Will Pannell likes to play chess. Any game, really, that has a long-view, tactical aspect to it. As an economist for one of the world’s largest food companies, strategic thinking comes in handy.
Earlier this year, Pannell was appointed director of risk strategy in the commodity purchasing group, acting as lead risk strategist and trader for an annual spend of more than $3 billion. It was his fourth promotion since joining the company in August 2012, just after earning an economics degree from the University of Arkansas, where he received a full academic scholarship. Pannell graduated from Bentonville High in 2008, with a rank of No. 11 in a class of 609.
With a sharp financial acumen, Pannell develops strategies to manage the company’s margins, reads markets across the globe and hedges risk associated with multimillion-dollar trades across several commodity markets. He assists the company’s decision-makers in assessing risk and developing positions, and helps communicate the company’s strategy from an investor relations perspective.
Pannell also manages the company’s energy procurement team, leading a team of three buyers responsible for purchasing diesel fuel, electricity and natural gas.
The unique nature of the job appeals to him, he said.
“The worst thing you could do is put me in a repetitive or mundane job,” he said. “When I come to work every day it’s a blank slate.”
Pannell believes mentorship is very important for a professional, and credits Tyson Foods executives Rex Holstein, Noel White and Doug Ramsey for helping him learn how to be an executive and how to work with people to get things done in a large corporate environment.
Pannell, who is an avid outdoorsman, said obtaining an MBA is a professional goal he intends to pursue.