Having built a successful career with TotalEnergies over the last 22 years, Christine Richard has joined Lubmarine as Director with the goal of driving the business forward at one of the most dynamic periods in the shipping industry’s history.
In her first interview since taking the helm, Christine shares her views on the importance of continuing to support the needs of today’s global shipping customers through a combination of market leading products, digital tools, technical services and close customer proximity, whilst guiding Lubmarine on its own transition towards shipping’s new fuels future.
Whilst you may be new to Lubmarine, you have built a successful career within TotalEnergies. Can you pick out some of your highlights from your career so far?
I think it’s fair to say when I arrived at TotalEnergies over 22 years ago as an intern focused on business analysis, I could not have foreseen then the career that lay ahead of me.
Whilst I started in analysis, my interest really lies in customer relationship, sales and marketing, and I spent the first half of my career building experience and knowledge in sales and marketing roles within both industrial and automotive lubricant divisions of the Company.
Then in 2013, I was appointed Asia Pacific Marketing Manager within the industrial lubricants division based in Singapore, responsible for marketing and technical support right across the Asia Pacific region. It was a fantastic role which offered me invaluable insights into different markets and different styles and types of business.
After 3 years, I moved to Noumea, in New Caledonia as the Managing Director for TotalEnergies activities there. With a team of 95 staff, we were responsible of distributing TotalEnergies products in New Caledonia and Wallis & Futuna Islands, predominantly across a network of service-stations alongside direct deliveries of energy products and lubricants to B2B customers. It was an amazing place to live and work and a great opportunity to experience leading a larger team across a wider product portfolio.
In 2018, I moved back to Singapore as Vice President Lubricants, Specialties and B2B for Asia Pacific Middle East in Singapore. I was responsible for sales development, marketing, and digital transformation for specialties activities at TotalEnergies which included lubricants, special fluids, LPG, aviation fuels, bitumen.
And then finally in 2021, back in Paris, I was appointed Executive Vice President for Western-Europe leading the Company’s marketing and services operations across 13 different countries, including the UK, Iberic peninsula, Nordics, Poland and Central Europe region.
It has been a been an exciting journey so far, one which has afforded me many opportunities to work in different markets around the world, with significant emphasis on lubricants whilst also building and leading teams.
What was it about this role at Lubmarine that attracted you?
Firstly, it is a truly global business unit in B2B markets with a strong emphasis on supporting its customers – not just from the perspective of performance products but through technical knowledge and expertise. So, it really reflects my own conviction for the power of strong customer relationships.
It is also a dynamic business, reflecting the operations of our shipping customers. Our business operates across 100 countries and almost 1,000 ports. Our customers’ vessels are continually moving across different locations and environments around the world and we often have a very small window of opportunity to deliver of our products. The complexity to meet their needs wherever and whenever they need us really shouldn’t be underestimated from a logistical perspective.
This is part of the DNA of Lubmarine – striving to meet customers’ needs, working closely with them, their teams and with our global partners and affiliates to deliver across right our global network.
You only have to spend a very short time within Lubmarine to see, hear and feel the passion that our team has, to make a difference to our customers.
It’s a very special business and I am proud to be leading it.
With the global shipping industry in a major transition, what do you feel some of the challenges and opportunities are that lie ahead?
The decarbonation of the shipping industry is a major challenge to our customers. The common declaration of 6 major operators in the shipping industry at COP28 just 3 weeks ago shows a strong will of the industry itself in accelerating towards being net zero.
There is uncertainty, there is motivation and there are questions around finding the right solutions. The industry is changing – that is absolute. What that change will ultimately look like remains undetermined but certainly involves multi-energies solutions.
While dual fuel capabilities become the norm and LNG or biofuels being already used by some of our customers, we see some early movers with Methanol fuelled vessels for example, so at Lubmarine, we need to have a proactive focus on new product development to ensure we are well positioned to meet those needs from a lubricant performance and supply perspective.
Being part of TotalEnergies, we also have a great synergy with the specialist marine fuels business unit TotalEnergies Marine Fuels. The benefit of this relationship is a capability to understand and design solutions to reflect the global shipping market today, tomorrow and into the future.
Clearly you are convinced about the importance of customer relationships. What does that look like from a Lubmarine perspective for you?
Our team of 190 people globally are geared to supporting our customers. This business has been designed for this in the way we operate and that is a significant strength and active differentiator.
Moving forward it is about us adding even greater value through innovative new products, helping shipping operators make better data-driven decisions around lubricant performance through our growing suite of digital solutions, ensuring our team of Marine Lubricant Engineers are on hand to provide that invaluable, tailored support and being right where our customers need us.
On my part, I started visiting our main hubs – Hong Kong, the US and Greece – where I have visited our teams and our partners, and I will continue in January visiting our key customers around the world to understand better their needs and their challenges so we can continue to provide effective solutions.
Energy and Shipping are often considered as men domains. Would you like to see more women within the business take a similar journey?
Absolutely. Lubmarine has a 60% female staff ratio and 25 different nationalities. We are truly a diverse team and I am proud of that. Diversity within any team is vital to bring a range of perspectives, skills and experience and I certainly want to see us encourage and support women to grow within the business.
As it can still be a challenge for women to take leading business roles, I truly believe in encouraging them to take opportunities to try business early in their career. We need to help them in building their confidence to do so.
When you are not working what do you like to do?
Having rest time and free time outside of work is vitally important to achieve balance and keep energy levels high.
Home is now in Paris and myself and my partner enjoy getting out in nature, travel and playing golf. When we lived in Asia, we absolutely loved Scuba diving. In fact, my partner ran a dive school when we lived there. It’s a bit trickier being in Paris to follow that passion but whenever we can, we do.