Fecc: The end of an era

26 May 2014 00:00  [Source: ICB]

After two four-year terms as president of Fecc, Edgar Nordmann has decided to hand over to a younger successor. At nearly 75 years of age and having spent all his working life – about 50 years – with family firm Nordmann, Rassmann, where he is one of four managing partners, he says he will retire at the end of the year.

Dedicated and hard-working, Nordmann has a long list of achievements, not just in the distribution sector but in other German and Asian industry affairs too. It is hard to envisage him bowing out of business life completely.

Edgar Nordmann

Edgar Nordmann speaking at the Fecc Congress 2012 in Lisbon

Not surprisingly, he has seen big changes during his career in the chemical distribution industry. The most dramatic of these, he says, have occurred in the past 10 years or so. “We have seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and now have four or five very big players in the sector,” says Nordmann, adding that a lot of M&A activity has also been taking place among medium-sized players.

Says Nordmann: “Distribution has changed very much from a local to a national business then spread Europe-wide and is now becoming pan-European. Nordmann, Rassmann has acquired four companies during the past eight or nine years and for the past 20 years has concentrated on building up its presence in eastern Europe, starting in the Czech Republic in 1991.

PRIDE IN ACHIEVEMENTS

He is understandably proud of the Fecc’s achievements in the past few years. Since the start of his second term as president in June 2010 – his first term ran from 2000 to 2004 – the organisation has established a more efficient office in Brussels, Belgium, and has worked hard to improve relationships with its counterparts in the industry as well as other associations.

“Since the past four years, we have had a much better relationship with Cefic and enjoy really good co-operation now,” Nordmann says. He also points to good partnerships with overseas industry associations, especially the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) in the US and La Asociacion Nacional de la Industria Quimica (ANIQ) in Mexico and the National Brazilian Distribution Association (Associquim) in Brazil.

Edgar Nordmann

“The industry is much more in the public eye and the awareness of stakeholders in the business is much higher than it used to be”

Edgar Nordmann
Fecc president and managing partner, Nordmann, Rassmann

Nordmann is a big fan of third-party verification (TPV) and says some progress has been made within the organisation. Although he is pleased with developments so far, his pleasure is mitigated to some extent by the speed, notably the lack of it, in adopting the assessment throughout Europe.

Promoting Responsible Care is a priority for Fecc, which sees TPV under the European Single Assessment Document (ESAD) as an important part of a company’s commitment to the programme. Nordmann believes that TPV would give the sector a much better standing in the supply chain as well as in discussions with the EU and national governments. He is hopeful that his successor in the next four years will be able to push through TPV, via ESAD, for all countries, local associations and not least the Fecc.

RISK OF EU REGULATION WITHOUT TPV

However, he concedes it is a hard war to wage. He thinks this is partly because local associations, which have a lot of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), fear they may lose members if TPV becomes a mandatory requirement of joining. However, Nordmann points out that if the industry does not take TPV forward by itself, there lies the possibility that it could be forced upon companies by EU regulations.

There are many conservative-thinking companies that say they have managed without TPV so far and do not recognise the benefits, but Nordmann says this is the wrong way of looking at it. “Companies must look at TPV through the eyes of corporate sustainable responsibility (CSR). The industry is much more in the public eye and the awareness of stakeholders in the business is much higher than it used to be,” he comments.

One of the biggest achievements at Nordmann, Rassmann is the transformation to become one of Europe’s largest specialty chemical distributors, having withdrawn from general/commodity chemicals distribution 15-20 years ago. As part of this transformation, Nordmann says the company’s range of employees has changed, in that about half of the 350 people in the group are now technically trained, for example as chemists, chemical engineers, plastics engineers and life science specialists.

The distributor has also grown to become a pan-European supplier and Nordmann says the company is continuing to improve its efficiency and is now offering an increasing number of services to its customers.

Wide recognition for services in Asia

According to Edgar Nordmann, his family ethos was that if your company is relatively successful, you owed something to society. Nordmann says he and his colleagues in Hamburg, Germany, feel they have an obligation to provide their experience wherever it could be helpful. “That is our culture at Nordmann, Rassmann. We try to give our experience as much as we can to other associations.”

There can be no doubt that he has done just that at Fecc, as well as at the multitude of other associations that he has been involved with during his career. He has been a tireless matchmaker between the East and West, having many past and present links with Asian, particularly Malaysian, organisations. His services were recognised in 2002 by the King of Malaysia who awarded him the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Service of the Order of the Nation, or the Panglima Jasa Negara award.

His hobbies reflect his East-West history too. He collects modern art and says he has a good selection of work from German and young southeast Asian artists. He collects Chinese snuff bottles – he likes Chinese furniture, but jokes that it is too big to put in his pocket. Running, cycling, gymnastics and “a bit of golf”, are his sports of choice. He is also is a ballet fan and sponsors the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

Last, and perhaps a more unusual interest for a native German, is his love of UK football team Arsenal. “I like the continuity of management in English football,” says Nordmann. He says he is very positive for the future, both for Fecc and Nordmann, Rassmann. Arsenal, however, could be another matter.

The same is true at Fecc too. The organisation now offers many more services to members and there are several committees focused on areas including international trade, logistics, product stewardship and Responsible Care, among others. Nordmann says: “We have become increasingly recognised outside the industry and have a higher profile now. We are highly respected by the EU and, in many cases, we are being asked for our views on new legislation.”

Nordmann feels that Fecc now needs someone younger than him to take up the reins. He believes the major challenges for his successor in the next few years will include the ever-rising number of rules and regulations coming out of the European Commission, and the need to foster good relationships with the different departments within the EU. Responsible Care and TPV are high on the agenda too. He would also like more private companies to become Fecc members and believes the organisation will have to have another recruitment drive in the next few years.

MODEST ON ACHIEVEMENTS

When asked if there is anything he feels he could have done better or differently, Nordmann eventually comments that he could have been more forceful in pushing through TPV – a subject obviously close to his heart. He is outwardly modest about his achievements and, when pressed, reveals he has a talent for bringing together different opinions to find a reasonable solution to the issue at hand. Any other comments would have to come from his colleagues, he jokes.

His goal for Nordmann, Rassmann over the next four to five years is for the company to become even more specialised and continue its path towards pan-European coverage.


By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214



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