08.03.2021 | Axpo Singapore’s Managing Director talks about her first 100 days in her new role

“We are well on track”

In December 2020, Sophie Ducoloner started as the head of Axpo’s newly established subsidiary in Asia. In this function, she is responsible for expanding Axpo’s business activities in Asia’s booming Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market. In this interview, Sophie talks about how she experienced the on-boarding process in these Covid-19 times, what she has been up to in the past three months, what growth targets Axpo has set itself for the business in Asia, why diversity is the norm for her, and how she relaxes away from work.

Sophie, you’ve been at Axpo now for the first 100 days. What were the past three months like?
I feel not only that time flies but also that I have been part of the company for a long time. Certainly a sign I am already very well integrated within Axpo’s global LNG team.

Sounds like the on-boarding process during these Covid-19 times was not a challenge.
Indeed, I didn’t find on-boarding was a challenge. It was certainly different but smooth and very well organise by our project team at Axpo’s headquarters in Baden. Conceptually I am not a great fan of living and working only via digital platforms and networks, but I must admit I felt very quickly connected and clearly welcomed. Onboarding enabled me to have a 360 degree view of our company, understand functions and processes and start to build relationship with numerous teams. This network and support across Axpo are essential for us to succeed in Asia. I am sure I have still a lot to discover and I am looking forward to it.

What were the first steps and most important milestones when setting up Axpo’s new subsidiary in Singapore, and what is the current status of this build-up process?
My goals for the first 100 days were very clear: We needed to get a fully functional office, have a commercial strategy and trading mandate in line with our global targets, develop Axpo’s brand name, execute the first deal and build internal networks. I think we are well on track. Of course we still have many things to do to develop our business in Asia, but we now have a great team, a functioning IT and trading infrastructure, a nice office and a growing portfolio of business opportunities. We also tested our set-up with our first deal and I can confirm that Axpo Singapore is now established and ready to expand its business footprint in Asia.

“We have the opportunity to become a global player”

Axpo has been active in the LNG business for more than ten years. Why was it that important to establish a local presence in Asia now?
So far, the focus of Axpo’s LNG business has been mainly on the Atlantic Basin. In addition to that, Axpo also traded LNG in Asia but it was quite opportunistically driven. The primary focus of Axpo Singapore is to expand our LNG portfolio in the region and establish our base in a sustainable and scalable manner in Asia, which represents more than 70 percent of the LNG worldwide demand. With a local base, team and management support, we now have the opportunity to become a global player, leveraging our valuable position in Europe to extend East and develop arbitrage and regional plays.

How many people are currently part of your team in Singapore and what is your outlook for the mid- and long-term?
At the moment, we are a team of four with different cultural and professional backgrounds. All of us are very focused on LNG and commodities trading in Asia. Singapore is a multi-cultural city state focused on financial services and commodities, so we are very representative of Singapore’s DNA. On the mid- and long-term horizon, we plan to grow the team. We will size Axpo Singapore according to our needs for further expansion in LNG, additional products and markets and key internal functions to enable Axpo’s business to grow in an efficient manner and coordinated with our headquarters in Switzerland.

“With my job, I feel I am part of the daily news”

Which additional Asian business activities, energy trading areas and commodities are you focusing on?
We also have a plan to expand, given the growing energy demand in Asia, the development of liquid power and gas markets in the region and our long experience in energy trading and risk management. Axpo’s newly established Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) desk will also certainly be part of our expansion. Similarly to LNG, Asia is dominant in the LPG global trading flow and that’s a good opportunity for us.

You have been working in the global energy markets for some 20 years. What do you think makes energy trading that interesting?
I find energy and commodities as a whole very interesting. I studied political sciences and have always been passionate about international politics, trade and the environment. With my job, I feel I am part of the daily news, seeing the world evolve and hopefully contributing a little.

What is your aim as a manager?
It is essential to select the right talent, set the outcome and focus on each individual’s strength to create a winning team. I want people to take responsibility and be accountable. It is my role to ensure everyone knows what to do and have the space to be creative and develop their own set of skills further. It is also important to create a nice atmosphere and team spirit. We spend 50 percent of our life at work and I want people to be happy to work at Axpo Singapore and be motivated to do their best.

“For me, diversity is the norm”

You, as a European, manage a team in Asia. To what extent do you feel diversity is beneficial in your work?
Experts have shown that diversity is a key factor in corporate performance. At the moment in our team here we have two women and two men, four different origins and languages, very different personalities but the same passion to grow Axpo in the region. I am French but never worked in any one local market or only in Europe. I’ve always travelled, worked in many countries and lived overseas for almost 15 years, so for me diversity is the norm.

In Asia, depending on the country, work-life balance may be very different from Europe: how does that affect your working style and management style?
Generally in Asia, people work late due to time differences with key markets like Europe and the USA. Some people enjoy working late, some not, but we have to adapt. As a result, we are also flexible and may go to the office not so early, or do some calls at home. Covid-19 just reinforced this need for flexibility and in a way maybe helped conservative Asian companies to improve the work-life balance. Myself, I don’t mind flexibility in working style as long as the job is done, the team is united and communicates well.

How do you relax from your challenging work day; what do you do when you are not at work?
I am a very sporty, outdoors and social person. So I spend a lot of time on my bike, at the gym, with my dog for long walks or with my friends. I also enjoy reading news, I must confess I am quite addicted. And I study a foreign language – nowadays Chinese. It may sound bizarre but it relaxes me.

Adrian Ang and Christina Tan, Kwun Kit Ma and Christina Tan, Kwun Kit Ma and Sophie Ducoloner, Sophie Ducoloner and Christina Tan (from left to right, top to bottom)

About Sophie Ducoloner:

Sophie Ducoloner started her career in 2001 and has had various roles in the energy and environment sectors. After working with Veolia Environment Paris as Business Development Manager for Power/CHP in the Baltic States/Russia and Manager for Environmental Products, she moved in 2008 to London to join Gazprom Marketing and Trading (GMT) and set-up its carbon trading desk. In 2010, she moved to Singapore, working for GMT as the Head of Clean Energy Asia and later on Head of LNG Origination Asia Pacific. In 2016, she was recruited by EDF Trading as General Manager LNG Origination and then joined JERA Global Markets in 2019. In December 2020, Sophie started as the Managing Director of Axpo’s newly established Asian subsidiary, Axpo Singapore. She holds a Master’s Degree from Sciences Politiques Grenoble and a Master’s degree in International Business from Paris University.

About Axpo Singapore:

Axpo Singapore was founded in 2020. Axpo’s newest subsidiary delivers a full range of energy solutions to its customers in Asia. Its local specialists provide energy procurement, portfolio optimisation and tailor-made energy risk management support across the region. In particular, Axpo Singapore is focusing on trading liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia. The Asian LNG market is set for continued growth as countries make the transition to more climate-friendly and renewable sources of energy. The local team consists of 4 employees and is headed by Managing Director Sophie Ducoloner.

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