Since joining Infospectrum in 2009, Marina Lebedeva has worked in Oxford, London, and now Hamburg, where she heads our recently-launched office, developing and expanding the team’s global reach. We caught up with her to find out more.
Over and above Marina’s big move to Hamburg, travel has always formed a key aspect of her role. 'while we can cover much of what we need to do from the office, clients, and increasingly companies on which we conduct our due diligence, are requesting face-to-face meetings. I also attend conferences, events, and forums in the countries I follow (Russian or German-speaking countries). It could be a conference in St. Petersburg, or an event in Hamburg'.
'While we have had clients in Hamburg since we launched Infospectrum in 1999, having an office on the ground in the City really allows us to leverage the contacts we have here, both in terms of sources and clients. The ability to meet face-to-face, allows for a better, and sometimes more discreet, information exchange. We're trying to recreate the model we have successfully established in London, Singapore, Kiev and Stamford, in a location which is one of the key shipping hubs of Europe.’
‘Our network of contacts is a great thing to have’, Marina stresses. ‘Knowing you are so well-connected in the sector with people all over the world who recognise your company and your own name, and are happy to share is very satisfying. And besides, we help people to do business.’
Her multilingual skills are also a great asset: ‘I’m originally from Russia, so I speak Russian, my husband is from Poland, so I speak Polish, and I live in Germany, so I speak German. I used to speak French many years ago, and I speak English, obviously. It opens up many doors if you speak to people in the local language and it’s always appreciated.’
The work Infospectrum carries out is diverse enough, so that you never get bored. ‘We work on different companies in various sectors, calling people from all over the world all the time’, Marina emphasises. ‘Everyone in the team is always helpful and you are never on your own — you can always grab the phone or shoot an email and somebody will be there to help you.’
‘The companies we assess are increasingly understanding the importance of our clients having up-to-date information’, she highlights. ‘Unlike 10 years ago, it’s no longer a case of us having to persuade people to give us information. It’s more of a partnership — no doubt facilitated by the global economic crisis — where companies subject their counterparties to enhanced due diligence, and choose to be more transparent themselves.’ Infospectrum still endeavours to verify every single bit of information. ‘There is always room for misunderstandings, and sometimes the leads we get from our network and databases can present a very different picture than that suggested by management; if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out’, Marina adds.
A key challenge in shipping is that there are many unknowns and unpredictable events, meaning circumstances can change quickly. ‘There are so many local and global social, economic, and political factors that you can’t possibly foresee all of them. Covering something as large and complex as the German KG finance sector for example, has allowed me to see the entire range of highs and lows in shipping, as KG finance emerged as one of the dominant sources of capital for the German shipping sector, before retreating in a complex period of defaults and refinancing.'
For those interested in pursuing a shipping career, Marina offers this advice: ‘Learn as much as you can because the industry is actually quite large and diverse. Develop a basic understanding of what you want to do, whether that’s focusing on the commercial side or the more technical aspects.’ She adds ‘It’s better to have experience from different parts of the industry to see what suits your personality best.’
'Before joining Infospectrum, I had a largely finance-related background, spending time at HSH Nordbank and Commerzbank, and the skills and contacts built up during that time certainly help today. However, I find I really enjoy the sheer diversity of what we cover at Infospectrum, while also having the opportunity to specialise in certain, at times very dynamic, sectors - my Russian and German companies certainly haven't stood still!'
As our time interviewing Marina came to a close, she revealed a unique personal fact, echoing the global reach of her work at home: ‘Everyone in my family was born in a different location; I was born in Russia, my husband was born in Poland, one of my children was born in the UK, and the other was born in Germany. We’re all from different places, although we have the same family name!’
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