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Johan Geduhn

Johan Geduhn: A Bicultural Journey from Financial Law to Global Sustainability

A Story of Cultural Fusion and Environmental Leadership in International Finance!

How can we build bridges between diverse cultures and languages, fostering understanding in a globalized world? Johan Geduhn, Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at Tradewind, embodies the answer to this question through his bicultural journey that spans continents. Growing up in various countries, he was exposed to different cultures at an early age, helping him cultivate a deep appreciation for diverse ethnicities and languages. This foundation became the cornerstone of his career, propelling him into the realms of international and financial law.

Joining Tradewind 12 years ago marked a pivotal moment for Johan. His tailored CV seamlessly aligned with the company’s vision, earning him an instant hire. What captivates him about Tradewind is the dynamic spectrum of work and the extensive communication with people from different corners of the globe. His entry into the financial sector was a natural evolution of his academic focus on financial law during his commercial law studies.

Yet, his journey took an unexpected turn as he embraced sustainability later in his career. Recognizing a gap in the industry’s approach, Johan, driven by a personal interest in sustainability, spearheaded a project to introduce and implement a sustainability program at Tradewind. Over time, his dedication and vision expanded his role, leading to his current position as the Chief Sustainability Officer.

Johan’s story combines passion for business law and pioneering sustainability efforts in a global company. His journey highlights the importance of fostering understanding across cultures and embracing sustainability in the financial sector. As Tradewind’s compass points towards a more sustainable future, Johan stands at the helm, steering the ship with a unique blend of cultural insight, legal acumen, and a commitment to a better world.

Let us explore his journey:

Empowering Global Trade by Addressing Unique Challenges

Established in 2000 amid a financial crisis in Turkey, Tradewind came into being as a response to the challenges faced by Turkish exporting companies during that period. These companies found themselves with a shortage of funds and unable to turn to banks for support. Specifically, they possessed receivables that were not being financed at the time.

Recognizing this opportunity, the founders established the company, which held a different name originally, and implemented a strategy of funding Turkish exporters by acquiring their receivables and providing funds based on them. This innovative approach proved to be highly successful.

As the financial storm shook Turkey in 2000, exporting companies were facing myriad challenges. Amid these difficulties, Tradewind emerged as an anecdote to exporters’ unique needs. Founded by two entrepreneurs Tradewind saw an opportunity where others saw only a crisis.

Their radical idea involved purchasing the debts owed to Turkish exporters by foreign buyers, providing much-needed cash up front. This audacious move, unprecedented at the time, turned out to be a game-changer. Tradewind’s innovative model not only helped exporters stay afloat but also fueled Turkey’s export engine, propelling it back towards calmer waters.

Over time, the company expanded its operations to include numerous countries. Its clientele primarily consists of exporters located in pro manufacturing countries, spanning from Turkey across South Asia to China. Presently, the company operates globally, with Mr. Ansgar Hütten, one of the founders, serving as the CEO.

In contrast to how individuals from Microsoft or Google may list a few core activities that their companies are known for, Tradewind’s mission can be distilled to enabling trade. Many exporters face the challenge of extended payment terms from their buyers, leaving them cash-strapped for an extended period, often up to 90 days or more.

Tradewind addresses this issue by offering services that provide funds upon export, allowing exporters to promptly initiate their next production cycle and continue exporting. In essence, Tradewind facilitates trade by alleviating cash flow constraints for exporters.

Funding is a crucial aspect of Tradewind’s services, complemented by the added layer of security offered through credit insurance for invoices. This ensures that clients need not worry about the possibility of their buyer facing bankruptcy, as comprehensive coverage is provided. Additionally, support is extended in the collection process.

For instance, if a seller in India has a buyer in Europe or North America, the geographical distance can pose challenges. However, Tradewind’s global presence of offices allows them to assist in the collection of payments and overdue invoices, facilitating smooth trade transactions.

Tradewind’s primary objective is to facilitate international trade by leveraging its expertise. They charge a percentage based on the invoice value, determined by various factors, including location and associated risks. Essentially, their service revolves around managing accounts receivable entrusted to them by businesses.

To get a better picture of the process, envision an export business in the Food & Beverage industry. If a businessman in this sector were to utilize Tradewind’s services, then his business would receive cash advances upfront that would essentially expedite the payment process, rather than having to wait until payment was due from the buyer. The release of funds is contingent upon specific documentation, and Tradewind communicates with the buyer to ensure prompt payment from them upon invoice maturity, requiring evidence confirming both the shipment’s existence and the placed order. When the invoice matures, the buyer would transfer funds directly to Tradewind. Thorough verification of the actual goods is essential to mitigate the risk of commitment default.

Synergies in Corporate Management

Effective corporate management relies on a diverse array of tools, but among them, a cohesive and skilled team stands out as paramount. A proficient team is essential for comprehensive oversight and operational success.

A well-trained and collaborative team not only navigates various challenges but also contributes to informed decision-making crucial for the company’s success. Fortunately, Tradewind’s team is not only competent but also works seamlessly together.

In Johan’s experience, managing the dual roles of Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer is unique. The synergy between the two positions lies in the shared objective of ensuring the company adheres to all applicable rules and operates ethically and sustainably in every jurisdiction. This marks his first experience holding both titles concurrently. Managing both compliance and sustainability entails more than just adhering to laws; it involves conducting operations responsibly and sustainably.

The significance of combining these roles becomes evident in potential overlaps. For instance, violations of environmental laws or incidents like spills may bridge both compliance and sustainability concerns. By comprehending the nuances of both sides, Johan can assess and address such issues effectively. This dual role not only enhances operational efficiency but also underscores the company’s commitment to sustainability, showcasing its importance in the organizational structure.

Journey of Evolution

As the company expanded, Johan played a pivotal role in structuring various departments and refining processes. When entrusted with leading the operations department, his initial focus was on building and optimizing its functions to ensure smooth operations. This phase presented the typical challenges associated with the transition from a small to a medium-sized company, a growth experience many may be familiar with. It proved to be a formidable but rewarding challenge.

By the conclusion of 2019, the operational aspects were functioning seamlessly. The department had been established, and all the necessary rules and guidelines were firmly in place. At that juncture, his superior approached him with an intriguing proposition—to take on a new challenge. This challenge involved enhancing the sustainability aspect and assuming full responsibility for compliance, which had been a significant project for him previously. The goal was not only to focus on these key areas but also to build them up, like what he had accomplished for the operations department.

This opportunity arose at a time when sustainability was gaining increasing significance. It justified the creation of a dedicated role, essentially a hybrid between sustainability and compliance, within the company. He enthusiastically accepted the challenge and embarked on establishing this new department. The term “sustainability” has varied interpretations. Some view it in the literal sense—ensuring the continued growth and endurance of processes. Meanwhile, others associate sustainability with environmental consciousness, emphasizing the reduction of carbon emissions especially as these concerns gained traction.

Sustainable Finance Practices

Johan emphasized that, while managing their carbon footprint remains a priority, the financial institution he represents has relatively low direct emissions. The primary focus of Tradewind is on evaluating the sustainability practices of their clients, thorough assessments that emphasize both environmental and social aspects.

In the social dimension, the institution scrutinizes whether clients engage in practices such as child or forced labor to ensure adherence to ethical standards. On the environmental front, assessments are conducted to determine whether clients have a record of committing environmental offenses. The institution aims to prioritize sustainability in both environmental and social contexts, seeking to ensure that clients align with responsible business practices and commit to ethical and eco-friendly standards.

Thorough assessments are conducted on clients during the onboarding process to ensure compliance with the institution’s standards. While available certifications and reports are one aspect used during the assessment, the institution’s approach encompasses a wide range of analyses. Personal interaction is deemed significant, and visits to clients’ offices and production facilities are made to better understand their operations and conduct comprehensive due diligence checks.

The onboarding process involves a strategic approach, where global colleagues strategically positioned in the countries of clients and prospects eliminate the need for extensive international travel, reducing associated costs significantly. This approach minimizes the risk and financial burden of flying someone in, especially if a deal doesn’t materialize.

Due diligence primarily relies on the institution’s in-house team and dedicated employees stationed in relevant countries to ensure a localized and thorough understanding of the market.  Financing costs are based on various factors, including the funding period and the portfolio of buyers.

Words of Wisdom

In offering advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Johan emphasizes that compliance has been a prominent topic for a long time, with sustainability now emerging as the new focal point. Currently, there is a high demand for individuals studying subjects related to sustainability, presenting numerous job opportunities. The potential, particularly in the sustainability sector, is substantial at this time.

The challenge for those excelling in these roles, is that they may not necessarily become the most popular figures within their companies. However, such positions are undeniably rewarding. Excelling in one’s role could mean operating behind the scenes and becoming a part of the backbone of the organization.

Individuals focused on compliance and sustainability play a crucial role in ensuring that deals, both new and existing, align with regulations and meet sustainability standards. It positions them as essential contributors. Even if one works at the executive level, a team working together is the key to maintaining compliance and sustainability standards.

It is essential to acknowledge and give a voice to all team members, ensuring that their work is recognized. Appreciating the efforts of everyone is crucial in portraying a comprehensive picture of the company’s dedication to compliance and sustainability.