Q & A with new Board member Hélène Robaye

Traders Talking

Traders Talking - Q & A with new Board member Hélène Robaye simple text imageTraders Talking - Q & A with new Board member Hélène Robaye simple text image
What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in energy trading? 

At engineering school, I followed a course on the liberalization of energy markets. I discovered a new world that was previously unknown to me and got immediately attracted to it: basically, it is about the marriage of engineers and economist.   

What surprised you when you entered energy trading? 

That was a long time ago, but I remember being surprised by the dynamism of the department, working with very talented and motivated people. I also remember having to cope with tight deadlines. Markets are organised in such a way that you do not have much time for unforeseen events. As a trader, you are expected to react very fast, making the best possible decision, based on the information you have at your disposal at that moment.

If you could remove one word from the dictionary, what would it be? 

I would not remove any word: like the first agreement says, "be impeccable with your words". We need words to describe concepts, and it is important to have a full dictionary at your disposal! What I like about regulation is the fact that it combines the beauty of language with complex technical concepts: I enjoy text, especially when the author manages to phrase a complex concept well by selecting the most appropriate words.  

If you could be whisked away tomorrow to your dream holiday destination, where would it be and why? 

Without any hesitation to the Alps, probably somewhere around Briançon in the French alps. I am completely in love with mountains. They calm me, they provide me inspiration.  

What role do you envision energy traders playing in driving the transition to a more sustainable energy future? 

Energy Traders are at the core of the activity of energy sourcing for retailers. They have a key role to play in the global shift towards sustainable energy sources and a responsible supply chain which respects human rights, does not cause environmental damage. We try to identify, evaluate, monitor and mitigate the environmental and social risk in our supply chain. We work hand in hand between my team and the carbon accounting team. An Energy Trading company should carefully select the suppliers and sub-contractors with whom they do business: making sure that they meet the same commitments when it comes to human rights, fundamental freedoms, human health and safety and the environment.  

If you could have dinner with one historical figure, who would it be? What about someone who is alive today?

Singer, journalist and writer Alexandra David-Néel. About someone who is alive today? I would love to meet Courtney Dauwalter, the world's best female ultramarathon runner.  

What made you want to be a Board member? 

I am passionate about how the efficient functioning of the market can be a driver for a successful energy transition. If designed well and allowed to work efficiently, markets can solve what is fundamentally an engineering challenge: supply of energy at least cost for the society while meeting decarbonisation targets. However, wrong price signals or tools can lead to dramatic inefficiencies. Becoming an active board member allows me to further drive and promote Energy Traders Europes vision and actions, in line with its key role for society.  

What is one of your proudest achievements, and what lessons did you learn from it? 

My two daughters. I am so proud of them. I try to raise them towards autonomy and happiness. It's a daily challenge that brings so much happiness. Being a mother allowed me to become patient, and to accept that you cannot control everything.  

What are your favourite pizza toppings? 

Should we open the debate on pineapple on pizzas ? More seriously, burrata and rucola!  

What principles and ethical considerations guide your approach to board responsibilities and decision-making? 

No one can be an expert in everything. It is essential that decisions are taken after consulting the relevant experts. I'm someone who likes to consult inspirational people before making decisions.  

Which book would you choose to read for the first time again, and what makes it so captivating? 

"Le Otto Montagne", Paolo Cognetti. A hymn to friendship and a family story, the splendid text above all makes us feel the power of the mountain, which in the book is a character in its own right, capable of shaking up lives and transforming people. 

What has always intrigued you but you haven't yet pursued? Why has it remained unfulfilled? 

So many things... If I would have to chose one, I would say climbing the Matterhorn, a 4478m summit in the alps, for me the most beautiful one. I have climbed several summits already, but it takes time, and you need to be there at the right moment, when the weather conditions are just right. I would also like to take piano classes again. And read more, a lot more.    

What’s your favourite happy hour drink?  

A glass of pinot noir, or a strong blond beer.  

If you were a potato, how would you like to be cooked? 

Just boiled in its skin, because that's how you eat it with raclette.

What sources of information, analysis, and expertise do you rely on to stay ahead of the curve in the energy trading landscape? 

Sitting in a trading room, I have the chance to be accompanied by a wonderful market analysis team. They produce reports, organise briefing meetings, ... and are sitting next to me so I can always ask for "on the spot" news. And obviously, discussions with peers in sector associations such as Energy Traders Europe as well!

What are your strategies for effectively managing stress and maintaining a balanced life amidst demanding responsibilities? 

I consider myself as a stressed person. When I feel that the level of stress is too high, I usually talk to someone, to help me put things in perspective and make the right decision. For me it is important to feel free and freedom is not about doing what you want, but wanting what you do. So when stress is too high: I need to take distance to check if I am still following the right direction.   

What are some of your favourite hobbies or activities to unwind and relax? 

A hike in the forest, or a climbing session.  

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in a small village in the South of Belgium.  

What was your first job? 

I started as a day-ahead optimizer for the asset portfolio of GDF-Suez (former Engie). However, my first job during my studies was to be waitress in a theatre.

What is the association's long-term vision, and how do you contribute to achieving this ambitious goal? 

Markets are the key enabler for the energy transition: they ensure that (cheapest one first) resources are used the most efficiently . They need to evolve, become more integrated. My 15+ years career in Trading allowed me to build solid knowledge on markets functioning. I want to use this knowledge to help Energy Traders Europe explain, how market function in a simple and pedagogical fashion and how they can deliver political objectives for the energy transition. 

What personal experiences or lessons have shaped your approach to leadership and decision-making? 

I care a lot about the delivery of good work and being efficient. I am convinced that as a team, you succeed only if everyone has a good level of empowerment. I had the chance to have managers who gave me a high level of autonomy and empowerment from day one.  

Can you give us a peek into what’s on your bucket list? 

Become fluent in Spanish.  Climb some of the 4000+ summits in the Alps and be able to play the Ballade n2 in F Major from Chopin. Run an ultra trail.