A conversation with Benjamin Baptiste

Hello Benjamin, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I’m currently Head of Risk Management and Data Science for Roquette, based in Geneva.

I have an analytical background with an engineer diploma in applied mathematics and informatics from ENSIMAG, and a master’s in quantitative finance from Grenoble IAE.

I have more than 10 years’ experience in Risk Management. I started my career with BNP Paribas, then into software with Murex, and now plant-based ingredients for Food, Nutrition & Health markets with Roquette.

I joined Roquette as front office treasurer, managing the whole FX portfolio and dealing with all OTC operations on raw materials and energy for the group. I was promoted to Head of Risk Management and asked to set up the Risk & Control Department Function in France.

When did you move to Geneva?

I moved to Roquette CH in 2015. I worked on the business plan as well as the restructuring of the Risk and the Margin Management activities. That involved setting up a new risk framework from scratch, building tailor-made Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and analysis suitable for Roquette’s ongoing business, as well as the company’s new activities implemented in Geneva.

I love new challenges.

Such as… 

I was asked a couple of years ago to create a new Data Science Department for the company; I found it fascinating. I’m also member of the advisor board of ComRisk after having been a speaker during the last 2 years.

 Could you tell us more about Roquette?

Roquette is family-owned company. We are a global leader in plant-based ingredients, plant proteins and pharmaceutical excipients. In collaboration with our customers and partners, we address current and future societal challenges by unlocking the potential of nature to offer the best ingredients for food, nutrition and health markets.

We have customers in more than 100 countries with 25 industrial sites across the world. We have more than 8,600 employees and in 2019 our turnover was around 3.7 billion euros.

 What plant-based raw materials do you buy and process?

Using plant-based raw materials such as corn, wheat, potatoes and peas, we develop specialty ingredients that respond to unique and essential needs to better feed and cure people, to enable healthier lifestyles.

What will you be talking about at ComRisk 2020?

The panel is called ‘Managing Currency Risk Efficiently’. Most presentations on FX risk management tend to concentrate on managing commercial and M&A transactions in the current market. I will take a slightly different approach and talk about the processes involved in choosing the right financing and the right functional currencies. I would like to share my experiences in dealing with some complicated cases, such as when local, group and main business currencies are different.

This issue is important as the choices made can strongly affect the way that foreign exchange is evaluated in financial statements, and it is hard to modify without structural change. This can have a big impact on the profitability of the company.

Roquette is a global group. What are the main risks you are exposed to as a plant-based raw material consuming company, especially during this hard time of Covid 19 crisis?

The major risk for an industrial company such as ours is a business interruption due to industrial issues or raw materials shortage. It is one of the most critical matters. In addition to the direct financial loss, a delay or a cancellation in deliveries could have an important impact on customer’s satisfaction – our top priority. This has been the case more than ever during the Covid crisis as we serve both the food and the pharma markets, which are both considered as priorities. We are really committed to deliver our customers in this difficult time, and thanks to the efforts of all Roquette employees and partners such as suppliers, we succeeded.

As a key actor in Food, Nutrition and Health, our responsibility is to ensure the continuity of our essential activities while protecting our employees. ​

We should never forget that before managing prices, the first objective of our Purchasing Dept is to ensure that we have physical raw materials with the required quality delivered on time to our different plants. We have had to be agile to adapt across all geographies, such as renting new storage capacities.

Supply issues have been our most critical risk during the Covid period, but they are less of a concern in normal times when our priority is price risk management. A large part of our costs are variable costs: mainly raw materials and energy.

As you can imagine, price variations on our plant-based raw materials and energy inputs have a strong direct impact on the financial performance of the company. Market prices have been more volatile than usual during the Covid period; this has allowed us to test the robustness of our current risk framework and organization in terms of managing market risks.

 Thank you, Benjamin for your comments – and good luck with your presentation!

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