Joris Gröflin has been Chief Financial Officer and Member of the Executive Board of Axpo Holding AG since 2019. The Axpo Group reliably produces, trades and sells energy for over three million people and thousands of companies in Switzerland and over 30 European countries. Previously he served as CFO and Member of the Executive Board of Rieter Holding AG in Winterthur. Joris Gröflin has a business management degree with a specialization in finance and capital markets (lic.oec. HSG), as well as a CEMS Master’s degree in international management from the University of St. Gallen and Rotterdam University.
Watch an extract from the interview
What crisis-related issues are top of your agenda today?
Our utmost priority continues to be the safe operation of our power plants and the grid infrastructure, and protecting our employees. At the same time, we want to operate the company for maximum economic success – during this situation and in the future.
Our utmost priority continues to be the safe operation of our power plants and the grid infrastructure, and protecting our employees.
People say that every crisis brings opportunity. Do you agree?
Definitely, every crisis forces you to challenge certain things and make changes. A crisis allows you to drive change more rapidly because people are also more open to change. If there’s a clear reason for change, you can achieve a lot. We’re seeing this nicely at the moment, for example, in the new way of working together. In my view, virtualization of collaboration is an opportunity that we must seize and push forward. Also, many people have realized the benefits of focusing on the truly important aspects. This helps on the one hand in defining your profile more precisely, but also in discussions.
A crisis allows you to drive change more rapidly because people are also more open to change.
Have any concrete opportunities emerged for Axpo over the last few months?
A broader sector of society has come to realize the value of a safe and secure energy and electricity supply. At the same time, we’re seeing that global issues can impact Switzerland. Thinking of all the aspects that lie ahead in connection with the whole climate change debate and reduction of CO2, it’s certainly a chance for Axpo to press ahead in the area of renewable energy, but also to produce and market low-carbon electricity. We consider ourselves to be well positioned in this regard.
Will the crisis accelerate Axpo’s transformation?
Axpo is already on a highly dynamic trajectory – the whole sector is. The crisis has accentuated many aspects further. We’re seeing effects that are opportunities, but at the same time challenges. In retail, for example, there are potentially more payment difficulties among customers, but the favorable electricity prices are also an opportunity to win new customers – it’s an interplay between positive and negative factors. It’s too soon to say how this will accelerate the transformation of our business though. But I will say that it’s an opportunity for us because Axpo is positioned in Switzerland and abroad to respond rapidly and we’re able to seek out and seize opportunities quickly.
What will the new reality look like?
It will bring global connections into focus more sharply. Many people have realized that there are global effects that we can’t control locally alone. At the same time, though, it’s precisely this local control that we need in order to react. So to some extent it’s a contradiction in terms. And this is certainly going to have an impact, on supply chains, for example. What’s definitely going to change is the way we work together. I don’t think that we should return to the way we were doing things before the pandemic because it’s just not as efficient.
Many people have realized that there are global effects that we can’t control locally alone. At the same time, though, it’s precisely this local control that we need in order to react.
What lessons have you learned from the crisis so far?
The crisis has shown how important it is to think globally. If your local mindset is too strong, you can quickly get flattened by something that’s happening globally. In this respect, the crisis is a reminder to everyone, including us, that we really must focus on the global environment. And that we should try to understand what’s going on – not just up to the Swiss border, but beyond as well. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of a reliable energy and electricity supply. At the same time, energy suppliers in Europe and in Switzerland as well will have to make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and keeping them low. As a company, Axpo is keen to seize these opportunities.
What would be your advice to companies for the next crisis?
After a crisis, I think critical self-reflection is important. It’s the only way to see where you were well prepared, where you weren’t, and how well you dealt with the crisis. One important realization is the role of employees pulling together. If everyone works together with the goal of achieving something, of getting it implemented, then it happens. That has nothing to do with the size of a company, or its level of preparedness; it’s about employees understanding why they’re doing something. If they do, they can accept change and get things moving together. At the end of the day, it’s the people that take a company forward. And that’s the real difference between a successful and an unsuccessful company.
If everyone works together with the goal of achieving something, of getting it implemented, then it happens.
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