom, so I thought I needed to get a job.”

A previous contact from Deloitte offered Vanderhider a job with a private equity firm. She decided to leave auditing to do financial planning because she wanted to become a CFO. This is how she got involved with oil and gas private equity and later moved to Blackstone Minerals, which used to be private. “We moved from 220 million in value to 4 billion over the 10 years that I was there,” Ms. Vanderhider explained.

 Vanderhider decided that she wanted to run a company and that private equity was the best way to do this. As she made her way up the ladder, Vanderhider gained a lot of insight into how a business works.  “[I got to] see so many different aspects of the life cycle of a business from cradle to grave," Vanderhider said. "It was a really interesting time in my career and a chance for me to do a lot of things that I really hadn’t been involved with before so that was a lot of fun. And then I got diagnosed with cancer."

After her diagnosis with cancer, Vanderhider decided to retire and seek treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. “I am happy to say that after surgery and radiation I am cancer free,” Vanderhider assured.

This time allowed for Vanderhider to embark on an interim during which she decided to start a boutique investment banking firm. "I thought it would be a good idea to try and do foreign direct investment between China and the U.S.,” Vanderhider said. The investment banking firm did not have any money and did not have any clients. "It took us a little over a year, but we finally did sell a company out of California to a state-owned enterprise in China.”

Vanderhider and her partner’s Chinese counterparts were not aware that the partner could speak fluent Mandarin, so Vanderhider and her partner were privy to several impolite comments made with regards to her scope of experience and gender. “Language wasn’t the only barrier; the significant cultural differences between men and women and what roles they play was quite a challenge," Vanderhider said. "I can’t tell you how many times they would ask me to get them coffee, and they would say ‘Where is the President?’ and I would say, ‘Well, that’s me.’”

Vanderhider has had many challenges in the male-dominated world of business but has handled obstacles with dignity. “A lot of women don’t make it to the top, [and] a lot of women deselect themselves," Vanderhider said. "Sometimes there is a bias that’s hard to overcome.” However, Vanderhider and her colleagues have found community within each other. “I’m part of the Executive Women’s Partnership of Houston, and we’ve bonded pretty significantly. There are about 200 of us, and you have to be the CEO of a company of a certain size to be included in the organization.”

Currently, Vanderhider has started changing her career to start serving on public company boards, and she would like to be on at least three, in addition to possibly exploring something other than oil and gas.

“[The] thing that’s most important to me throughout my career is always moving to something that’s a new challenge,” Vanderhider said. “Each time I’ve moved from one job to another… it’s been to learn something new or to play a different role or to see something through a different lens because I think the broader your background, the more value you add to any situation.”

Feature photo via Wynter Byrd