Entrevista a Félix Lorente [en inglés]

Hemos entrevistado a Félix Lorente, South Europe Regional Head en UPL para conocer su punto de vista dentro del Sector Químico. 


1. What is the differential value of your company? What would you say that is your main contribution to the market?

UPL is a globally recognized company in Agrochemicals, but something that separates us from our international peers is what we call OpenAg. This means that our values are focused around promoting access to agriculture throughout the globe to create a food system with no limits and no boundaries – one that feeds all sustainably. Having such a diverse brand thriving in many different countries gives us an advantage with an efficient and notable manufacturing footprint.

2. What growth strategy you have followed? Will this strategy change in the future?

Having a growth of two digits during the last year moved our company to fifth place in the world’s agrochemical market at over $5 billion. We segment our portfolio into differentiated solutions, post patent solutions and sustainable solutions. Our goal is to maintain two digits organic growth in differentiated and sustainable solutions (mainly organic), while speeding up the inorganic growth as well.   

3. Where do you see your company in the next five years? And in the next ten years?

We see the company as nº 3 in the world in the agrochemical market. In our South European region, we perceive a big shift to organic/sustainable solutions that will increase reaching 40% of our turnover. Also precision farming and digital transformation will enter in our portfolio with 10% of our turnover. UPL will have in 5 years a complete portfolio of products and services (Digital Support Services, mechanization, certification, etc.) with adapted go to market. Our R&D will be focus on sustainable solutions with more than 50% of total R&D budget dedicated to this segment. To develop this growth, we will need to increase our structure and develop the talent inside our organization to have the skills needed to implement this strategy.

4. How would you define your position within the organization? How does it influence the global strategy?

I am the head of South Europe region (Iberia, France, Italy, Adriatic, Greece, Turkey and North Africa). This region has a turnover above $400 million. The headquarters is based in Barcelona. Including supply this region has around 800 people.
The market in our region is small /midscale and very fragmented in comparison with LATAM or USA. We have specific Mediterranean crops like olives or citrus and we are a relevant player in vegetables. Our know how in those crops and mainly in organic agriculture is definitely impacting other geographies in our company. The 2030 agenda of European Union that is transforming the agriculture here will be copied later in the rest of the world. Our society is asking health food produced from farm to fork and there is a commitment to move to 25% of surface organic in 2030. This is a nice challenge. 

5. Was this your goal when you started in the company? Have your goals changed over the years?

My goals remain the same from when I began at UPL. These are giving people the freedom to operate, having a positive impact in the society and bringing my passion into my work. 
I also align myself with our company’s values and overall purpose, which is to change the game, making every single food product more sustainable. At the end of the day my goal is support UPL to make the farmers successful. All of us need farmers 3 times per day.  

6. What challenges characterize the chemical industry? How are you dealing with them?

This is the most challenging and exciting moment that agriculture and the agrochemical industry have had since the beginning. Consider the regulatory statistics – two-thirds of molecules are going to be banned in agriculture. That means the third remaining molecules, together with precision farming and digital transformation, are going to take this over. The companies with the flexibility and the talent to adapt quick to the new social environment, will be the leaders of the industry in the future.

7. What do you think are the fundamental skills for a professional in the chemical sector?

This is a good question because the range of skills you can find that are relevant and important in the chemical sector is quite wide. You must bear in mind that within this sector, you can find people working in Regulatory, Development, Commercial, back office functions and so forth. That means the skillset required to perform properly may change from one function to another. For instance, in the Regulatory departments you need structured mindset people who are very organized and capable to manage public affairs issues and stakeholders. Each department needs different profiles and you need all. Depending the respective skills of your team, your business can grow or decrease its performance quickly. Also one department with problems of performance automatically impact the performance of the rest of departments and the company so all the leaders in UPL are paying focus to develop the talent and the skills in each department. 

8. Do you experience difficulties when finding and retaining talent? If so, how are you solving it?

Again, this depends a lot on the specific functions. But in general, one of the advantages in our industry compared to others is that there is a certain level of stability (within the VUCA world we are living today).  That helps us to provide a good context for our employees. 
However, as said, there are some functions that are highly appreciate in our market and the main companies are looking at them to boost their respective operations. In that sense, our culture combined with the key HR processes and policies - together with a facilitating managing style - help us to engage them in our project.

9. What can you offer to new talent?

We can offer the possibility to be part of a dynamic and transformational project where each of us will have space to leave a footprint within a very real and diverse international project. 
UPL is a company which is very ambitious on its growth not just regarding the top revenue, but also in the type of services we are offering. This is a good opportunity for different professionals to show their skills and develop their talents. In our case, Agility is not just a motto - it is part of our DNA.

10. To conclude, what would you recommend to candidates who are looking for job in the chemical industry?

I think that this is a beautiful industry where the possibility of working in different areas and functions is massive. That’s why my first recommendation is to look at yourself and think what your natural behaviors are, your aspirations and your dreams, your values etc. 
With all this, you (along with the support of someone that understands and knows about this industry)  should assess what kind of roles you believe will fit those best. 
The second recommendation (more personal to me) is to be humble and understand that things need time to become solid and real, making patience very important. Sometimes it’s not about being first, but instead being the one that goes further.

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