"We have a fine view from here," says Maersk Tankers CEO Christian Michael Inglerslev, looking out from the fourth floor onto the yellow harbor buses putting around in the freezing water in the Port of Copenhagen.
Maersk Tankers is physically located only 2.5 kilometers from the Maersk Group headquarters at Esplanaden in Copenhagen. But going forward, the headquarters will be located further away from Tankers organizationally speaking, as the plan is for Maersk Tankers to be separated from the group as part of the efforts to split the conglomerate into two business units. A challenging period with external pressure on the container business and, in particular, the oil business, has forced Maersk to adopt new structures.
Christian M. Ingerslev will be heading this separation. He sits down on the sofa in the corner office. Along with the new plan, he moved a step up in hierarchy and went from being CCO to CEO of Maersk Tankers on Nov. 1.
"As CEO I have a goal of ensuring that we work together to deliver solid financial results and a safe working environment. The other part will be to get us safely through the separation," says Ingerslev.
Sale of the supertankers
Ingerslev grew up in the group where he has so far spent a total of 15 years. He is 40 years old and since 2014 has served as CCO of Maersk Tankers. Except for brief detours at Maersk Line and Svitzer, he has worked at Maersk Tankers throughout his entire career.
He is perhaps best known for the sale of Maersk's VLCC supertankers in 2014, a process in which he helped sell 15 supertankers to Belgian carrier Euronav for USD 980 million – a sale which he, not out of modesty, sees as not that big of a deal.
"We did it as part of a strategy. It was a strategic decision to reduce our exposure to crude tankers. It was of course an incredibly large sum of money, but it's a sale we need to take as seriously as we do all other kinds of sales," says Inglerslev.
Ingerslev's press handler sits in on the meeting. She takes photos for communication platform Yammer while Ingerslev tries to keep talking without being affected by the activity. The point of the photos is to give the 3,000 employees at Maersk Tankers an idea of what their CEO is up to. Availability and communication are two buzzwords which Ingerslev considers important as part of management in general, and especially in relation to the separation.
"This company has a great deal of visibility, not least in Denmark. Many of our employees, both here at our offices and out on our ships, have relations to Denmark. This means that a there is a major task in ensuring that they hear the right stories about what is actually going on," explains Ingerslev.
For instance, he tries to avoid sending e-mails if the person he needs to speak to is based at the offices in Copenhagen. But only 200 employees work out of the offices there, with the remaining 2,800 employees distributed across vessels and five other offices around the world. As such, ensuring proper and broad communication represents a major task.
"Speculations always emerge about what will happen, and about whether we know more than we do. So I want to build trust among my employees, so that they feel comfortable asking about things they might feel unsure or in doubt about," says Ingerslev.
A cost-light separation
Maersk Tankers has been part of Maersk Group since 1928, and there are many places in which the carrier collaborates with and is helped by the group. The development which will see the carrier go from being part of Maersk Group to being an independent company is therefore fraught with many challenges.
"We've been part of A.P. Moeller-Maersk for decades, and it's been a good collaboration. We need to ensure that we handle the separation in the best manner possible. We owe that to the company. But we also owe our shareholders that we don't spend a lot of money on completing this separation. So we're currently trying to find out where we depend on each other, and which opportunities the separation brings," he says.
He lists a series of scenarios for the future. Some of the internal processes might require outside help, others the carrier will be able to take over by itself. But there could also be parts that may need to go, as they will be too expensive when standing alone," explains Ingerslev.
"One of the tasks related to the separation from A.P. Moeller-Maersk is to identify which of our current processes are connected. An example is our IT processes. We then need to design processes that fit with the structural solution we pick for Maersk Tankers," he says.
In addition to the separation, digitalization stands as a key topic for Ingerslev. Just as elsewhere in the shipping sector, technology is catching up with the carrier and, as such, Maersk Tankers developed the Taking Lead strategy a few years ago, in which data to a greater extent than before is used to develop the company.
"We've been here since 1928, and this is an industry which consists of many experienced, positive, and dynamic people. But it's also an industry which has yet to become digitalized. So we've put digitalization on our agenda," says Inglerslev.
He acknowledges that there is a need to spend more time and resources on this digitalization. Because even though he feels that Maersk Tankers has many talented people, the industry is complex and the market is difficult to predict. Which means that there is a need for systems which can provide the company with data that can support decision-making.
"Digitalization is important, both in terms of becoming a bit better at predicting the future, but also to enable us to learn from our successes and failures. If not, we can be great at remembering our successes and not so great at recalling our mistakes," says Inglerslev.
He explains that the market is changing rapidly, and that it is thus important for Maersk Tankers to ensure that the carrier positions its vessels in the right places at the right times – both in terms of securing solid earnings but also in order to be there for the customers. Furthermore, the digitalization will be able to help optimize operations and costs, for instance by predicting when there will be a need to focus on ship repairs.
3000 brains are better than one
For this digitalization to be successful, the company will need to bring in people from outside, says Ingerslev. Maersk Tankers has therefore hired a team of employees to help study how the market develops. The team consists of an astrophysicist, two people who have worked at other oil companies, an external consultant, and students from DTU who are studying the carrier's digitalization.
And it is not just in relation to the digitalization that Ingerslev deems it beneficial to bring in outsiders. Because he is a pure-bred shipping man, he believes that it is important to bring in people from the outside to look at the company.
"People who are not shipping trained, but who instead have been in other corporate cultures and other countries, can come in and look at us with fresh eyes. This could help challenge us. Because there are many things we do well – and many things we could do better," he says.
He has in the past as CCO hired people from, for instance, fast moving consumer goods, but he also now appreciates having an executive team consisting of different types.
"I'm very available, very communicative, ambitious, and inclusive. Because I know that I don't have all the best solutions. But I do know that I have 3,000 people employed, and the solutions can be found among them," says Inglerslev.