"Already a very intense time."
Since February 1, thyssenkrupp AG has had a new Chief Financial Officer. Johannes Dietsch spent an unusual first working day at the company's Annual General Meeting. In the last three weeks, the new member of the Executive Board has gained a good overview. In his first interview he introduces himself and describes his first impressions.
A warm welcome from Essen! We’re in Q3, our pub, here in the quarter, today with the format "With a beer and a shot" with… Johannes Dietsch, our new CFO. Hello, Mr Dietsch, welcome! Let's get right on. You’ve officially been with thyssenkrupp since February 1st.
Have you settled in yet?
I have to say that, in the first two weeks I have already experienced pretty much everything you can experience in a company. We had a Supervisory Board meeting, Audit Committee meeting, Annual General Meeting. Coincidentally, on my first workday. Interesting start, yes. It's interesting to see. And of course, a lot of project meetings. We also prepared a quarterly report and announced it on February 12th, together with the new management models after the split. And that was a very intense time. And of course, it's still an intense time. So, no time to settle in, but an exciting time for me.
You were with Bayer for a total of 30 years, which is quite a long time. Please tell me a bit about it: How did you get there? How was your career? How did it all go?
Yes, gladly. I was a Bayer apprentice and was with the company for over 35 years. After leaving school I started training as an industrial clerk at the Leverkusen. And barely two years after my training they said: "We have a job for you!". And it was in Japan, Tokyo. At that time, in the 80s, it was something very unusual, very extreme, culturally challenging. But of course it was exciting to get to know a completely different world.
Do you speak Japanese?
I learned a little at the beginning and today I can still get around the country and ask for directions, find accommodation and get something to eat.
But you were also in China for a long time, if I am correctly informed.
Yes, we actually went to Japan twice. We were there for another 5 years in the 90s, so I spent 10 years of my professional life in Tokyo. Then I worked in Leverkusen for 10 years, and then we thought we could go abroad again. And then we raised our hand for China. And then we had three years in Shanghai, which was a great time for us.
What was your view of thyssenkrupp after more than 35 years with Bayer? Have you ever dealt with thyssenkrupp? Did you follow the company? What was your impression?
Well, it's a very different industry from chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Of course, thyssenkrupp is known for elevators and, in Shanghai in particular, for the Transrapid. That was a big show, to get on the Transrapid at Pudong airport and then… ride into town at 350 km/h. So, you certainly knew thyssenkrupp from that. It is also a strong brand in China. That's why I've always been fascinated by thyssenkrupp.
What ultimately moved you to join thyssenkrupp? You're a financial expert. To be honest, the figures at thyssenkrupp are not so rosy right now. You've got quite a challenge ahead of you.
At the beginning of November I didn't know anything about my luck. Then I was asked whether I could imagine it. My spontaneous reaction was: Yes, of course, because thyssenkrupp has a strong name, is a strong brand, a fascinating name, that stands for technology and quality. And, with that in mind, I told myself it was a great. But the fact is, of course, that we have to look very closely at the performance here.
Not only have you come to thyssenkrupp when the figures are not so great, but you have also arrived on time for the separation. From your experience as a financial expert, where do you see the greatest challenge? With - let's say - the one or other capital market transaction on your tally stick?
Oh, there's a lot to say, of course. The separation is a fascinating project. In the past, I have been able to accompany several spin-offs and separations, and also in a leading capacity in order to float new companies on the stock exchange. I have always experienced that such a division, an IPO of a subsidiary or part of a group is accompanied by an enormous sense of optimism. People said: "We have a new identity, we're listed on the stock… exchange on our own, and here we go."
What has to happen for the performance of both future companies to increase as a result of the division? How do you think that will happen? What is your assessment?
We have great chances to become more agile with two companies thatare then positioned with fewer business areas. We can become faster, we can be closer to the customer, we can increase performance, we can work in a more focused way. I'm convinced this will work.
Very nice. What do you do in your spare time to switch off?
I like to go hiking and cycling, and I am also a passionate card player, have 1 or 2 skat rounds and 2 double head rounds.
A pub like this is perfect for a Skat tournament .
Yes, if someone here invites me to Skat, in the evening with a beer, then I'm right there. [Laughter] Oh, yes.
So, you're a passionate Bayer Leverkusen fan, right?
When I returned in 2001 after my second stay in Japan, I took on season tickets from a friend who went abroad as I came back. Two season tickets in Leverkusen in the Family Street. And since then I went regularly. But you can help me with this, too: This is a dangerous area here: blue or black-yellow?
Black-yellow, that's for sure!
My solution was always: Stay out of this!
There are also said to be people who squint at Mönchengladbach or Düsseldorf. So it's not easy to position yourself here. As a fan of Bayer Leverkusen, one is neutral and a little condescendingly smiled at, but I like it.
Well, I'm going to tell you what colors you need to wear. Jens? We've prepared something for you. Light blue is the color you wear here. Light blue is good. Light blue is excellent. We thank you for the open words and the insights into your life and have brought you a backpack with a hoodie, a jacket and also a cap from thyssenkrupp. And, if you wear these things at the next Bayer Leverkusen home game, [laughter] I'll invite you to the pub. Thank you very much!
Great, thank you very much! [Applause]