Sarah Latham shares her view on the main infrastructure trends for 2021 and her experience working at Flint

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We interviewed Sarah Latham, a Director at Flint’s Markets and Investors Advisory Practice in London. Sarah works mostly on infrastructure clients, specialising in the water and transport sectors.

How have you seen Flint grow since joining? 

I joined Flint almost three and a half years ago as a Consultant. In that time, I have seen the company more than double in size, outgrow its offices in Manchester Square and break into new and exciting sectors and geographies.  

It has been great to be a part of such a dynamic and fast-growing company. It has given me an opportunity to work with lots of really talented individuals; to enjoy a wide variety of work with different clients facing a whole range of policy, political and regulatory challenges; and to shape the direction of the company as it continues to grow.  

But, whilst there has been a lot of change, the culture of the Flint team has continued to be collaborative and supportive. It is a great bunch of people who have a lot of fun!  

What are the main infrastructure trends in 2021? 

2021 is set to be a busy year for the infrastructure sector. The government is putting infrastructure at the heart of its economic recovery agenda to boost jobs and ‘level up’ the UK economy. Under the spotlight as host of COP26 later this year, the government is also looking to accelerate the development of low carbon infrastructure to meet net zero by 2050 and improve climate resilience.  

In this context, the government and regulators have important decisions to make about how they will unlock the private investment needed. We have already seen a series of major government strategy documents in recent months – the National Infrastructure Strategy, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the Energy White Paper. All eyes are now on how it turns warm words into tangible actions. 

As this happens, I think we will see a particular focus on:  

  1. Regulatory processes and reform – we are expecting the outcome of the CMA’s redeterminations for four water companies imminently, which could have significant implications for future regulatory decisions in water and other sectors (particularly energy, where all seven transmission and gas distribution companies have appealed their recent price control decisions from Ofgem). At the same time, the Treasury is actively considering reforms to economic regulation in the UK to drive the long-term infrastructure investment needed.  
  1. Financing models – post-PPP, there have been unresolved questions on the government’s approach to financing major infrastructure projects. The new UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB), focused on net zero and levelling up, will be an important part of forming a new approach but there remains a lot of operational detail still to decide which will shape how effective the UKIB will be. Initial details suggest it will provide less than half the funding the UK previously received from the European Investment Bank. This could create opportunities for private investors, but also risks being too small to create a good pipeline of investable projects.  
  1. Infrastructure transactions – we are likely to see more infrastructure transactions as the transition to net zero creates new investment opportunities and the economy emerges post-Covid. However, we are also likely to see more scrutiny of transactions given heightened political concern around national security and economic resilience. The National Security and Investment Bill is expected to come into force later this year, introducing a new screening process and greater political scrutiny for all buyers / sellers.   

How have you found your time since being promoted to Director? 

So far, so good! As with any new role, there are new things to learn and areas to grow in and I am excited about the new opportunities the role presents. But there are also things that haven’t changed – I work with the same people, I still have the same desk (my dining room table for now!) and I still have the same clients. This, and the support and encouragement from the team, have really helped me adjust.  

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