2019 saw Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) veteran Felix Gutsche take up his first country manager role – of a top-three affiliate, no less – after blazing a rather unorthodox path. From an International Trainee role at BI HQ, he moved into finance, where he stayed for a decade, with stints in Italy and Mexico, before moving back to Germany to eventually head global functions including Global Business Services and Corporate Strategy and Development. His last role before BI China was as Head of Global Animal Health Integration following the acquisition of Sanofi’s animal health division, Merial, in 2017.
Aside from our significant contributions to Group revenues and growth, we also need to play a more important role in shaping our destiny within the global Group
Gutsche reflects, “I bring to the table experience in many functions across the different businesses of BI in many different countries. After 24 years in BI, I also possess a significant network within the global organization that will allow me to better integrate BI China into the global corporation.”
As China rises in importance, Gutsche sees the amplification of China’s voice within the global BI organization as a top priority, stressing, “aside from our significant contributions to Group revenues and growth, we also need to play a more important role in shaping our destiny within the global Group.” The special leadership structure BI has in China is intended to support this mandate: Gutsche is one of only four freestanding country managers within BI globally (the other countries where this structure is found are the US, Germany and Japan). In other markets, the country president also manages a business segment. China is one of only a handful of markets where all three business units – Human Pharma, Animal Health, and BioPharma (their CDMO arm) – are present, so it is critical to have someone at the top to strategically oversee such a complex and multifaceted organization.
Gutsche sheds some light on his responsibilities. “This role is designed such that I am able to drive the whole BI franchise here in China while also supporting my capable and talented leadership team. I am able to dedicate around 70 to 80 percent of my time to supporting them operationally, and the rest of the time, I think more strategically about the entire BI China business. I also look at ways to create synergies across the various businesses. We operate on a ‘one management’ model and we apply rules and processes from the corporate organization to our operations. In [that] sense, I have a guardianship role.”
With a major recent project being the design of their TCM 2030 strategy (TCM referring to The Chinese Market, their Greater China operations), Gutsche is as excited as he is serious about his mission. He asserts, “if our business here is growing 25 percent year on year, our organization needs to develop at the same pace. Even as we look forward to driving the same pace of growth over the next few years, we are aware of the need to consolidate what we have achieved so far.” For the same reason, he enthuses, “there is no better place to be. It is rare to be able to participate in the sort of growth story and momentum we are seeing in China today and I am very grateful for the opportunity to deliver something huge and beautiful for the BI organization globally.”
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