Alumni profile: Guilherme Kfouri

A tip off from a former Mundusian, a background in financial journalism, and an ability to digest complex information in a timely manner are all elements that have helped Guilherme Kfouri in his work so far.

2015.01.08 | Bettina Andersen

Guilherme Kfouri / Brazil
Mundus Cohort 08-10 / London 

Guilherme Kfouri is building a successful and dynamic career within the global biofuels and energy sector. Since finishing at City University London in 2010 he’s worked his way from reporter to managing editor for Platts Biofuels. It's been a job that's seen him draw on the skills he’s developed as a journalist, while also challenging him to work as a market analyst. Most recently, he’s started working for intergovernmental organisation International Sugar Organization as a Senior Economist.

We asked Guilherme to tell us a bit more about his post-Mundus career; how helpful specialising in financial and business journalism has been for him and how the Mundus experience has shaped his career direction. We also ask him for a few of his insights into the ever developing industries of journalism and biofuels, respectively. Over to Guilherme...

"WHEN I FINISHED on the Mundus Journalism programme in 2010 I applied for a number of jobs. I was lucky enough to get three job offers about the same time: one from InfraNews, one from CNBC and another from Platts. Coincidentally, a senior Erasmus Mundus colleague was working at Platts at the time and she was the one who told me about the vacancy. I can confidently say that my specialization at City University in London did open a lot of doors when I was applying for jobs.

My background in financial journalism gave me a strong head start when I joined Platts. Even though I had very little knowledge of commodity/energy markets, the skills I had acquired through EMJ and previous jobs experiences allowed me to build my knowledge base pretty quickly. First, I guess that being a journalist gave me the confidence to know exactly what to ask market participants/sources. Second, I think that the ability to gather and to digest complex information/arguments in a timely manner is something that every "Mundusian" can be proud of and, in my opinion, is a skill that most professionals overlook these days.

Knowing how to communicate efficiently and competently, be in it in text or on a presentation is key to succeed in any line of work, but even more so for a journalist/analyst. So even though my job with Platts sat somewhere between that of a journalist and an analyst, it was my skills as a financial journalist that allowed me to excel. Asking questions, connecting dots and delivering powerful messages are important pillars for those who want to pursue journalism, but they are also necessary skills for a market analyst."

EMJ: You wrote your thesis in London on biofuels then ended up staying in the UK, was that the original plan when you applied for the programme?

Guilherme: My thesis was about the hurdles and challenges to develop biofuels for the aviation industry. I did not choose this topic with the intention of breaking into the commodity/energy space, but it did come handy.

I had no concrete plan to stay in Europe. I decided to stay purely because of the opportunities that arose after graduation, with the job offers that I mentioned. Having said that, many of my colleagues who returned to their native countries found fulfilling professional opportunities there.

EMJ: How does coming from a BRICs country shape your perspective on the global energy sector and the way you approach your job?

Guilherme: Though it may sound like a cliche, being a foreigner means I see things with a different perspective, and this can be valuable in many ways, including at work. I grew up and lived most of my life in an emerging country where opportunities can be limited in many ways, including professionally. In Brazil, when people have an opportunity, they make sure they grab it. I guess this is somewhat my approach towards my career.

EMJ: What do you think the most important global stories to be reporting on and discussing in the biofuel sector are for 2015?

Guilherme: Biofuels will continue to make the headlines in the next few years because of the simmering food vs fuel debate. We are currently going through a period of low commodity prices, but any spike in food costs may once again trigger a wave of negative sentiment towards the use of crops such as corn and soybeans to make fuels. In addition, the "shale revolution" is likely to keep energy prices depressed in the short/medium term, which can make the case for more biofuels hard to pitch.  So in the next few years politicians will be looking more closely at the costs/benefits of biofuels before pushing ahead with policies to promote further production and/or consumption. But... as always, predicting the future of commodity markets is a losing game. Things are changing everyday and the best we can do is sit and watch.

EMJ: You’ve worked as a journalist and a financial analyst - and both at the same time. Where do you see the future of journalism heading in an environment where the role of a journalist is constantly being reshaped and tested?

Guilherme: Most people talk about the demise of journalism but I personally think we are going in the opposite direction. Never before has there been so much demand for trained journalists simply because the 24-hour news cycle and the internet have created such a massive overload of information that it makes it very difficult for society in general to identify the narratives and add meaning to it.

We need credible journalists to help us navigate through this sea of information and - most importantly - to help us make sense of it. Based on that, I believe that the future of journalism will be about compiling and delivering analytical content that goes beyond reporting/aggregating facts. This will also take place in different forms and platforms which will require journalists to be able to adapt and create content for multiple media.