Few middle market companies have prepared for the disruption that technological innovation and other changes will bring, but the energy and chemical industries are among the least prepared, a new report from Capital One Commercial Bank says.
"Energy, resources, and chemicals companies tend to be classic delayers," according to the Disruption in the Middle Market report released Tuesday. "Eighty-three percent are slightly or not at all prepared for a disruptive event (compared with 53 percent for the full survey), and only 37 percent are pursuing a disruptive strategy (compared with 60 percent overall)."
The report defines middle market companies as firms doing business in the United States with revenue between $100 million and $3 billion. Capital One surveyed more than 300 senior executives from middle market companies to determine their views on disruption, or a significant interruption to an existing business arising from innovative technology, a new business model, or political, economic and environmental forces.
Eric Smith, associate director of Tulane Energy Institute, said he can't argue with the survey's results.
From a hacking viewpoint, it's probably true that energy companies aren't as equipped as they could be, he said. However, the energy industry has done a great job in terms of being tied into changes in the geopolitical environment and responding to the shale boom in both oil and gas.
The downstream — refining and processing — portion of the industry is the strongest part of the energy economy, Smith said. The one area where the survey's results really line up with what's happened in the energy industry is in the shallow waters offshore.
"The shallow water in the U.S. is basically a gas environment and it has taken it on the chin with the advent of shale gas production. I don't think it's ever coming back," Smith said.
Some estimates say the shale formations contain enough natural gas to supply the country for around 100 years. The flood of cheap natural gas has led to more than $140 billion in proposed expansions and new facilities in Louisiana in the last decade.
"When you talk about disruptive events, I don’t know how you guard yourself from something that is disruptive because it wouldn’t be disruptive if everybody knew about it." Smith said.
The survey found that most middle-market executives not only expect disruption in the near future, they welcome it. But only a small portion have taken "a full range of defensive measures" to protect against the potentially destructive consequences of disruption. Smaller companies are more likely to be unprepared.
"The concept of 'disruption' and its dramatic impact on markets and industries is often seen as a contest between startups and very large, established companies, but middle market companies are also a key part of this dynamic," David Kucera, senior managing director of Capital One's Financial Institutions Group, said in a news release. "Some have the flexibility to be disrupters themselves, while others are likely targets of disruption. Their ability to survive and even flourish in the face of disruption depends critically on their access to financial resources."