KPI Bridge Oil gives Greece a strong vote of confidence
Published 10th March 2016
After all, it was less than six months after capital controls had been imposed in Greece and in the heart of what was rapidly proving to be one of the worst shipping markets in memory.
However, Jesper Rasmussen, managing director of the new Greek operation, is sending out positive signals on all levels.
He believes that even if times are tough now, the Greek shipowners — for whom he clearly has a great respect — will remember when better days return.
“We’ve always had business in Greece, we’ve always believed in the Greek market and the Greek shipping community,” he said. “In the most troubled times, not only for the country but also for the industry, we are actually sitting in our office, employing people, doing stuff for the industry. I don’t think I can send a stronger signal.”
Some 18 months previously, KPIBO, a leading global trader and broker in marine fuels, marine lubricants and risk management products, had held a strategic board meeting to examine the idea of having another continental European representation — whether to locate where suppliers are or where clients are was also thrown into the ring.
Rasmussen admits he was rooting for Greece, not only for the logical business reason of Greek owners controlling 19% of the world’s merchant fleet but also because he had lived in the country on two previous occasions and was still smitten with the place.
The company looked at a range of options but the collapse of OW Bunker, which declared bankruptcy in November 2014, proved to be the catalyst for Athens to take precedence.
“Let’s look at Greece right now because we could perhaps get a couple of traders from OW quickly — which we did,” recounted Rasmussen.
At the time he was based in New York, where he had been serving as managing director of KPI Bridge Oil North America since 2013. When he was offered the opportunity to head up the new Greek operation, the decision did not take long to make.
For about eight months, he commuted back and forth between New York and Athens. He finally arrived permanently last August.
“A lot of things had happened since we initiated this project,” he said with a slightly rueful grin.
But, with Danish determination, he decided to knuckle down and get on with it.
Hunting for premises in August and September — when Greece’s capital city is distinctly underpopulated — was another challenge. But he located offices in Glyfada, the southern suburb that is among the areas growing in popularity for shipping offices.
By the time contracts were signed, Rasmussen and his colleagues were already talking to contractors about designing and building the office from scratch. People told him it would take six months to do, to which he replied he only had six to eight weeks. And so it was done: they found a small Greek construction outfit Rasmussen can hardly praise enough.
“They were competitive, they were energetic, the chemistry between us and them was there,” he said. “It was obvious from very early on that it was the right fit.”
Now there is a team of six in the offices kitted out in KPIBO’s colours — but, in less than two months, there will be nine or ten.
Some new traders have already been hired and there is plenty of room for the company to grow, with 27 desks available.
The new hires are Greeks but Rasmussen says in terms of language, he also wants to have both Russian and Arabic speakers working in Athens in time.
With Greece’s high level of unemployment, it should prove relatively easy to find candidates — but “we hire hard and manage easy”.
“It’s a little bit like setting a football team,” he said. “You don’t want to have a team of 11 Ronaldos. You would rather have a team with a bit of diversity, with different skill sets — but also with the mentality fitting in with each other.”