How would you summarise your career background and what has led you to where you are today?
“I joined a company called Houseman in 1995 as a trainee sales engineer, which was my first job in the chemical industry after university. I then joined Nalco in 1998 as a technical sales rep and progressed through the ranks before joining Energy Services Group in 2003. Here I had a variety of different roles but primarily focused on key account management and managing various sales teams.
“In 2011, I moved to the Middle East and worked from the Saudi Arabia office for 6 years. I started running the key accounts team there, before becoming the regional sales manager for the Middle East Downstream business, with $120million in P&L responsibility and around 100 people. In 2016, I became business manager for the eastern hemisphere for Nalco Champion, looking after the key accounts group - which equated to $400million - as well as business development, technical marketing, product line marketing and the capex team.
“In January 2021, I joined Italmatch as sales and marketing director with a brief to grow the eastern hemisphere oil and gas business. In that role I led the strategic acquisition of the Aubin business to increase our critical mass in the Eastern Hemisphere as we look to balance our large portfolio in the western hemisphere.”
What would you say is your key area of specialty and what are you bringing to Aubin and Italmatch?
“I have a joint degree in chemistry and business studies, and an MBA (Marketing) which I suppose is quite a unique combination that lends itself well to the roles I’ve taken on in my career. I would say key account management and development is my main area of specialty - so, growing a business with certain key customers - as well as sales leadership, corporate strategy and the development of people.”
Why are you so excited to have acquired Aubin and the opportunity that this presents?
“For a small company, Aubin punches above its weight, particularly with regard to innovation. It is a key player in well services and technologies that complement our existing portfolio and is well positioned to be at the forefront of the energy transition with its innovative technology being uniquely tailored to solving key challenges. Aubin are moving from the heritage business and taking those learnings and knowledge from oil and gas to redeploy them into new industries like offshore wind. There are a lot of interesting products, particularly from an ESG standpoint.
“There are incredible people at Aubin creating innovative solutions and the business will be further strengthened commercially by bringing together highly qualified professionals at our strategically positioned Eastern Hemisphere headquarters in Aberdeenshire. From a scale perspective too, given the size of Italmatch, we can really amplify the reach of Aubin and their portfolio into regions where Italmatch has an established presence.
“As part of Italmatch, Aubin is now a more attractive business partner for the global oil and gas service companies and operators who have been hesitant to award larger business volumes to a smaller company with limited geographical coverage.”
In your opinion, why do you think people choose Aubin? What is attracting customers to be loyal to them?
“I think it’s the team’s know-how and expertise in certain fields. Because Aubin is a small company, they can be quite agile and tailor its offering depending on the customer requirements, getting products to them in a quicker way than larger companies. This is quite unique and strengthens the appeal to both future and existing customers
“I also think it’s the way they build relationships. Aubin has a lot of credibility; they’ve been in the Middle East market for over 30 years and they have really good brand recognition. Customers share their technical challenges with Aubin because they trust them to deliver solutions tailored to their needs.”
What do you see in Aubin’s future? What are you striving to help the company achieve now you’ve stepped into the CEO role?
“I think the future is exciting for a number of reasons, one being the opportunity of scaling the business. This would give Aubin even more recognition and allow them to attract bigger, tier 1 customers, who aren’t going to potentially dismiss them because they’re too small.
“I also think the investment in research and development is exciting. Aubin has a lot of really good ideas but limited resources, in Italmatch we have a great track record of investing in R&D for both short- and longer-term projects”
“I am very excited about areas such as plugging and abandonment and decommissioning, that’s a huge market not just in the North Sea but globally as well. We’ve already had several discussions in North and South America about plugging orphan wells, wells that are leaking methane into the atmosphere. We also have some innovative technologies to plug municipal water leaks without the hassle of closing roads and digging up streets. This is very topical in the UK at present given the recent droughts. So there’s a really good ESG component to these opportunities as well them being areas that have huge growth potential.”
How does the link with Italmatch benefit Aubin’s customers?
“I think the acquisition will make Aubin easier to do business with, in country value will increase with Italmatch’s manufacturing plants, we will invest in strategic stock, which will mean that the lead times for deliveries will be reduced.
“Italmatch is basic in chemistries required in many of Aubin’s key products and the ability to remove intermediaries will reduce cost and accelerate the time to deliver new technologies to the market. We’ve got 19 manufacturing plants all over the world, so there’s a great opportunity for us to internalise, be physically present where they are and have products made where our customers actually operate. This makes the whole process easier for the customer, because everything can be invoiced in their local currency, and orders are shipped very quickly and easily.
“Ultimately, I see this as strengthening its position which can only be of benefit to Aubin's customers. With the portfolio breadth of Italmatch and Aubin we can also provide a one stop shop for our customers allowing them to consolidate their supplier base and simplify their operations.”
Are there any key areas of growth for Aubin that you’re focusing on?
“I would say it’s plugging and abandonment and decommissioning - these are really hot topics in the industry at the moment. Plugging and abandonment in particular is certainly becoming more of a key focus across the board. The Texas federal authorities just released millions of dollars to deal with orphan wells which could be a big potential problem globally, however, we’re in a unique place with our Xmax and Xclude patented technology to deliver a cost effective solution.
“We have had a great interest from Australia all the way to South America in this technology. We are currently discussing trials with Supermajors, National Oil Companies and quasi governmental organisations. We have a well established technical team and supply chain in the Americas that we will leverage to support our customers in the region.”
What have been your first priorities since coming into the business?
“Since I joined in July, my top priorities have been centred around making sure the team is comfortable with the move, getting feedback from them on how they think we should move forward as a company and pursuing the opportunities in front of us.
“Navigating a small business in choppy waters over the pandemic has been a real challenge for the management team, but they have done a fantastic job continuing to support their customers whilst developing new innovative world class chemistries. The heritage management team is now heading towards retirement so succession management a priority. We are focusing on developing a new management team from the great talent that we have in Aubin.
“Growing talent from the team is important as it ensures that the company culture is maintained, rewards people for their hard work and shows a clear career path for the less tenured employees.”
What is important to you as the leader and what do you strive to be?
“I think it’s my job to create an environment where the team can be successful. I can set goals and the vision but it’s not for me to tell them how to get there. They’re talented people with a lot of skills, so they don’t need me to tell them what to do, they just need me to support their initiatives and make sure they have the right resources to achieve their plans.”
Tell us more about your focus on net-zero?
“There’s a lot of really impressive ESG technologies, both in Italmatch and Aubin, which we can use to help our customers become more environmentally sustainable and help them get to net-zero. There’s plugging and abandonment of oil wells, offshore wind, geothermal, EV batteries, no-dig to stop water loss, eco-inhibitors where we are reusing waste from fish farms in the North Sea to create a full circular economy from a natural product. We are also involved in Recophos, a circular economy project to recover phosphorus from urban waste instead of doing it via mining.
“There are a lot of good things going on to transition from the heritage business to renewable technologies.”
Why are you so passionate about your work? What do you enjoy most about it?
“It really is the people, the team, the customers. No company is just one person, it’s very much a team effort internally, as well as collaboratively with our customers. We are very lucky to have great customers who we work very closely with.
“If you’re working with people that you trust, you see value in, you think you can help them grow in some way, it really makes a big difference. I’m getting towards the latter end of my career, so it would be nice to know that I’ve passed on some kind of legacy, helping people grow within the team, and also grow the business as well.
“Things like stopping water leaking to waste, or plugging wells that are leaking methane into the atmosphere, that’s good for the environment and good for the soul. You feel like you’re doing something that’s worthwhile and making a positive difference, this drives a lot of my passion for the work that I do.”
“Overall, this is a very exciting time for Aubin - with huge opportunities for growth both within the team itself and expanding their technologies into new markets around the world as well.