Vivid Sehgal, our Chief Financial Officer who joined us in March 2021, tells us why he joined Tate & Lyle, and talks about the past, present and future in our Annual Report 2021.
What attracted you to Tate & Lyle?
The purpose of Improving Lives for Generations is one of the main reasons I joined. We help our customers improve people’s lives by making food and drink healthier and that’s something I believe passionately in.
And the Company has many other outstanding attributes: a strong growth profile with an emphasis on innovation; a healthy balance sheet with opportunities for both organic and inorganic growth especially in emerging markets; a strong Board and management team; and a genuine focus on inclusion and respect.
Tate & Lyle is a company that really lives and breathes its purpose. In short, the Company seemed very aligned to my own personal values.
What have you observed in the first few months?
Thankfully, that things were exactly as I thought they would be! And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve worked in different businesses over 30 years and it’s great to work for a Company with a strong business model and that’s so thoughtful in how it operates.
And by that I mean that the purpose of the Company really does permeate how we operate and what we are trying to achieve. And, at Tate & Lyle, the finance function is a real partner to the business, challenging how the Company operates and adding value, and I’m delighted to be able to contribute to that.
Strong financial discipline gives us the financial strength and flexibility to invest in the future.
Could you comment on Tate & Lyle's financial position?
I’ve been fortunate to come into a company with strong financial discipline. It is also prudent – doing the pension buy-in the 2020 financial year to save cash while protecting people’s pensions, for example; or raising debt at record low interest rates this year in case it was needed (which it wasn’t!).
But it also knows when and where to invest, such as completing two acquisitions funded by the free cash flow generated in the year. As a result, the balance sheet remains strong.
Given the decline in out-of-home consumption, how has Tate & Lyle delivered such strong results?
At first glance, it looks like Primary Products was hit by the impact of lockdowns on the out-of-home market, and that Food & Beverage Solutions made up for it. But there’s far more to it than that. Food & Beverage Solutions was also affected by the reduction in out-of-home consumption through exposure to the food service market, such as restaurants and bars.
If you look at the detail, you’ll see that Primary Products, while helped by a very strong performance from Commodities, also benefited from the strategy it has pursued for a number of years around diversifying its product portfolio and targeting new and growing markets.
Similarly, in Food & Beverage Solutions, the strategy of focusing on creating health and wellness solutions is paying off as people are increasingly looking for healthier options when they eat and drink.
We also can’t forget the tremendous contribution from Global Operations for delivering above and beyond on the productivity and cost agenda as well as great flexibility to keep customers served. It really has been a Group-wide team effort, which is fantastic to see.
Where are you investing in capital and why?
There are two key areas – growth and sustainability, which together will enable a strong future for the Company. As I mentioned, on the growth side, Tate & Lyle made two acquisitions this year, and I’m delighted to be able to contribute my experience in this area as we integrate those acquisitions and look for new opportunities.
On the sustainability side, Tate & Lyle is in the process of a multi-year investment of more than US$150 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve operational efficiency. This is all part of delivering our commitment to eliminate the use of coal in our operations by 2025, and to reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
What positives will you take forward from this pandemic year?
From what I’ve observed, right across Tate & Lyle people have adapted amazingly well to the move to working from home for office-based staff and, for plant-based staff, the move to smaller crews and new working protocols. One cultural shift that’s been very beneficial is the devolving of decision-making throughout the business. Local managers have had to make more decisions and people have had to trust each other to get things done – and they did.
The finance team had to work harder to keep controls strong, and to make sure nothing went wrong, and to change the way they worked since the simple act of being in a room with each other wasn’t possible.
While we’re all looking forward to being in the office together – and I can’t wait to meet my team in person! – the creativity, agility and flexibility the team has shown, and this stepping up to take responsibility, are things I’d certainly like to see more of in the coming year.
What excites you most about the future and your new role?
Tate & Lyle is emerging from the pandemic in a position of real strength. Not only has the Company done a great job of delivering what it said it would do over the last few years, but the business itself, with its focus on health and wellness solutions, has strong opportunities for growth, especially in the higher growth markets of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
But more than that, the companies of the future are, I believe, those that want to do the right thing, and that have a strong purpose guiding who they are and what they do. Taking care of people is a hallmark of a strong company, and Tate & Lyle not only takes care of its own, but extends this attitude of care beyond the walls of the Company and into its local communities and wider society.
A Company that’s not just about driving results, but driving them in a good and sustainable way – what could be better than that?
Read Vivid's complete overview from page 44 of the Annual Report 2021, here.