Reem Al Anbari is the Chief Financial Officer of Abu Dhabi Polymers Company (Borouge), part of the ADNOC Group of Companies and is the first female to hold that position anywhere in the UAE’s oil and gas sector. Pipeline spoke exclusively with Al Anbari to discuss the role of women in the region’s oil and gas sector
As the GCC looks to increase the number of women working in its oil and gas sector, the UAE is leading the way in terms of regional progress. Reem Al Anbari has over twenty years’ experience working in the UAE’s oil and gas sector and has now risen to the position of Chief Financial Officer. Despite this lofty achievement, Al Anbari has set her sights even higher, as she explained to Pipeline Magazine:
“I am always setting myself new challenges and setting new targets for myself. One day I would like to be CEO, or even take a bigger role in the government” she said.
Al Anbari’s meteoric rise to the top serves as a shining example to other women that they can aim for the very top in their industry. Al Anbari puts her success down to hard work and persistence and believes that education is the cornerstone of a successful career.
“I got my BA in Economics & Administration Science in Accounting from The United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain and qualified as a CPA in San Diego, USA. This has enabled me to pursue a challenging and exciting career in the oil and gas industry for more than 20 years,” she explained.
“During the course of my working life, I have handled several senior level positions in finance and auditing. In 2010, I joined the Abu Dhabi Polymers Company, a joint-venture petrochemical company between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Austria’s Borealis. In 2014, I was promoted to the position of Chief Financial Officer managing finance for both Borouge companies - Abu Dhabi Polymer Company based in Abu Dhabi and Borouge Sales and Marketing, based in Singapore. I manage 144 employees across multiple locations in the UAE, India and across Asia Pacific.
“I am the first woman to occupy a CFO position in the UAE oil and gas industry and among the ADNOC group of companies,” she added.
Women in the oil and gas industry
Al Anbari believes that there is no limit to the role women can play in the region’s oil and gas sector. However, she warns that anyone wanting to pursue a career in oil and gas must be ready to work in one of the most demanding sectors in the world.
“In our region, the oil and gas industry is the engine of the economy. Working in this environment requires women to work hard. Developing women’s leadership skills and accelerating their career progression skills on strategic thinking, work delegation, and decision-making are important.
“Women need to stay focused, committed, assertive and persistent. Also, women can demonstrate their capability by volunteering for demanding projects and assignments and taking ownership of them. Women should be constantly challenging themselves and need to seize every opportunity that comes their way. Taking an opportunity is like riding a train. Once you miss the trip, you have to wait for the next train,” she said.
Al Anbari believes that the UAE’s national government deserves enormous credit for the way it has proactively sort to promote and showcase its female employees.
“We have utilised the support that was given to women by our government. In the UAE for example, adding 8 female ministers to the UAE cabinet is a good sign and brought these exceptional women to the spotlight. This shows that women are capable of reaching the Executive Board level in this country and will motivate young women graduates to aim higher and excel to become the best in their chosen fields. There is a natural progression happening right now. We’re at an exciting time; it’s the beginning of a big shift,” she said.
While regional governments bare some of the responsibility for ensuring more women reach senior positions in their respective countries, Al Anbari believes that women must also be ready to take control of their own careers.
“Initiatives to empower women are still in their early days, but the results are starting to show. We’ll see more results in time. Women need to grab these opportunities and be persistent in attaining their goals. Women need to continue to develop their talents and take the risks to develop their careers in the industry. Gender diversity is now part of the strategic agenda both in private and government companies. It’s not up to the region, or the industry – as women, we must encourage ourselves to be more participative, pro-active, dynamic, assertive and prepared to handle challenges and deliver on expectations,” she explained.
“Young women need to take the initiative, the important first step. Then they must push themselves to progress. Education is the key starting point from which they can build up their skills and leadership qualities. They need to set a target for themselves and work hard to attain it.”
Abu Dhabi recently hosted the Women in Industry Forum, which will serve as a prelude to the Women in Energy Forum at ADIPEC 2016. Al Anbari believes that events such as these are crucial in helping to raise awareness of women’s issues and opportunities in the workplace, within the GCC.
“Young people need role models. Whatever young people see – they can become. This conference brings good visibility to great role models. I’m proud to be a part of it and show what women are doing in the UAE. There are a lot of exciting opportunities and initiatives for the advancement of women, particularly in this industry. As a female leader, I’d like to share these with them and I like to believe I am contributing to their sustainable development.”
Borouge: Creating value downstream
2015 was a tough year for companies operating in the oil and gas sector but Borouge has gone from strength to strength despite the challenging conditions.
“Of course a turbulent environment like this is always a challenge because prices are changing very rapidly and significantly. This is the simple nature of any commodity. However, the nature of Borouge’s business is different. Although volatile oil price has added pressure to the business, there are other drivers such as market demand and supply that are always making the balances.
Borouge has grown through many market cycles. We ensure that our team is focused and engaged. Our infrastructure is new. Our innovation pipeline is flooded. Our portfolio of differentiated solutions makes us more resilient to adverse market conditions. We’re positioned for growth through this cycle and beyond,” Al Anbari explained.
Borouge has recently completed the Borouge 3 project, which marks a major milestone for the company. With this expansion, Borouge has become the largest integrated, single-site polyolefin complex in the world. Its total production capacity has expanded from 2 million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes per year. The company has upgraded its entire logistics operation and enhanced its talent base to deliver new capacity and gain efficiency.
In November 2015, Borouge said that it would double its petrochemical output in 2016. The company is well on track to achieve this aim, as Al Anbari explains.
“With ramped up production this year, Borouge will achieve the target to maximise its production capacity to 4.5 million tonnes per year. With this additional capacity, Borouge will support key industries with a wide range of applications in the areas of packaging, infrastructure, energy, and mobility. Borouge is also continuously exploring new business opportunities in other industries such as agriculture and healthcare. Furthermore, our innovation is geared towards delivering positive results for our customers and their industries, and for society as a whole. Borouge will add value and benefits to society by taking on real global challenges and offering real solutions.”
Borouge is a fully integrated downstream company and enjoys a close relationship with its parent company ADNOC. This has been a key facilitator of growth, despite the challenging market conditions.
“Borouge produces resins in the United Arab Emirates, in a cost efficient production facility which is fully integrated with our parent company, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and its Group Companies. This arrangement serves Borouge very well. We will continue to build synergy with the upstream part of the business.”
Al Anbari believes that this strategy will serve the company well in the years to come, as it looks to capitalise on its business objectives.
“Borouge has long term objectives, and is committed to its mission - to add value through innovation. We see governments setting higher standards on safety and sustainability. We see urbanisation, population growth, and lifestyle changes across our markets. This is an established trend which creates an opportunity for plastic to play a positive role in society. This is where we want to be in the market. Our portfolio is well suited to this kind of condition, and we see a big opportunity to cater to the demand for high-end, differentiated solutions,” she said.
This interview appeared in the July issue of Pipeline Magazine