Moving Energy Forward
Meet Ludovic Pallier, a Gunvor employee for 15 years. He talks about his career and experiences, and tries (unsuccessfully!) to see himself in 5 years’ time.
Hi Ludovic, you joined Gunvor in 2008 – what was the company like back then?
At the time the company was pretty small – the Geneva workspace had only around 50 people – so roles blended with other roles, which made for a very nice working atmosphere.
After two years working at Société Générale, my first experience at Gunvor was as a quantitative analyst – I was the youngest employee for quite a few years! – during which time I built some trading and modelling tools to help to make trading decisions. I knew straight off that there was some potential for me to learn and do interesting things at Gunvor, so I began looking for opportunities to develop myself as a person and as an employee. I was hungry enough to look for myself, and to find intrinsic motivation.
You’ve always been one to seek out opportunities in the industry – how did you make the move into trading?
I had to be patient. Trading is a difficult job, and I got lucky because I met the right person, an ags trader at Gunvor, when the company traded grains, who supported my career change. Looking back, I pushed a lot to show how motivated I was and how I was adding value. The skills I was developing at the time complemented the skillset of the trader, so it wasn’t a surprise move.
Being honest, I felt a bit restricted being in one of the largest oil trading company in the world, but not being involved in the core business. I wanted to understand more about oil, how crude oil is transformed into refined products, how a refinery operates, and how the flows are traded and optimized by the group.
After the ags desk closed, over the subsequent 18 months I had the chance to do an internal training program with the research team first, to understand the supply and demand of oil, and then I spent more than a year in the three Gunvor refineries – at that time Antwerp was still running – covering as many roles as I could.
Having that time with people on the ground (operators, engineers, etc.) showed me the diversity of the profiles working in our group – our jobs couldn’t be more different.
I felt very privileged to have had these 18 months of training offered by Gunvor using our biggest assets – our people. I’m very grateful for everyone’s time and for including me. We have some very experienced men and women in the refineries, and I had the chance to sit down with them and have them really explain it all to me. They were very patient!
Around the time I finished my training was when I came to realise just how big the company had become – the Geneva Office had then grown to around 180 people, with other offices also seeing their staff numbers jump. Jobs had begun to change, too. With more of us, we tended to stay within our job descriptions and no longer needed to wear as many hats.
I went back to trading in June 2018. I joined the gasoline trading desk and my first job was to be in charge of one of the gasoline blending terminals, and after a few months I would be responsible for the European block. That was a challenging job, but it meant that I really got to understand the technical aspects of a market that not a lot of people have the opportunity to get to know.
Tell us about your role now – you moved to Dubai from Geneva in January.
That’s right, and Dubai is a great place to be in springtime because of the weather, although it is starting to heat up. The business environment is also getting hot. Dubai is booming. A lot of people are coming from everywhere, not just in oil trading, but in technology, finance, leisure industry, all kind of areas. I’ve never before lived in a city with such optimism and growth.
The Gunvor office is starting to take shape, we’re growing, and it’s exciting to be part of the business as it develops here. The Middle East has always been a key area for the energy market, but now with Dubai, it has a trading hub and a decision center. It is becoming even more critical given the current international situation. It is fascinating to be here and understand the dynamics of this part of the world.
You put a lot of your career success down to the kindness of others, and the mutual support of your colleagues.
Yes, it follows that if you give something you get something back. When you work hard, you build up your reputation by delivering, and when you deliver then you know people are more keen to work with you. Gunvor sees that, and supports you to move to your next stage with the right training, support, and selection.
And when you’re in that position, you need to promote as many people as you can – it’s your duty, and it’s the right thing to do. You need to recognise good people and invest in them so that they stay – you invest in them and they invest in you.
When I started, the company could only take on experienced people, those who knew the markets and could plug in from day one. We weren’t ready to take on young, inexperienced people. Then, once some businesses were well established and the company was mature, it shifted to investing more and more in growing employees. It’s the same as any other successful company: the first people you are going to hire are those who can bring instant value, and then in time you move to investing in future generations of people, training them up and helping them make the right career decisions. That’s a sustainable workforce.
Everywhere you look in Gunvor you see diversity, of experiences, languages, cultures, backgrounds – this all comes together for a really creative experience.
Looking back at your career, it seems that for you nothing has been predictable. What are you excited for next?
In our fast moving world, it’s impossible to give an answer to the well-worn interview question of “where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time”. What I do know is that I’m excited to see Gunvor continue to grow and for me to continue to add value to the company.
If I look at the last years, we have seen the world changing from a stable situation post-2008 financial crisis until early 2020, to pandemic followed by a war with, in both cases, a lot of extreme impacts on the energy flows. Both situations are unique and were not predicable, and so are our jobs in the energy trading market.
I also believe that longer term, Artificial Intelligence is going to be a game changer. It’s not possible to say or imagine how, but it’s already part of the conversation and that should definitely change a lot of industries and jobs in the next years, including ours.
Any final thoughts?
At Gunvor, I’m supported by a company that helps me when things get challenging, and promotes me by way of investment. And that, of course, keeps me very close to the group, and hopefully that will last for a long time to come.