A Conversation with Aitana Conca

I recently caught up with Aitana Conca, previously Global Head of Middle Desk and Contract Management for Cargill’s Ocean Transportation Division in Geneva, and now Director -EMEA for Chinsay.

Good morning, Aitana. Could you please tell me a little about yourself?

I live in Switzerland, but I am originally from Spain, where I grew up and studied.

I started my commodities career when I joined Cargill Geneva in 2005 in the finance team of their Ocean Transportation division. I already had a deep understanding of finance. Still, I knew nothing about trading or shipping and learned everything from the bottom up, which has given me a solid knowledge of the industry’s complexities.

I felt that my career had hit a ‘pivot point’ and wanted to explore new avenues and offer the digital skills that were increasingly in demand. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and left Cargill to study for a Global Executive Master in Digital Business at Madrid’s ISDI business school.

I was excited to join Chinsay as I knew them from my time at Cargill – I was one of their first customers.

As a woman, did you find yourself in a ‘man’s world’ – and how did you deal with that?

Being a woman has never been an obstacle in my career, even in the male-dominated trading and shipping world. Having said that, I often felt the need for having to craft more solid arguments than my male peers.

Research has shown that diversified teams outperform non-diversified teams. Women bring a different perspective than men, and we definitely add value and insight. Many companies know this, and they embrace gender diversity. I’ve been lucky to work with companies that welcome women for the value that they bring.

Cargill is known for its training programmes. What was your experience with this, and have you had a chance to make use of it?

Cargill has excellent programmes for employee development. They don’t only teach you technical or professional skills. They teach you to be a better leader and how to navigate as a woman.

I am lucky that at Chinsay, I can continue to empower women and develop them into leadership roles. I find that very exciting.

Chinsay, like Cargill, is becoming more diverse and is interested in making women’s voices in the industry heard, and the company has a real passion for bettering client’s businesses. These are some of the factors that helped me decide to join their executive team.

What were the other drivers in your decision to join Chinsay?

Chinsay allows me to help people with innovation and digital transformation. It is a passion of mine. I have the opportunity to help drive real change and consider the future of technology and the market.

On the customer side, I can empathise with our clients and put myself in their shoes. I have been in their position; this helps me gain insights and establish a foundation of understanding. I can support our clients on their digital transformation journey.

From Chinsay’s side, I can help the company become an even more customer-centric company. That’s my objective!

Briefly, what does Chinsay do?

We enable clients to digitalise workflows in freight and commodity sectors. We focus on efficiency, compliance, controls and transparency. That is our core business, but we go beyond that. We are becoming increasingly about data: collecting, analysing and integrating our clients’ information into their systems.

We bring business clarity and efficiency to what has traditionally been a siloed, disconnected industry, and we reduce cost and risk.

Chinsay has several big names clients. Why do they need you?

We are fortunate to have a great relationship with clients, and our service and solution benefit greatly from input and advice. A good example is Cargill. They built the Covantis Blockchain platform in partnership with other grain-trading companies, and we work on the portion of the workflow that precedes the post-trade part.

We definitely believe in the principle of working together and integrating with best-of-breed technology; Covantis is a great example of the benefits of having one seamless flow of operations and data.

You joined Chinsay in December 2020. How are things going so far?

I am still learning, finding out how the company works and functions. I am looking at areas where the company can improve internally, particularly in shaping our product offering from the customer’s perspective.

My objective is to build a partnership with our customers. I look at it as ‘push versus pull’. Rather than ‘push’ our services to our customers, we want our customers to ‘pull’ Chinsay’s service into their systems.

First, you have to understand your customer’s needs and then work to fill those needs; don’t try to push your ready-made product or service onto the customer.

Is there anything you want to add?

I have three essential themes in my life:

The first is the empowerment of women: helping women thrive in male-dominated environments. I am a champion for gender diversity, whether at the local school or in the workplace.

The second is the importance of trust in both professional and private relationships. That could be between yourself and your children, or your company and clients. Without trust, you have nothing.

The third is to constantly learn and do better in both my personal and professional life. I see data and digital transformation as the agent for change for much of life, both now and in the future. It is the future, and I want to be an agent for that change.

Last question: how are you coping with lockdown?

On the professional side, we have been fortunate during lockdowns because our clients see us as a core part of remote working.

On the personal side, I miss the hugs!

© Commodity Conversations ® 2021

This is part of our series promoting women in agricultural commodities. Please get in touch if you have a story to tell on this theme.

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