Marwan Soliman, Trader
When did your adventure start at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise?
I started my adventure at the Raffinerie Tirlemontoise on 15 October 2012. I have vivid memories of the day I went for my interview in Tirlemont; I’d parked my car in the car park of a supermarket very close to the Raffinerie Tirlemontoise offices and when I went back after my successful interview, the car park was closed! Thankfully, a local resident, who had a set of keys, was just coming to retrieve his car, so I was able to do likewise.
I work as a trader in the Hottlet division. It has had its offices in central Antwerp for some years now. We are located close to the port, which makes us quick off the mark should there be any last minute changes or if we need to go to the port in a hurry.
What does your working day look like?
My days revolve around phone calls to our commercial partners, be they producers, traders or customers. Trade isn’t only about selling our sugars; it also entails an understanding of the characteristics of sugars from around the world, such as Brazil, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, France... You always have to strike a balance between different supply sources and customers hoping to bag a bargain. This means that you need to know the price and quality of sugar in the different countries of origin. I’m also constantly prospecting new customers in the various different areas that we cover.
My days vary a lot depending on the markets. The London and New York markets are our daily reference point and form the basis of our offers and purchases on the world sugar market, which is influenced by many variables, such as oil prices, exchange rates and even the local characteristics of the destination markets. As a trader, I need to take stock of all of the variables in order to offer the best prices to customers.
How would you describe the atmosphere at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise?
Hottlet, a division of Raffinerie Tirlemontoise, is like a closely-knit family that knows how to roll up its sleeves when a rush is on and can cope with the different variables inherent to our work. What struck me the most when I first started working here was the very familial, supportive team spirit.
There are increasing levels of interaction between colleagues in Tirlemont and Brussels and that makes our daily work and our working relationships easier. We are also constantly learning about the skills and expertise of our colleagues in Tirlemont.
The world of sugar is going through a tough period right now, and with a view to the liberalisation of the European market in 2017, the Raffinerie Tirlemontoise will be faced with big challenges. The interaction I mentioned a moment ago reassures us in our preparations for the future and our ability to become a major global stakeholder by 2017.
How do you feel about your job and life at Raffinerie Tirlemontoise?
It’s full speed ahead! My job is exciting, enriching and highly varied and I have a lot of contact with colleagues and customers, etc. I know that I can count on my colleagues at all times. This job is everything I was looking for.
Which is your favourite sugar of Tirlemont?
From our industrial sugars range, I would say the K11 sugars, the very fine grain ones, are among my favourites. They are high quality sugars that are sieved twice. Some of our major customers are particularly fond of them.
In terms of the consumer range, I have a penchant for the crystallised sugar in Doypacks, which are much loved in Egypt for the very practical packaging.