A stalwart of the logistics space, a veteran leader of ECU Worldwide and a man whose passion is opening up new markets, that is Tim Tudor, regional CEO for ECU Americas. Mr Tudor shares his perspective on the American shipping environment.
Q How long have you been with ECU Worldwide? What are the changes that you have personally seen?
A I am pleased to say that I completed eight years with ECU Worldwide on April 8 of this year. During this time, we have seen some pretty significant events for the group in the Americas, including a major acquisition in North America [Econocaribe in 2013]; the roll out of the new, re-energised brand; and major technology advancements that tie in customer touch points, internal efficiencies and global tariff management.
ECU Worldwide continues to evolve as it grows. In the past 10 years, we have seen the company move from localised office thinking, to group global thinking, and it is now moving into digital and technology-driven environments. I think we have managed this well.
Q What is the overall prospect for the logistics industry in the US? Do you think business dynamics are changing for the better?
AWe have seen margin pressure in the USA performance as we have in many parts of the world, but the sentiment today for 2018 is brighter than it has been for a few years now. We continue to drive for excellence in this market.
Q Can you describe the process of integration of Econocaribe and its people with ECU? What were the challenges and the positives?
A When we first made the Econocaribe acquisition in the USA, the plan was to not make any changes, including the name, for a couple of years. This worked well. But in 2016 when we rebranded globally to ECU Worldwide, it made sense to change the Econocaribe name as well.
Our challenge was to maintain the Econocaribe brand, which has successfully served many of our trading partners who we still work with in some markets. Balancing the freight, balancing the brands, having the same staff manage multiple brands, all this was tricky at first, but we were successful in the end.
QHow does the Econocaribe acquisition add value to ECU and its customers?
AThe US acquisition was part of the global strategy to provide integrated services to our customers. The importance of technology and information control and flow is critical to today's market. To deliver product and services that match the needs of the global community, one must control major global markets like the USA.
Econocaribe gave us greater synergies whereby we have end to end visibility of our operational costs, allowing us to be quicker to respond to market needs, close files prior to arrival, and put us in front of the transaction, rather than being always behind as is common in our industry.
Q You handle a mix of emerging and developed markets (US, Canada, LATAM). What are the challenges in handling this diverse basket?
AOne of the major challenges is the geopolitical situation in many of the countries in the Americas. Oil and its value plays a major role in the region as oil is produced from Canada to Peru, with Venezuela having some of the largest reserves in the world. The price of minerals is also important to the economic success of the region with large reserves in Chile and Peru.
And of course, the political landscape is of critical importance to our performance. The economies of countries such as Venezuela, a now recovering Argentina, the expectations of Brazil recovering in 2019, and others like Peru and Ecuador are all keys to our successful performance. Mexico is currently very positive for us despite the threat that USA will withdraw from NAFTA. The cycles that these countries go through has similar impacts on our customers as well, so we live the ups and down together.
Q Which are the fastest growing destinations and markets for ECU?
A Without a doubt, Asia. We have invested in a branch in Los Angeles which is working out very nicely, and we are steadily growing our trans Pacific volumes in all products. The other market is Europe. ECU Americas was South America and Caribbean focused for decades; these markets are well covered, and they are the ones we are known for. What we are now telling our clients is that our European product is also very mature.
Q Looking at the next five years, what is the focus going to be for ECU? For instance, are there plans to launch any new routes or services? What are the new customer expectations and how do you plan to handle these?
AAlthough ECU Worldwide is the leader in our space, there are always things to do. We do have some unique trade lanes such as seven direct services into Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, from the Asia Pacific region (we are the only ones with this product), to continued development of new markets such as new ports like Ensenada, Mexico. These are the types of lanes and services where we are now better positioned than others to run and operate. Aside from trade lanes, continued growth of products such as air freight and FCL is a key area for us.
The real future is digital opportunities, improving efficiencies for ourselves and our customers, and reducing the cost per transaction. This is a continued challenge for our industry as we all face margin pressures going forward.
Q On a personal note, how would you describe your leadership style?
A This is very subjective of course, but I think I am a fair guy. I can see problems and challenges from multiple angles and am not afraid to tackle the tough ones. I think I am very approachable by people at all levels in the organisation. I am a good listener for sure.
Q Overseeing such a large region, do you travel a lot? What is your favorite destination and why?
A I travel extensively, yes! Always on the go! I love travelling all over the world, but in my region, one of my favorite places is Mexico. This most likely has to do with the fact that I was born there and lived there for 10 years.
ECU Americas fact file