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Károly Mátrai, CEO, MVM Group

Interview

Károly Mátrai is the chief executive officer of MVM Group, the predominant player in the Hungarian energy system with more than 18,000 employees and 10 million-plus residential and corporate customers.

Background info

He graduated from the College of Finance and Accountancy with a diploma in economics and also holds a stock exchange and commodity broker diploma from the Central European Brokerage Training Foundation. Mátrai has more than 25 years of experience in energy trading, business management, brokerage, and finance, as well as solid management and business leadership experience since 2008 as CEO and board member of Keler CCP, the leading clearinghouse for capital and energy markets in the CEE region.

He also worked for the Swiss-based energy company MET Group, where he served for two years as CFO of MET Romania Energy and the integration manager of MET subsidiary Cogen Energia Spain. Mátrai also held a position on the Association of Futures Markets’ Supervisory Board.

He is married and has two daughters in secondary school. He is a huge fan of dogs and has two border collies, with whom they are all actively involved, as running is their ultimate family hobby.

What made you want to work in the energy field?

I began my career in finance by joining Keler Group, where I spent 24 years. There, I started my professional journey as a risk analyst, and it was where I became specifically interested in this particular field. The initial step was to establish Keler Central Counterparty Ltd. (Keler CCP), which offered a clearing house and central counterparty services on the Budapest Stock Exchange. Next, we expanded our activity to energy, providing services in the local and regional gas and electricity markets.

As we can see, the financial industry is not very far from the energy sector; in fact, they are tightly intertwined. This is especially true today when energy has become the most strategic industry, where risk assessment also plays a crucial role, to name just one aspect. My financial background contributes to making informed decisions regarding investments and contingency plans, optimizing performance and maintaining a sustainable and resilient energy supply, not to mention the ability to navigate the uncertainties. These are, essentially, a daily occurrence, and it is a crucial skill because we, as the critical actors in the regional energy industry, have a significant responsibility to ensure energy supplies for all local and regional customers.

Of what professional achievements are you most proud?

After starting my career at Keler Group, I have worked up the ranks. Along the way, I acquired valuable skills, polished my leadership abilities, and developed a strong interest in entrepreneurship. This drive led me to establish Keler KSZF, where I served as CEO for 12 years. We may say that this company is my third child.

I also believe that taking on new challenges and focusing on continuous self-improvement is the key to effective leadership. This prompted me to start anew in a new field of employment, in a new country, with a new culture after 24 years, which is out of most person’s comfort zone. It was a challenging and rewarding experience that taught me the importance of adaptability and perseverance.

What is the greatest challenge in transitioning to a sustainable future?

The global economy and politics have already recognized that immediate changes are necessary, even in the short term, if we wish the Earth to remain livable in a few decades. Children and young adults have been socialized into a “green mindset” and do not need to be convinced of the fundamentals of sustainable lives and economies. However, the mindset of the majority of society, the middle-aged and elderly, is harder to change, and it takes a long time to overcome decades of bad habits; this is what I see as a challenge.

Would you recommend yours as a good career path?

No two individuals are identical; when it comes to making career decisions, we all have our own unique traits and approaches. Which path we choose to pursue to fulfill our potential depends not only on our profession and interests but also on our personalities. I can recommend my route to those who enjoy challenges, continual growth, and are open-minded to new experiences. At the same time, it is essential to remember that being a leader brings not only recognition and prestige but also requires tremendous dedication and humility. Whoever is interested in economics or a specific area of economics and wants to become a senior manager should first learn the fundamentals and then progress through the various stages. This experience is the foundation for acquiring real and solid knowledge and incorporating them into our individual working methods. Last, but not least, you must learn to listen to colleagues not only as co-workers but also as human beings.

This article was first published in the Top 50 Executives - The Most Influential Energy Executives in Hungary 2023.

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