From courier to CEO: Egidio Monteiro’s rise to the top

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Starting his logistics journey as a courier proved an important learning experience for Egidio Monteiro, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Southern Africa.
Egidio Monteiro
09 April 2020

Driving from block to block along the streets of Luanda, Angola to deliver shipments in the day before rushing off to classes in the evening — that was once the daily routine for Egidio Monteiro.

In his smelly, sweat-soaked uniform, he would make his way to school every night where he studied part-time for a degree in Human Resources for four years.

As tough as it was, Monteiro thoroughly enjoyed his stint as a courier with DHL Express in 2001. That marked the beginning of his journey in logistics.

“It helped me to understand how the business functions, and how people are the most important part of the entity,” said Monteiro, who has risen through the ranks to become CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Southern Africa.

“My experience as a courier and in various operational roles has given me greater appreciation and respect for the field operators making the real magic happen on the ground, rain or shine — it’s amazing to see that for myself,” he added.

While his unique perspective, having managed both express delivery and freight forwarding operations, has brought him success in his past and current leadership roles, the 41-year-old believes that the business’ priorities are only as important as the people under his care.

Egidio Monteiro (in cap) with his management team
Egidio Monteiro (in cap) with his management team

“The thing that got me engaged in this sector was the fact that the logistics business is all about people. I’ve always had the passion of dealing with people, understanding them, supporting them and participating in their lives,” said the father of four.

“It’s important for me to make sure that they feel like they’re taken care of by the company,” added the Angolan, who manages a 200-strong team in the region.

A difficult start

Despite his charismatic personality, Monteiro is first to admit that he has not always been a confident leader.

His appointment as country manager for DHL Global Forwarding Angola in 2008, for instance, came at a time when he was not sure if he was capable of overseeing every aspect of the business’ operations in the country.

To overcome the steep learning curve, he worked doubly hard, knowing that as the go-to person everyone turned to for guidance, he needed to lead and manage by example.

He once stayed overnight at the airport with the air freight team to ensure break bulk cargo shipments were delivered to the customer in different destinations on schedule.

Monteiro splits his time between Angola and the rest of the Southern Africa region.
Monteiro splits his time between Angola and the rest of the Southern Africa region.

“There was little to no air freight capacity for heavy cargo at that time. Operations were disorganized, and there was no security. We had to be very creative to compete with the bigger logistics players that had aircraft solutions then,” recounted Monteiro of the initial challenges for DHL in the country.

The situation gradually improved over the next few years during which the DHL Global Forwarding team scored major contracts — an achievement he does not hesitate crediting the team for.

“I trust my team to do their business; my responsibility is to empower and support their success in every way possible,” added Monteiro.

Born and bred in Angola, he played an active role in staffing the team with capable, skilled locals from Angola, and making career development opportunities readily available for them.

That same management ethos has followed him into his current role as CEO of the region, where he has also made great strides in promoting diversity and inclusion, with a focus on grooming more women leaders.

Down to business

On the business side of things, Monteiro has been quick to inculcate a change in mindset within DHL Global Forwarding.

Traditionally, the freight forwarding industry is regarded as a slow-moving shipment option as compared to express delivery. Coming from DHL Express, where the speed of delivery is key, Monteiro saw it as an opportunity for DHL Global Forwarding to emulate them and differentiate itself from the competition by offering efficient, on-time freight shipments.

“We have to ask ourselves how we can move as fast, how we can anticipate and release shipments on time, and how we can provide communication on time to meet our customers’ demands,” said Monteiro on building a more results-oriented team. “We need to challenge ourselves to do better every day.”

With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) entering into force last year, intra-Africa trade is poised for rapid growth.

The Southern African region is expected to reap the rewards, but that would only be possible if the people in the business fully understand the economic potential of the intra-Africa network, according to Monteiro.

“Freight forwarding is not the same as it used to be. We need to have an end-to-end mentality — we have to be aware of the capacity of our neighboring countries, so we understand how to move shipments between each country efficiently to meet the market demand,” he explained.

In his time at the helm of the two business units, Monteiro has driven record growth in both by relying on his greatest asset: people.

And he constantly lets them know that he stands firmly behind them regardless.

“No matter how many mistakes you make and criticism you receive, just believe in yourself and put in the hard work — opportunities will come eventually,” he said.

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