Her alter ego …says:
“She never managed to fulfill any of her teenage dreams due to …a dark blue suit! A friend working in the French shipping bank Credit Lyonnais, offered her an opportunity for a six-month internship as a switchboard operator with the first interview with the Branch Manager, taking place in Piraeus, at the heart of Greek Shipping. She was sitting in front of him, wearing for the first time in her life a dark blue suit, full of nervousness. Years later she found out that although her multilingual skills made her valuable to the Bank’s workforce, the suit played an important role to her recruitment.
During the first month of her training, she observed crazy guys working all day long, communicating one third in Greek, one third in English and one third in words that not only she could not understand but could not find in any dictionary whatsoever. Almost all their phrases contained the word “shipping” and “vessel”. She could understand what shipping was, she had traveled with ships in Greek islands!!! But “vessel”…..!!!!!
Six months later she was ready to return to her French studies and teenage dreams, when the Branch Manager called her in his office proposing a promotion to the Loans department and a full-time contract. The trip had begun and a whole new world was there. Eager for learning new things, she begun swimming in the deep waters of banking operations. Her next target was the Shipping department, but it was a long path, and took her countless hours of hard work, seminars all over the world and in depth studying of any shipping related material to fill in the blanks on shipping.
The exit of Credit Lyonnais from Greece opened up new horizons. XRTC Business Consultants was established by George Xiradakis – a colleague of Katerina, and she was in his core executive team, representing Credit Lyonnais Shipping activities in Greece. Natixis Bank representation followed, after Credit Lyonnais merger with Credit Agricole Indosuez, enabling the team to further penetrate niche markets such as Ferries. The formation, development, and materialization of various types of debt and equity structures as well as financial and strategic advisory services on M+As, corporate acquisitions, supporting role on Initial Public Offerings, bond issues, share capital increases and loan restructuring are among others, some of the services being developed in XRTC Business Consultants.
The main characteristic of Shipping, being the sailing through turbulence waters, led them into new adventures. The entrance in the Chinese ship finance market and the conclusion of the first bilateral financing of China Development Bank with a Greek shipping company was a worth noting accomplishment of XRTC Business Consultants that created new opportunities with the East.
She tells us: “I am very proud to have been part of this company’s success story. One of the main reasons behind this success, is apart of the high level of its flexibility and adaptability, the combination of teamwork and the personal qualities of each team member. There can only be one Captain on a ship! Almost everybody in a highly competitive environment, like shipping, is trying hard to become a leader. Only few have the abilities and only fewer succeed.”
She continues: “I read a story once that made me realize the leader’s “followers” importance. When President John F. Kennedy visited NASA headquarters, he met a foreman sweeping the floor. President Kennedy asked him what he was doing. “I help a man go to the moon,” the caretaker replied. Leaders must be able to light the flame, but followers are the ones who keep it alive.”
Over the years, she never lost her eagerness for learning or her love for Shipping and that kept her feeling privileged and blessed for the gift that life offered her, sailing in this “world”. The funny thing is that she never considered Shipping as a permanent business direction cause at the back of her mind she always had her teenage dreams waiting to be fulfilled.
She ends up saying: “I kept saying to myself that there are always alternatives in life. It is only now that I have realized that in Shipping “you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave”… (paraphrasing Eagle’s song “Hotel California”).”
www.allaboutshipping.co.uk continues the presentation of the women who made it in the Top 100 Women in Shipping for 2020; we look forward receiving each one’s story in 400 to 700 words.
N.B. Katerina Fitsiou was in place 96th in 2020 and 97th in 2019.