Electric dreams: CEO aims to take Nuclearelectrica to next level
Marking a milestone in Nuclearelectrica's management history, Daniela Lulache, the first woman to take the helm of the company, plans to upgrade Romania's best at industry level and make it one of the most modern and top-performing companies in the country
The first step has been taken, with the successfully completed IPO in September. What's next? Daniela Lulache tells The Diplomat-Bucharest about results, high expectations and her hopes for her challenging mandate.
The only female CEO of Romania's only nuclear company, Daniela Lulache says, "High-performing management is not a matter of gender, but a matter of self-discipline and vision. Managing a company like Nuclearelectrica means being responsible for the safe operation of the firm, maintenance of the operating results, progressive financial growth, wise investment policies, turning the company from a merely stable one into a strong competitive player on the capital market and completing major projects. (...) This is the way I perceive my mandate at Nuclearelectrica. I have never thought of myself as the first woman to hold such a position, but rather as the manager, who professionally assumes the necessary responsibilities to grow the company."
Lulache was recruited as CEO of Nuclearelectrica in May of this year after a period of ups and downs for the company and during its full listing on the stock exchange. Concerns over nuclear power following events at Fukushima coupled with customary economic fluctuations led some capital market analysts to doubt the success of the first IPO on the Bucharest Stock Exchange in five years.
Despite the postponements and question marks, Lulache says the listing silenced the doubters. "Nuclearelectrica's IPO was a success, a confirmation of its results on the capital market. It took a team effort to prepare a successful listing process as there were several corporate aspects to address just before launching the offer, to allow both institutional investors and individuals to see the company's future growth prognosis and existing results in such a way as to guarantee their successful investment. I think we managed this, as proved by the oversubscription rates on all three portions. My arrival as a general manager at Nuclearelectrica coincided with the pre-listing period of the company on the stock exchange; therefore we joined forces to overcome existing administrative obstacles and make this IPO a success. I want to thank each Nuclearelectrica worker and to tell them that this IPO was a success because of their hard work over these years," adds the CEO.
The dynamics of the capital market and meeting shareholders' interests put pressure on management to increase efficiency. The big challenge stems from using the market as a measuring tool for company performance, which is subsequently a barometer of price evolution. To what extent can a state-owned company break boundaries and make a significant difference for both shareholders and its progress?
"My main objective - and this includes all management structures and related activities - is to transform Nuclearelectrica from a stable state-owned company into a modern corporation.
This firm is going to operate according to the best international corporate governance standards with long-term strategic objectives and implementation plans.
Until now the company has focused mainly on the production process - from now on we are going to focus on profitability. Nuclearelectrica is too big to be making a small profit. The company needs to change its inward perspective, to become open and market oriented, to take a visionary, outward approach, and we can only do this by changing the relatively traditional mindset and implementing all of the above. It takes effort, but this is the very reason for my being here," says Lulache.
She links operational performance and the success of the IPO with the employees' work over time and emphasizes team effort as a pillar of the recent success. It is mainly "the high level of responsibility people take in every activity they perform. They have repeatedly enjoyed the experience of holding top positions at international level, therefore they aim higher. (...)Then, it is the expertise Nuclearelectrica has, the valuable specialists; these will lead the firm along the path of development and growth it will take from now on," adds the CEO.
Asked about the main differences between private and state-owned entities, she replies, "Some differences reside in the specifics of the company's activity and translate into a rather traditional inward orientation instead of looking outward. This needs to be addressed, as the concept of a modern company requires a balanced approach involving the two. Modernizing the company is not just a concept, but the only way to adapt and grow stronger." Balancing both attributes and needs, Lulache pinpoints what seems to be her biggest challenge: "So far, Nuclearelectrica is the best Romania has at industry level. My plan is to upgrade this ‘best at industry level' to make the company one of the most modern and top-performing companies at national level, able to function as a role model for both private and state-owned companies." Bottom line: "We will preserve the tradition of excellence, but we will modernize the managerial vision," she says.
As is obvious at big European integrated energy companies, for nuclear operations to perform well within the framework of a modern corporation that is competitive on the capital market, it comes down to a central tenet of business: a well planned human resource policy to retain specialists. A glance at its history shows that Nuclearelectrica has had its share of personnel issues over the years. To dissuade employees from leaving for better paid jobs abroad, Lulache says, "Human resources are the most important asset that the company has and retaining personnel is one of our top priorities. It requires a long time to train and form nuclear power plant specialists and it has become imperative to set HR policies to keep them, since more and more strong states have started developing nuclear capacity. People need motivation, both professional and personal, and we strive to align their career development interests and needs with the company's strategy for development. In addition to motivating the existing personnel, we also need to attract and train new specialists; therefore Nuclearelectrica will adopt a strategy to help students build a career in the nuclear field and then integrate them within the company's nuclear culture."
The idea of achieving local community support for nuclear power is often met with skepticism, but it comes down to a determined effort, gradually implemented at a sufficient scale, intended to attract the community's interest and respond to its concerns. Understanding the complexity of nuclear operation is key to further development, argues Lulache. "It takes support from the community to run a nuclear power plant. The operator needs to make sure that the public clearly understands what it takes to operate a plant. Transparency and constant information for the public about operations, radioactive waste storage, soil, water and air emissions are mandatory. The local community of Cernavoda receives such information on a daily basis and we are keen on maintaining an open dialogue with the community in order to proactively anticipate and resolve common interest issues," she said.
At the end of 2012, Nuclearelectrica's two operating units were ranked among the best nuclear units at global level based on the total installed capacity factor since entering into service. Each of the units produces 706 MWh and together they cover approximately 20 percent of the energy consumption needs at national level. The start of Lulache's mandate bodes well for the years to come, while for an energy system that needs all hands on, nuclear might just be the opportunity to prove that positive change is still possible. Lulache still has to face challenges to complete the Units 3&4 Project and transform the company from a producer to an investor focused on strategic market opportunities. "I am 100 percent focused on Nuclearelectrica, therefore all my efforts are going into growing the company and transforming it into a very competitive player on the market," she reiterated.