Alumni stories: Gabriel de Rauglaudre – Global Head of Treasury and Trade Finance, Switzerland

Singapore, 28 May: In the latest of our ICC Academy alumni stories, we sat down with Certified Trade Finance Professional (CTFP) graduate Gabriel de Rauglaudre to understand his work experience, how he has achieved success, and how he makes decisions on a daily basis while handling customers and clients.

Currently the Global Head of Treasury and Trade Finance at ArrowResources, Gabriel has more than eight years of experience in commodity finance, working within both financial institutions and corporations — giving him the advantage of witnessing both sides of the business.

ICC Academy: Gabriel, tell us about yourself?                    

GR: I started my professional journey as a Quality Control Officer in China, where my main responsibilities entailed sourcing and inspecting factories for production of finished goods for a range of European clients. After two years in this role, which involved learning Mandarin for cross-cultural negotiations and visiting hundreds of factories across the country, I decided to take my career to the next level.  I enrolled in a master’s degree in international business and finance at the Université Paris Dauphine in France.

After completing my degree, I joined BNP Paribas as a Credit Analyst for Commodity Finance. My job involved analysing the bank’s active trading clients, refining and distribution of commodities, supporting front office on the structuration, assessing financing lines, and evaluating transactions.

I then became curious about the corporate side of the business and joined TMT Metals, a small trading house in Switzerland as the Head of Corporate and Trade Finance. After a year, an opportunity arose at ArrowResources — an international trading firm that traded in energy products and metals – where I became the Global Head of Treasury and Trade Finance.

As the Head of Trade Finance, I realised that it was important to legitimise my existing knowledge, as well as have a broader understanding of the entire scope of trade finance. This is when I decided to enrol in the ICC Academy’s industry-validated CTFP programme.

ICC Academy: Gabriel, you have experienced working in different countries and varied roles, from banks to corporations. Can you provide an overview of this journey and how it has helped you reach your current position?

GR: Well, I have always been curious about globalisation. In China, I travelled and conducted on-site inspections in more than 100 factories, which were based thousands of kilometres away from most cosmopolitan cities. It might sound odd, but this experience sparked my interest in the world of supply chain as a whole and more specifically in trade finance and commodities. The transition — from working on-site in Chinese factories to that of a plush BNP Paribas office in Paris that involved credit analysis, operational work meetings, letters of credit and structuration –was indeed exciting. I gained valuable insight on how a large bank operated while connecting various products, including market finance, trade finance, corporate finance, equity capital market, and debt capital market, to clients, thereby assessing the risk appetite.

That said, I was keen to work for a corporation. Joining a small trading house was an eye-opener. In a small organisation, you cannot count on in-house trainings and large processes. The key is creativity in building new models, enhancing business through new processes, multitasking with less vertical and more repetitive tasks, networking, and agility. In fact, compared to the bank, I had way less support compared to the army of analysts, administrators, and interns. However, this proved to be the catalyst for exhibiting my full potential.

In a corporate setup, you have the chance to work closely with external stakeholders like insurers, brokers, warehouse keepers, freight forwarders, and banks. Hence, networking is a vital part of the job. Large organisations tend to develop specialists who stay in their field, while smaller organisation drives you to be a generalist.

Gaining experience on both sides — learning about processes, multiple products, and key problematics at the bank to that of a small trading house with insights into sourcing, management, and multitasking — has helped me demonstrate my full capabilities and build an entire new department within my current organisation, ArrowResources. In all honesty, all experiences have been important and transformative for my career. They are all part of who I am today and have provided key elements and skills that I use in my current role as the Head of Trade Finance.

ICC Academy: Describe some important elements of your work. What does a typical day or week involve?

GR: Both commodity trade finance and treasury are extremely broad. While heading a team that is active in multiple industries, from energy to metals and minerals, means no two days are ever the same.

A typical day could involve anything from structuring of deals and analysing new flows to trading with typical trade finance problematics — like working capital needs, insurance, credit or payment instruments — and optimising a deal.

Then there is the day-to-day execution of all trades with banks and parties involved — which includes controlling flows and exposures, involving daily reporting of derivatives, liquidity, letters of credit, exposure, and insurance. This also involves management of a team and being on top of all issues, delays, or problems that may arise. So basically, it can go from daily team communication to reconciling reports for the Board of Directors on risk and liquidity assessments.

ICC Academy: What skills have helped you reach a senior position?

GR: As head of division, there are certain skills that have been vital in my journey. One, in particular, is multitasking. Being able to jump from one topic to another, dealing with a delayed shipment in Rotterdam to securing a last-minute LC confirmation for a tanker in South Korea, is quite typical. And this is where being a generalist helps.

Having foresight of what problems can occur in your industry is vital. So keeping up to date about insurance topics like marine credit; liquidity that includes traceability; working capital analysis; and payment instruments like LCs, guarantees, standby LCs and cash available for debt service; the Incoterms® rules; market finance; bank instruments and products like inventory management, factoring, supply chain finance, transactional finance, borrowing base, and corporate clean loans is extremely helpful. This is where the ICC Academy’s CTFP programme is particularly well-positioned in providing a complete overview of all topics and products in trade finance.

ICC Academy: What is your favourite part of the job or an aspect of your role that you enjoy the most and why?

GR: Commodity trade finance is so diversified in linking the physical world to that of the financial world that it never gets boring. Part of the task of a treasury and trade finance department is to map the entire financial management for the organisation — from bank accounts and financing to trades and exposure analysis — and provide a clear roadmap of where the company is heading in terms of cash flows, liquidity, and hedges. In leading the division, it is particularly satisfying to have access to all data and succeed in providing this guidance through my own experiences and interpretations.

ICC Academy: What part of your role do you find most challenging?

GR: The resistance to stress and permanent urgency is particularly difficult. Indeed, in the world of commodity trading time is money and all tasks need to be finalised as of yesterday. This can be challenging in the event of any issues as decisions need to be taken promptly and with very little time for a thorough assessment.

ICC Academy: The global economy has been struck by the unprecedented force of the coronavirus pandemic. How do you think the metals and minerals sector positioned for the COVID-19 ‘new normal’?

GR: In the beginning of 2020, production assets for smelters, steel mills, and mines had to shut down. This had an impact on China, which remains the main demand driver for key metals and minerals. The situation has since stabilised, to a certain extent, with some key segments being driven in a positive direction, which is helping the economy rebound.

I think that the impact of the pandemic was felt more in terms of prices with several metals like copper, nickel, and tin jumping to record high. While some would argue that we are living in a new commodity supercycle, I tend to think that most of the hype came from the excess of liquidity created by central banks that flushed commodity markets as hedges or speculative instruments.

In fact, the pandemic had a much broader impact on trade finance overall. By uncovering fraud cases and defaults within the industry — like the Hin Leong, Gulf Petroleum, and the very recent Greensill case — the pandemic has exposed key liquidity providers like banks and funds to massive losses. This has already led to a reduced trade finance offering being available in the market, with some banks decreasing their exposures and risk appetite and leading others to shut down their entire desks or offices.

ICC Academy: Can you talk us through your experience with ICC Academy’s advanced-level CTFP programme?

GR: The CTFP covers a broad range of topics that are the daily bread and butter of a treasury and trade finance officer. Comprising five core e-courses and four electives, the syllabus has been developed by a group of leading trade finance experts drawn from the Banking Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Each e-course has been tailor-made to develop the skills needed to sell, deliver, and process global trade finance solutions. Enrolling in this programme was a way for me to legitimise my knowledge in trade finance offered by the world business organization.

I also wanted to extend my understanding of particular topics such as supply chain finance and digital trade finance, which are not really part of my daily tasks and responsibilities. The certification provided all of this and has since intrigued my curiosity on a few additional areas that I had not had the opportunity to explore. The curriculum will also help me in structuring new facilities and trades by having additional products and views in mind. I strongly recommend the certification to all professionals seeking to have a broader understanding of trade finance.

ICC Academy: What skills or knowledge would you advise other trade finance professionals to focus on?

GR: Apart from having a thorough understanding of trade finance products, I notice a lack of expertise in derivatives products, including over the counter (OTC) and cleared products like futures, swaps, and options in key areas such as foreign exchange, rates, and of course, commodities. For trade finance professionals, this insight could make a strong difference in assessing and hedging the liquidity and financing needs of an organisation.

ICC Academy: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

GR: I would say do not hesitate to take the risk of changing your job or position, and even move from a bank to a corporate or vice versa. This will help you broaden your skills and challenge your vision of the business. Focus on an industry you like and project yourself for the long run. If you feel that your learning curve is not increasing, then it is time for a change. Keeping yourself updated is a must. This is where taking up certifications like the  CTFP help provide a thorough understanding of trade finance, as well as industry trends.

ICC Academy:  When you recruit people, are there any traits or skills that you look for?

GR: Well, this can vary from one position to another. While recruiting an LC specialist will require a lot of attention to detail and experience, a treasurer will need more creativity, analytical, and problem-solving skills. More generally, a candidate will need to demonstrate commitment, ambition, and initiative.

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