Building Resilience, Reaching Milestones: Q&A with Kenny Woods, FIS CEO

As 2022 comes to an end, we caught up with FIS Chief Exec Kenny Woods to look back on the past couple of years and look ahead to 2023 and beyond.

Kenny Woods, FIS Chemicals Chief Exec — Q&A December 2022

Kenny Woods, FIS Chemicals CEO (sporting his best festive tie)

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FIS:You've been in post as Chief Executive Officer of FIS since 2020 — what's your experience been like so far?

Kenny: The past 2 years have been quite a journey for all at FIS — and I am sure it has been an unusual and turbulent time for every business and person on the planet. I began this role with FIS in the midst of the global pandemic, and like most others I expected it to be relatively short-lived. Weak demand, supply chain turmoil and the welfare of staff were all key concerns from day #1.

When it looked like recovery was gathering pace, the war in Europe cast the industry back into chaos. There isn’t an instruction manual that covers these scenarios and how best so manage them, so it has been difficult and challenging at times but also a fantastic learning experience. I am really enjoying it, but I'd be happy if there wasn’t another unprecedented event added to the mix in 2023, if possible!

Regardless of the challenges, I am grateful and proud of the resilience that FIS staff have shown in taking care of each other, supporting our customers and contributing to our local communities throughout it all.

"The ultimate goal for the business is growth — new products, new sectors, new regions; while also ensuring that our valued clients at the moment are well supported."

FIS: What have been your key focuses in the first couple of years?

KW: The first focus was simple — listen and learn how the business functions, and identify where we could improve. FIS is a business that already did so much to a high standard, so that was encouraging, but we saw potential in some key areas that we're now working hard to fulfil.

The ultimate goal for the business is growth — new products, new sectors, new regions; while also ensuring that our valued clients at the moment are well supported. We want to build supply chain resilience, ensure that our R&D always keeps pace with new technologies and continue to 'modernise' the business where we can.

Another cornerstone of our strategy is environmental, and we remain committed to achieving Net Zero by 2030. To do this, we will continue to work diligently on improving energy usage and reducing emissions across the business.

FIS: How important is it to have a strong core team around you to achieve the business' goals?

KW: It's essential. In all honesty, it's the team that will grow the business and achieve our goals, not me. My role is to direct, maintain our focus and help chart the best path for success, and the whole FIS staff will have a role to play in making sure we get there. They have already made huge contributions to our success since 2020.

As part of our wider growth plan we want to continue to add to the FIS team, and perhaps look internationally for specialist knowledge. Any time we hire a new staff member, we're always looking for someone who can really 'own' their role and run with the responsibility given to them.

FIS Chemicals team in warehouse facility, Aberdeenshire, UK

FIS: As you reflect on 2022, what have been the key challenges and achievements?

KW: The effect of the pandemic and war in Ukraine has caused supply chain chaos and raised costs across the board. As a result, our inventory strategy had to pivot to 'just in case' — as opposed to 'just in time'.

Internally, we're still only a couple of years into the new management of FIS and a lot has changed for long-term staff. We don't ever want to ignore the cultural impact that this has, and we remain sensitive to the whole team in that regard. Building a positive and supportive culture within the business will never be off the table, in terms of key focuses.

There have been some great achievements this year, including strong additions to the team, new international contracts, increased revenue in new sectors, stronger supply chain resilience and capability of international manufacturing. We have also seen a reduction in CO2 emissions and zero spills or LTA accidents in our operations.

Another nice milestone for us this year was our new brand and website — a refresh for the business and how we communicate what we do.

"This is a talented, innovative industry which can and is focusing on the transition to clean energy. There is some incredible cutting-edge technology coming that will help our push for Net Zero."

FIS: You recently attended the landmark ADIPEC conference in Abu Dhabi — what were your main take-aways from that?

KW: I think ADIPEC 2022 was the best exhibition I have ever attended! There was a noticeably positive vibe throughout and it reflected a buoyant energy industry. I think we got some real clarity on the long and short-term futures of the energy industry — a realisation that the requirement for oil & gas will still be here for the next 50 years. It marked a complete U-turn from a few years ago, which felt much more 'doom and gloom'. This positive approach was refreshing.

This is a talented, innovative industry which can and is focusing on the transition to clean energy. There is some incredible cutting-edge technology coming that will help our push for Net Zero.

We all need this industry, and every sector needs to work together on energy transition as a long-term project. But we can’t turn off oil & gas generated lights and heating just yet.

FIS: How are you spending the December 2022 festive break?

KW: I'm looking forward to spending Christmas with family and friends, enjoying good food and drink. As ever, I'm sure the usual Christmas TV and film favourites will be on — plus, I'll try and sneak in a few football matches.

During those few days off I'll be hoping to switch off from business, but it's not easy to do in this role. Ultimately the plan is to rest, enjoy quality time and recharge, so I'm ready for 2023.

FIS: Looking ahead to 2023, what targets remain and what new objectives are in sight?

KW: We are going into 2023 with enthusiasm and excitement. Alongside the goals I mentioned previously — growth, expanding the team, widening geographical scope, diversifying, modernising, reducing emissions — we are also looking forward to continuing to support our local communities in various ways.

Whether that's through donating our time or raising funds, FIS will be there to help local charities, community projects and other initiatives in and around Aberdeenshire. That's really important to us as a team.

To borrow a phrase from my beloved football team — We Never Stop.

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