In conversation: Claudio Scandella, CEO, ECU Worldwide
conversation

'Strong values are fundamental to success'

Interview with Claudio Scandella, CEO of ECU Worldwide

An accomplished leader with an illustrious track record of building and maintaining successful businesses in the logistics space around the world, Claudio Scandella, who recently took over as the CEO of ECU Worldwide, believes in direct and straight forward communication with all

QComing from the world's biggest logistics company and a couple of months into your new role, what are your early impressions at ECU Worldwide?

ALet me first start by saying that I was very impressed with the warm welcome I was granted, first by the team who was attending the Africa Conference in Tanzania and later by all the other people I met on my travels across the world.

The culture in ECU is very much a can do attitude and that is good as the challenges in the market place and the transformation we have to go through to further grow our volumes and profitability are not getting smaller.

There is also a very entrepreneurial spirit in the company; for e.g., during the strategy meeting in Singapore with our Asian management team, we discussed the plans for the future, and there were a lot of very good, entrepreneurial suggestions and plans presented.

Q The logistics and transportation industry seems to be emerging from the recent turmoil and there's an air of positivity with freight rates improving. Do you think business dynamics are changing for better, globally?

A We can see that the global trade after difficult years of lower growth seems to get more momentum and ECU will also benefit from that. There are certainly markets, like the emerging countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or Latin America which allow for more growth.

But if we look at the shares we have in most countries, we should not worry too much about specific markets as we have a lot of potential to grow wherever we are present and beyond.

Asia remains an important growth engine, with China obviously being one of the leaders of global trade followed by India, our home market. Asia-Pacific, in general, remains a strong focus as we want to solidify our market position in the region.

With the consumer buying power increasing and a generally young population there will be also more potential to grow our imports to Asia from other regions and obviously intra-Asia trade lanes.

The US is still the largest economy (by nominal GDP) of the world and we are going to focus a lot to grow our volumes and market penetration. Without a doubt, we have plenty of potential to do more in the US than we are doing today.

Europe is still a very good market for us and we will continue to push it both in terms of volume growth, in terms of market penetration; especially in Eastern Europe where we have room to expand our network of own offices. We have some concrete plans in place there for 2018.

Looking at the NVOCC market I believe that in the future, the frequency of our LCL departures will be even more important. Especially that we see a trend of B2B and B2C requesting strong LCL network capabilities such as those we provide at ECU Worldwide.

Q Please share your vision for ECU, in terms of immediate goals, medium term priorities and long-term objectives?

A We are living in very dynamic and rapidly changing times and so the culture of the company also has to be supportive of transformation. We need to have our ears closely listening to the changing realities of the markets and be able to get this input from our people and translate it, take appropriate steps to deal with changes and create new opportunities from it.

This requires the right spirit and culture where open, direct and fast communication bottom-up and top down is enabled across hierarchies. Entrepreneurial spirit in this sense also means well established risk taking by having teams work together and try new things, maybe locally, see whether the expectations are met and if that is the case populate it and multiply accross our network.

That is also a way to engage our collaborators more in shaping thus deriving more meaning in their workplace. It sounds relatively straight forward and easy but it requires a different leadership style.

QDo you see technology playing a major role in the coming years, for the logistics companies in general and ECU Worldwide in particular?

ATechnology is not anymore an enabler but more of a pre-requisite to have a competitive edge. We have seen numerous examples and industries where technology completely changed the way how markets work, challenging many of the existing players and forcing them to transform their operating models.

There are various areas where technology will drive our development — in the way how we increase productivity and therefore improve the costs spent per unit through automation, better integration with our partners in the supply chain, but also better visibility of shipments end to end.

Q What strategies would you formulate to leverage untapped opportunities in emerging markets for ECU Worldwide?

Emerging market economies are defined as progressing from their current status to become more advanced. This includes faster growth and also industrialisation and development. While these economies are very promising with regards to their potential in terms of natural resources, demographics and governmental reforms, these economies are also more likely to be affected by global economic and financial developments as well as changes in their political landscape.

This can affect the policy changes required to sustain a level of higher development. So my conclusion is that in general their promising development has been somewhat patchy. While some economies have achieved the promised growth and trade flows have indeed developed as expected, others have not lived up to it and it will take longer for them to achieve their potential.

In conclusion, for ECU Worldwide, we need to be very adaptive and anticipate the market environment for us in order to allow the best potential outcome of our investments in any specific market. Emerging market will always have a higher potential for growth for us than established economies but investments also come at a higher risk and that needs to be evaluated time and time again in order for us to participate in a profitable growth.

Q APAC and LATAM are buzzing with economic activities. What's your outlook for the two key regions?

A In terms of regions, we definitely see potential for ECU Worldwide in terms of volumes in Asia, especially China and India, Vietnam and also in South East Asia. Latin America and Brazil continue to be important markets for ECU, where we have seen superior growth and achieved great success. And then there are the emerging market opportunities in Africa and partially the Middle East where we have invested recently in new management which will bring us on a trajectory of higher growth and returns.

Q What message would you like to share with your colleagues and associates across ECU Worldwide?

A For me, the most important ones are Integrity, Honesty and Respect. Not just as a spoken and written word but fulfilled every day with content by acting and communicating within and outside of the company according to the highest standards.

Competing in a volatile and complex marketplace of the logistics business, I think it is the employees and teams within the company which would be the fundamental drive for success.

As a leader I have therefore at all times prioritised the focus on people. We need to motivate and even inspire our workforce in order to achieve great satisfaction and engagement for our teams in their workplace, which also reflects heavily on the personal side of each one of us.

Q On a personal note, tell us about your family? How do you strike a work-life balance?

A As a leader in today's world you cannot be effective without a balanced mind. The huge time and effort you need to invest to remain successful needs to be somehow balanced with your personal life. So you need to make choices that benefit the company and yet allow you to live a fulfilled life.

Of course, the family plays a huge role in all this and I have been blessed with a wife who has a tremendous understanding for the requirements of my job. My son is already 18 and he has his own activities which keep him engaged. Fortunately, social media and the way young people connect today have also helped us to stay close and in touch wherever we are in the world. Of course nothing can replace a nice evening together with discussions and physical closeness but we are required to adapt in our private life as much as we have to adapt in our jobs.

I'm also trying to keep my mind balanced with reading, engaging with people — as many and as diverse as possible — wherever I go.

  • Integrity, honesty and respect are values that will remain core to the culture at ECU Worldwide.
  • We have recently invested in a new management team in the Middle East and are expecting it to take us on a trajectory of higher growth and returns.
  • Latin America and Brazil continue to be important markets for ECU, where we have seen superior growth and achieved great success.
  • To succeed in a volatile and complex marketplace of the logistics business, we need to be adaptive and anticipate the market environment so that we can maximise the potential outcomes of our investments in any specific market.
  • Asia-Pacific will continue to be a strong focus area as we want to strengthen our market position in the region.