Grégoire Lhermitte has more than 25 years of experience in Agri Business and Soft commodity trading. He has a lot of exposure in Africa. Grégoire Lhermitte is part of these players that we love working with. Strong drive, business oriented and open minded. He has joined COFCO International as Director West Africa in 2018. He has held a number of key positions in well known companies, such as Global Commodity Manager- Africa at Bunge, Sugar Trading Manager at Bauche SA, Commodity Trading Manager at Webcor Group and trader at LDC and Union Invivo. As an expert in his field, Grégoire shares his vision of the profession with us.
#1. What is the best moment you can remember in your career?
There are plenty of them, so it is difficult to pick out one in particular.
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to be in so many different places and meet so many different people and, most likely, this “different places – different people and cultures” period at the end of my career will be the moment I remember as the best.
Another potential best moment could be when I made one of my best decisions. It was 1999 and I was working for Louis Dreyfus in Paris as a junior trader. One of the top managers at LDC invited me to join his trading team in the London office.
Not only did that kickstart my career, but it also gave me the chance to work in a fantastic trading team.
Whenever I run into former colleagues from there, we end talking about what great times those were.
Time flies, but happy memories never leave you.
#2. If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?
First, I would congratulate them for having come into that wonderful environment.
I would also warn them that today’s trading environment is nothing like it used to be 5-10 years ago.
It is tougher, much more competitive and less friendly.
I would have plenty of advice:
– Never turn down a possible move offered by your company.
– Never take “no” for an answer.
– Never, ever hide a losing position.
– Get to know your client’s exact needs and always do everything you can to satisfy them.
I would also advise them to always listen to senior traders, as experience is key in this environment and enables you to avoid big losses. Learn, learn and learn some more – even after 20 years, you are still learning and no one can know all the answers or make every decision unaided. Only time will tell if the decision made was the right one.
#3. Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?
No lucky charm, but I do have a motto. My motto is the same as one of the pieces of advice I would give to a junior: never take “no” for an answer.
In our environment and our day-to-day work, we face so many different issues and difficulties that people are telling us “no” all the time.
This can be from within our own company/organization (Compliance, Risk, Product Line, Trade Finance, Freight, etc.) or from clients.
So, if you take “no” for an answer, you are letting your competitors take your business.
You need to be constantly challenging those who tell you “no” – your employer is paying you to turn that “no” into a “yes”, provided that you keep the trade within the normal requirements of the compliance and risk management structure.
The challenge is to turn that “no” into a “yes” and it can sometimes be quite difficult, but it is important to never give up.
#4. What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?
Over the past 25 years, I have always enjoyed my job and I am so fortunate to be in this environment.
They are many aspects of the job that I enjoy:
– The variety it offers – macroeconomics, finance, risk, marketing, commercial, legal, shipping, geopolitics, etc.
– The variety of people and cultures that you are constantly dealing with – you need to be a chameleon, adapting to each one.
– The constant change in the environment – the trading environment never stops evolving.
In other words, what I like the most is that you never get bored. First thing in the morning, you never really know what your day will be like; then, 10 hours later, it is has flown by, with plenty of variety and excitement.
I really think that we have one of the most fantastic jobs imaginable.
As well, let’s not forget to mention the importance of teamwork. You cannot deliver results on your own: it has to be a team effort if you are going to make sure that you are thinking the same way about all aspects of the business.
The trader is the one on the front desk, but they are only one of many links in the chain and another one of their jobs is to make sure all those links are aligned and sustainable.
I really enjoy the teamwork and all the various discussions that go into turning around a trade in the best interests of the value chain and PnL
#5. If you had to do it again would you choose the same career path?
I certainly would – with no hesitation!
Perhaps I would do some things differently… but, as we traders say, “no back-trading”.
I am very fortunate to have a wife who has always accepted the constraints of my job.
We have relocated many times and I am often away on business throughout the year.
Stephanie has always dealt with it perfectly. She has always managed to establish a good social life, ensured a stable education for the kids and adapted her own career well.
I think that the family has benefited from that type of life and education. I believe that it is a huge opportunity for our kids to see different cultures and countries, and not to be sealed into one single environment for too long.
Today’s world is begging to be discovered. Even during our family holidays, we travel abroad to bring that international culture to our kids. It will be up to them to decide, once they are adults, where and how they want to live, but it falls to us, their parents, to give them that culture of “citizens of the world”.
#6. Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
If I had to pick just one place, I would say “home” because that is where I am with family. Home could be anywhere in the world, but it always means being with family.
I have no favorite places. I am so fortunate to have been to every continent of the world throughout my career and travels, and I hope to be able to continue doing so for the rest of my career and life.
Walking in Red Square, Moscow, in the middle of a cold winter night; flying over the sugarcane fields of Guatemala; looking down on the volcanos of Nicaragua from a client’s helicopter; changing a flat tire on the bumpy dirt roads of sub-Saharan Africa for the second time in a day; sharing dinner with a local family in the slums of Lagos; going hunting with a client in Angola; enjoying a nice cocktail with a client or colleague in a New York, Dubai or Singapore skyscraper… Those are my favorite places, as they are full of wonderful memories.
Hopefully, by the time I retire, we will have decided where to settle. It will certainly have a golf course nearby!
What can give you experiences like that, other than travel?
#7. How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?
In today’s environment, which is very different from 5-10 years ago, an organization like AW is a real blessing.
Not only are they here to help with any staffing needs you might have – in a very professional way, I might add – but they have also created a community for traders, in an environment which is becoming more and more competitive and difficult.
It is always a pleasure to go to one of the many events run by AW and its partners/sponsors.
We all need to Ampersand World for professional and personal reasons.
Many thanks to Penda and her great team for that.