Lesley Heads, Senior Commodities Trader, South Africa

At Seaboard, we create career opportunities for select individuals that are passionate about working for a multinational company in exciting locations. We enjoy the challenges that come with operating a successful business with operations around the world. Our team is made up of talented and diverse individuals that bring a unique blend of qualifications and experience to our business. The best way to learn about a career at Seaboard is to hear from our employees in their own words. That said, we will regularly profile some of the key roles at Seaboard around the world.

Lesley Heads, Senior Commodities Trader at Seaboard Overseas Trading & Shipping (Pty) Ltd

What is your job title and location?Lesley Heads | Seaboard Overseas
Senior Trader, Durban, South Africa

How long have you worked for Seaboard Overseas?
14 years

What are your duties?
My duties have changed numerous times during my years at Seaboard. I initially started off in the Accounting department in the Durban office. Currently, I oversee our office in Mombasa Kenya and am responsible for all trade into East Africa. Also, I procure all imported wheat and other grains for Southern Africa and East Africa.

Describe a typical day at work?
The day usually starts with reading as many market reports as possible, which will have come via e-mail overnight. I catch up on any trade administrative work from the day/night before, like allocation of derivative trades, writing up purchases for entry into our trading system. I discuss any vessel operational issues with our Operations Department. Numerous calls are held throughout the day with our Mombasa office regarding commodity pricing, cash positions, market conditions and sales strategy for the day and the week. Typically, I handle several calls or Skype chats with wheat suppliers and brokers around the world regarding market dynamics and offers and bids in the market. I negotiate, and conclude, the purchase of wheat. I handle daily freight requirements with our chartering department in Athens, Greece, including the specifics of purchase contracts to ensure our vessel fixtures match our contractual rights and obligations on both the buying and sales sides. I am a liaison with our traders in Isle of Man regarding procurement issues, market dynamics, etc. I check and sign all contractual documents pertaining to procurement, all AP and AR transactions and all operational transactions pertaining to Kenyan office. Lastly, I work closely with our clients regarding their wheat requirements, and negotiate deals when they are ready to purchase.

What are some of your Seaboard career highlights (i.e., the things you are most proud of or efficient processes you’ve implemented)?
One of the biggest highlights for me personally was making the transition from Accounts division to Trading. Also, I helped rebuild the Seaboard wheat market share to a dominant position in imports into South Africa after the split of the company (break-away of trading & operations team). I was the Project Manager for the successful implementation of a new Trading system for Seaboard Overseas Limited, and opened Seaboard Overseas Kenya and building it (with the team in Mombasa) to the largest importer within two years.

What do you enjoy most about working for Seaboard?
I really like the diversity of the workload; the opportunities for growth and being part of a dynamic and integrated team.

Did you have any hesitation in taking the job?
No.

What surprised you most about the job or location?
What surprised me most was how quickly we grew our business and how quickly the business dynamics can change.

What education and/or skills from the past have prepared you most for your current role?
I earned a Bachelors of Commerce from University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg) and an MBA from Henley Management College. Plus, I adapt easily to change in the workplace.

Why did you choose to work in the agribusiness commodity industry?
Agribusiness is very different from anything I had done before, and it seemed intriguing.

Which publications (industry, business, technology) do you read regularly?
I read various daily and weekly market reports, specifically the World Grain publication.

What advice would you give to a potential candidate for your role?
There is so much you can learn while in this role – be enquiring, seize every opportunity, manage your time and efforts carefully, embrace change and the diversity the company and the industry has to offer.

How do you spend your free time?
Family time! Personally, I like to go to the gym, play tennis, read and watch sporting events. We are less than three hours from Drakensburg Mountains – wonderful for weekend getaways and outdoor activities. Here are some of my favorite places in the area:

Oyster Box Hotel Umhlanga
One of my favourite hotels is the Oyster Box in Umhlanga (north of the city). This is a view from the terrace overlooking the pool and lighthouse
Durban South Africa hills overlooking the city
Just inland from Durban are beautiful rolling hills – ideal for hiking.
Stadium in Durban South Africa
One of my favourite landmarks: a sports stadium shaped like a basket, built in 2010 when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup for the first time. There is a sky-cart that goes to the top, providing 360-degree views of Durban and surrounds.
Durban South Africa coast
Durban is a coastal City, with beautiful beaches and a warm ocean.