James Liu

Managing Director, Wincoram Asset Management, Houston
Liu, James
James Liu

Though his father worked as a geologist for Exxon Mobil, James Liu did not follow him into the oil and gas industry at first. He started his career in a non-energy finance role in Dallas but was surrounded by friends who entered the industry in engineering and finance. “I could feel the energy and excitement for the early shale boom and I was eager to get in the game,” he says.

Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?
“I am most proud of the first acquisition completed by Wincoram in 2021. The group had collectively spent years refining our thesis on improving capital deployment in the E&P space, and we had finally set up an investment vehicle to execute on the idea. It was a long process requiring collaboration, flexibility, and resiliency from many different parties to push through many potential deal derailments, and it established a great foundation for our continued success.”

What has been your most challenging project to date?
“The most recent deal [Wincoram] completed was the acquisition of PureWest Energy with a consortium of family offices and other investors, while retaining the existing management team. With so many different constituencies, it was imperative for open lines of communication to be utilized and for all parties to be present in key negotiations to maintain alignment. Every party was required to maintain flexibility and weather all the volatilities of a drawn-out deal process.”

What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“Leaders need to strike a balance between having generalized knowledge and understanding of applicable aspects while still being able to trust and delegate responsibility and expertise to others.”

What or whom do you credit for helping you develop leadership abilities during your career?
“I greatly admire all of the partners at Wincoram who have come from a myriad of different backgrounds and created a truly unique and inclusive working environment. Even with the firm’s growing successes, they stay constant with principled governance and attention to detail. I typically do not read much from the self-help genre, but I was referred to Don Miguel Ruiz’s ‘The Four Agreements’ which resonated so well with my own ethos. It was an easy read yet the explanations and applications of simple principles were illuminating.”

What advice would you give other young professionals?
“Find your tribe (personally and professionally). The jobs worth doing are the hardest ones to do. There’s a world of difference between working with a great team where everyone is pulling in the same direction versus one without strong leadership and culture. The industry is tough enough externally without internal conflict. Your career is a marathon, and I can’t imagine succeeding in the long run without being true to yourself and your values.”

Which transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“I think the industry needs to revamp its approach to PR and adopt a less combative stance against outsider perceptions. It is too easy to turn insular and take an ‘us against them’ approach outside the industry. Oil and gas will play a crucial role in solving global energy needs for decades to come, and we would as an industry be better served working collaboratively with interested parties to come up with win-win-win ways to utilize hydrocarbons.”

Three More Things
  1. I was born in Beijing and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 3 years old while my dad pursued his Ph.D at Rutgers University.
  2. I played poker online semi-professionally for several months shortly after college graduation. I’m glad I tried something unconventional, but it did not take long for me to realize it wasn’t for me.
  3. I’ve visited almost 40 different countries and over 40 US states.