10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ben van Beurden

Ben van Beurden

Ben van Beurden is the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell and his rise to the top position was a shock to many. After graduating from Delft University with a degree in chemical engineering, Ben joined Shell in 1983. He climbed the ladder of success slowly; in 1996 he was Malaysia’s LNG’s general manager operations before becoming the Vice President of Mexico Gas and Power. Ben remained in the shadows, but his skills and experience made him worthy of becoming the CEO on January 1, 2014, a position he has held to date. Let’s tell you more about Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden through these ten facts.

1. He Has Integrity

Integrity is described as doing the right thing even when no one is watching, and Ben does not need an audience to motivate him to make the world a better place. As the CEO of a company in the energy industry, he knows the effects of carbon emissions on climate. Therefore, he is spearheading a campaign to decrease the net carbon imprint caused by Shell by at least 50% by 2050. He also is collaborating with organizations that share the same mission to ensure that he meets his goal.

2. His Leadership Style

According to Candice’s Blog, there is no best approach and each style chosen depends on an individual and the circumstances. The blog gives Ben as an example of a manager who has effectively combined both the authoritative and democratic styles. His authoritative approach is cemented by the fact that he leads from the front while his democratic technique is in how he participates in the company’s events.

3. He Stands at a High Risk of Being Replaced

For over fifty years, Shell investors have been receiving dividends. Unfortunately, with the current coronavirus pandemic adversely affecting the oil prices, for the first time since 1945, they experienced a dividend payout cut. The amount went from 47 US cents to 16 cents per share which did not please the investors. Therefore top investors are now keen on replacing Ben as they deem it is the right time for a change of guard. They reasoned that as much as they understand the need for the reduction, they still expected him to have a vision. Hence they called for a change in strategy, and the first step is to look at potential successors to Ben.

4. He Was a Surprise Choice for CEO

In 2013, Peter Voser’s unexpected resignation left investors and analysts to speculate who would take over once he left. The most obvious choices, were Andrew Brown, Matthias Bichseland, Marvin Odum and Simon Henry. However, they were surprised to learn of the appointment of Ben Van Beurden as the next CEO. He was barely known, and although by then he had been with the company for three decades, he had only joined the committee in 2013. All the same, it was not an entirely new way of recruiting a CEO, since even Voser’s predecessor, Jeroen, was an unexpected choice.

5. His Dream Job

Currently, Ben holds a position that most people dream of- being the CEO of a reputable company in the energy industry. However, that was not his dream job, and even today, he still hopes to be an academic. He admitted that he perhaps was not smart enough to have been in the academic field, but Ben would love to end up there so maybe that is his retirement plan.

6. He Finds His Job Challenging

In his interview with Make The Future, Ben confessed that even after being the CEO of Shell for over five years, he still found his job challenging. Of course, it has to be when you are at the helm of a company that operates in more than 70 countries. With the oil prices being prone to fluctuations, Ben must also feel the impact of any economic crisis such as the current coronavirus pandemic that forced him to reduce the dividend payout.

7. Why He Joined Shell

Ben had not planned on being in the energy industry, but after becoming a chemical engineer, he had to look for work. Being Dutch, he explained that Shell was the only company that offered the most growth opportunities for a chemical engineer. Upon joining the company, Ben confessed that energy did not strike him as the most exciting thing about working for Shell. Instead, the many challenging opportunities of working on tough projects and the thrill of living in different countries were quite exciting for him. Fortunately, despite being discouraged from joining the company as people reasoned the energy industry was dying, Shell has fulfilled everything that Ben hoped for when he was recruited.

8. He Was Named Among the World’s Most Reputable CEOs in 2019

In 2019, Ben van Beurden was recognized among the top 10 reputable CEOs worldwide. He was ranked alongside Chris Nasetta of Hilton, David Holl of Mary Kaya and Emmanuel Faber of Danone among others. Ben topped the list replacing Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, who had been named the world’s most reputable CEO in 2018. Reputation Institute came up with the list, and the criteria used entailed a survey of more than 130,000 people in 14 countries. The survey was carried out in January and February 2019. To qualify, the company must be familiar to at least 50% of the general population, and a CEO must be familiar to at least 10% of the population.

9. His Salary

Ben is the highest-paid executive at Royal Dutch Shell with a total remuneration of 10 million Euros. Of this amount, 1.57 million Euros is the base salary while he receives an annual bonus of 800,000 Euros and long-term incentive plans amounting to 7.2 million Euros. The CEO’s current pay package is half of what he used to get in 2019 when his compensation was halved to reflect the drop in revenue.

10. His Annual Bonus Was Once Deemed Excessive

As published by Industry Week, two shareholder-advisory firms suggested that investors should vote against the bonus package saying it was excessive. The bonus amounted to 245% of Ben’s salary, and the basis was that the annual bonus and the company’s financial performance were not at par hence the need to vote against the pay.



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