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Deloitte and Egemin
In control at Egemin
“I like open and clear communication,” declares Geert Stienen, CFO of Egemin Automation. “It’s my style.” When Geert had to find a new corporate controller he was crystal clear about the attributes the candidate should have. “It was a long list,” he admits. He decided to contact Deloitte ACS - and it looks like he got what he wanted.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I studied business economics with a specialisation in operational management and logistics. But my first job was in finance as an auditor. Later on during my career I redirected my skills and expertise towards corporate restructurings.
How long have you been with Egemin?
I started here in April 2008. Egemin went through a turnaround in 2008 where my experience proved to be a strong asset. As CFO I’m responsible for the finance department, administration, legal matters, and together with the CEO, strategy.
What challenges caused you to seek outsourcing support from Deloitte ACS?
Soon after I arrived at Egemin the corporate controller decided to leave the company. I didn’t want an exact replacement because I needed some different and additional skills. I wanted a fast response and good quality, someone professional who I wouldn’t have to train.
By outsourcing the position I could also mitigate risk. If I hired somebody directly, and after a few months the person wasn’t good enough, I would have to start all over again. While with outsourcing you say, “I need somebody with these skills,” and if he or she isn’t good it’s easy to find a replacement.
What type of profile were you looking for exactly?
First of all I wanted somebody I could trust, someone with “soft skills”. Trust is very important. I needed someone with experience in controlling, preferably with audit experience. Someone who knows what a balance sheet is, what a profit & loss statement is, what the relationship between these two is, what management needs to see in their analysis and reporting, and who can set up good reporting.
I also wanted somebody willing and able to learn, someone with broad interests. For example, we’re planning to set up a new ERP system. And although it wasn’t the principal thing, it would be even better if the candidate had experience in consolidation.
That’s quite a wish list. How did you find this special person?
Because I used to work for Deloitte I was familiar with ACS and its services. After contacting them and explaining what I was looking for, I did four interviews and selected Hedwig Hulpiau. When I asked her if she knew anything about consolidation she said, “I know something, but I’m not very good.” Actually she was being modest: she is strong. And in Belgium it’s hard to find someone really strong in consolidation. It was a real bonus.
That was in May 2008. How have things gone?
Very well. Because we had a period of overlap there was a knowledge transfer. And we really got the right person. I’m very, very happy with Hedwig. It really is a gain for the company. Another good point is that you don’t see she’s an external person: she really fits in, which makes the team stronger.
What about the future?
I’m not planning to change the contract, I’m happy the way it is. From the start I said I’m not looking for somebody for a few months. I wanted a long-term relationship.
If an organisation is considering outsourcing, what are the most important things to keep in mind?
First of all you need to think about the position. You need to know what type of job it is and its importance in the organisation. What kind of person do you need? What flexibility and skills are required? What about risk? Here’s an example. I needed another controller, but I decided not to go for outsourcing because it would have been too expensive.
Are there some jobs that lend themselves more to outsourcing?
It’s about balancing cost and flexibility. Outsourcing operational jobs could cost you more, but this would provide flexibility. And you don’t have to recruit or train. However, I personally would be more inclined to outsource more specialised profiles.
Anything more to add?
Good communication is very important. When you have an outsourcing discussion, be very explicit about what you want and what you don’t want. I am tactful, but what I’ve learned is, if I have to choose between being tactful and clear, I always choose clear because people appreciate it.
Deloitte and Lanxess
Set up the ﬁnancial organisation of an industrial giant and make it fully operational in only three months time? In March 2004, Hugo Rens, ﬁnancial director of Lanxess NV, accepted the challenge and came through with ﬂying colours - with the help of the Financial Resources team of Deloitte. Now, Rens is no longer looking back: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone."
Chemical titan divides into Bayer and Lanxess
In November 2003, Bayer - the German pharma and chemicals giant - decided to split off its chemicals and part of its plastics division. The production of bulk products would then sail under a new ﬂag: Lanxess. The legal establishment in Antwerp had to be divided in two. But how do you split up central services?
The major user wins the division
Hugo Rens: “We used the ‘major user’ principle, where the division is awarded to the biggest user. But that had to be done differently for the ﬁ nancial department. At that time, the department had a personnel shortage. So, we transferred the entire service to Bayer. And that left Lanxess without ﬁnancial personnel.”
Lanxess Financial: starting from scratch
So, Lanxess NV had to start completely from scratch. “Create a functional accounting department out of nothing in a couple of months? That’s quite a challenge,” says Hugo Rens, “but very exciting! Because you get to create the organisation exactly as you see ﬁ t. Lanxess is a very dynamic company. So it was appropriate to start with a clean slate. Still, it had to be done quickly. We agreed on it in March 2004 - and we had to be fully operational on 1 July.”
Co-sourcing: a quick and effective solution
“With such a short timeframe, you can’t hire people from the market and train them. They need time to get to know the company. Even though accounting might be an exact science, it differs greatly from company to company. Each organisation has its own procedures and reporting systems. That’s why we decided to co-source the entire department: using experienced in-house people who could adapt quickly and get up to cruising speed on the run.”
Fast, seamless integration
“We started with two people, and by July we had 16. Their integration was fast and seamless. In addition, we took three experienced executives from Bayer Antwerp. They know the company, the processes and the systems. That way, we ensure continuity on the management level, critical information stays inside the company, and ﬁnal responsibility remains with us. With the Deloitte team included, we have had a top-ﬂight accounting organisation ever since.”
Head and shoulders above the competition
“Why Deloitte? They had already supervised a SAP migration project at Bayer Antwerp. We were very satisﬁ ed with the cooperation. Their price was very competitive. And they were also prepared to co-source on site. That was a great advantage. Other ofﬁces wanted only to work from their own locations, and that was not an option for me. I wanted a team that has a feel for the company and for our own people.”
“The Deloitte team has integrated perfectly. I cannot see or sense any distinction with our own employees − so I don’t treat them any differently. And we receive the same attitude from them in return. And when staff activities are organised, they’re included. No question about it.”
Always a step further
“Know what’s really amazing? The Deloitte employees don’t limit themselves to simply performing their jobs. They think along with us. And dare to introduce new processes and systems. For instance, we used to settle travelling expenses manually. They worked out a completely automated system, something we ourselves did not have the time for. That kind of pro-active thinking plus their company experience are worth gold!”
Extended due to successful business economics
What had been originally intended as a temporary solution (for 18 months max) became a long-term partnership. Hugo Rens: “We were so satisﬁ ed that we made an excellent agreement with Deloitte. We now have an advantageous fee and super conditions in terms of business economics. It’s an all-inclusive price: training, support, recruitment costs, and ﬂexible working hours are included. As far as we’re concerned, co-sourcing is not at all expensive.”
Co-sourcing makes you versatile
Further advantages of co-sourcing? Hugo Rens: “Number 1 for me is ﬂexibility. Which works in two directions. Now we’re able to keep our hands free to take advantage of changes easily. But we also call on Deloitte on an interim basis to smooth out peaks or to keep our people free for a project. That’s precisely why four new people started on 1 September.”
So, it’s a win-win situation. Deloitte wins a long-term contract. Lanxess wins strong, dynamic staff members, a very advantageous agreement with regard to business economics, ﬂexibility and all the advantages of co-sourcing. Hugo Rens: “Lanxess’ slogan is Energizing Chemistry. We’ve adapted it to our situation. We now say: Lanxess and Deloitte - Energizing Accounting!”
“I wanted a team that has a feel for the company and for our own people.”
Deloitte and General electric
Breathing space in a fast growing group
In the last several years, outsourcing of financial services has really taken off. Not always successfully, though. Many see the lack of control as a major drawback. While some have slammed on the brakes, General Electric Inspection Technologies (GE IT) is full of praise for their outsourcing with Deloitte. For Global Controller Piet Mulleman, the greater flexibility and improved efficiency are real added value benefits.
Back office for new product line
Three years ago, General Electric obtained the exclusive, worldwide rights to the sale of Agfa industrial X-ray film. Excellent news, although Piet Mulleman recognised immediately how late it was. “You need a flying start for such operations. As of Day 1, you have to send out invoices and process payments. And for that you need a back office − which didn’t exist. So, as our company philosophy prescribes, we knocked on the door of the GE back office in Budapest.”
Outsourcing core activities
For a number of countries, problems quickly arise in such a situation. So General Electric decided to call on the Financial Resources team of Deloitte Belgium. The assignment: to take care of the accountancy for Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. “The collaboration with Deloitte ACS was only possible through a change of strategy at GE. Providing back office support was no longer a core activity. Only Italy is still internal. Everything went perfectly from the beginning ... and you don’t tinker with a smooth running engine!” Piet Mulleman winks.
Customer/supplier has benefits
Piet Mulleman agreed with the new strategy: “An internal back office doesn’t run flawlessly per se. We’re one big family at GE - so people are sometimes less quickly inclined to bang on the table when something goes wrong. That’s not the case in a customer/supplier relationship. At the slightest problem, Deloitte jumps into action. You also eliminate conflicting priorities with an external partner. In GE, each department has its own parameters, reporting lines, and objectives. Sometimes that can cause conflicts. When balancing accounts had the highest priority for me, the back office in Budapest sometimes gave priority to other jobs. That’s understandable - but problematic.”
External: larger fishpond
“When you opt for an internal solution, you have to take whoever is available,” Piet Mulleman continues. “With an external partner, you’re fishing in a much larger pond. And you avoid the rigmarole of the recruitment process.” Deloitte ACS often finds the appropriate personnel within a week. Sven Asselbergh, partner at Deloitte, joins in: “You have to understand: we’re not an interim office. We don’t have a database of thousands of CVs - but we do have a well-screened elite group of a hundred financial specialists. When we propose them to a company, we take the company’s culture into account. We don’t impose ourselves on anyone - the client has the final say.”
Challenging projects stimulate people
It’s not easy to find good people. When you do find them, you must take care of them and give them opportunities to develop. “So, our people are not parked here,” Sven Asselbergh puts it plainly. “We follow them up continuously and evaluate them twice a year. It’s a thorough evaluation: we ask the customers for feedback as well. Usually, these are international companies with a broad perspective on accounting. We find that our people enjoy doing their job. We also stimulate them by having them rotate - while maintaining continuity for the customer.”
Flexible and efficient
The contract between General Electric and Deloitte is for an indefinite period of time. It includes clauses through which the customer easily increases or reduces the number of personnel. This way, GE does not build up social liabilities - a significant cost benefit. The outsourcing partnership increases efficiency too. Piet Mulleman illustrates: “This case concerns five countries. In the past, I had to talk to five different managers, each with his own vision. That was time-consuming. Now I have one contact person, who’s familiar with GE’s practices and quality standards.”
Just as much control
Is outsourcing expensive? Piet Mulleman sees little or no difference. “Although it’s difficult to quantify, because how do you calculate the cost of control? The people from Deloitte sit close to my office − they’re not spread out like before. The language barriers are gone - which improves control.” Sven Asselbergh adds: “ Outsourcing has a lot of connotations. In the case of GE IT, I prefer to use the term co-sourcing. This implies a close and transparent partnership. This openness is essential, although it entails some risks for the customer: external partners receive access to sensitive business information. So, our people sign a code of ethics, which we monitor diligently. Strict procedures keep the risks to the absolute minimum.”
A lot more practical
Every year, a new ‘eldorado’ for outsourcing appears. Following Hungary and Poland, it seems that the Czech Republic is now the place to be. Which often makes it difficult for recruiters to work. “When a country becomes popular, the salaries go up and the right people become more difficult to find,” says Piet Mulleman. “After six months or a year, they’re gone, with a new reference on their CV. You can ask yourself: is it still worth the effort? Going abroad also often causes practical problems. Suppose: the VAT inspector pays a visit. How do you get all the documents here in a timely manner? Take it from me: that’s a challenge! But then again, outsourcing is a solution for that too.”
“Our people can adapt themselves quite easily to other working environments”
Deloitte and Heijmans
Active in property, building, infrastructure and technology, the Heijmans group is a quoted company with its head office in the Netherlands. Hilde Vangilbergen has been heading up the financial department of the Belgian subsidiary for two years. Six months ago when two key employees left, Hilde asked our Financial Resources team to help out. It was a good move: the Deloitte personnel took off the pressure and changed a few die-hard habits.
Heijmans is composed of three divisions: Property Development, Building Services and Infrastructure Services. They comprise thirty legal entities, nine of which are operational companies involved in road building, residential projects and renovation work.
Hilde Vangilbergen is Finance Director for the overall Heijmans group in Belgium. Her forty staff are spread across the various companies, a situation which requires a special kind of teamwork. Only the bigger companies have their own financial directors, the others have a chief accountant. One key person for each company reports to Hilde. “At my office here in Schelle only my assistant works for me: she does the reporting and consolidation,” she explains.
The Dutch headquarters lays down the guidelines for accountancy, reporting and taxation. Hilde sits on various discussion bodies. “We are an active holding: we help determine the overall strategy. When it’s finalised, I translate it to the Belgian market. My assistant works out all the practical details and makes sure that our companies implement it. Or at least the common policy items. It's not possible to have one strategy for all companies. Because their markets, activities and working methods are all completely different from one another.”
Help me, Deloitte!
How did Deloitte ACS become involved with Heijmans? “When my assistant became pregnant, she was supposed to be replaced by an internal employee from Heijmans Vastgoed in Zaventem. He was in charge of accounting there, and he also worked on the holding administration. He seemed ideal.” Hilde sighs, “But circumstances conspired against us. We were also looking for a new financial director for Heijmans Vastgoed, but we weren’t able to find one immediately. The new manager was supposed to be in place in September 2007, but he wasn’t able to start until 1 May. To top it all, my assistant had to take rest on the advice of her doctor, so she left a lot earlier than we anticipated.”
Suddenly Hilde found herself in dire straits. She smiles: “There’s a calendar in my office that says: ‘Got a problem? Shout: Help me, Deloitte!’ So I called Sven Asselbergh from Deloitte ACS and said: ’Help, Sven!’ We joked about it, but Sven really did help. He supplied just the right person for our Zaventem office. Viviane jumped in to help out during the transition period between the departure of the old and the arrival of the new financial director.”
Then the workload in Zaventem suddenly looked bigger than anticipated. It was all hands on deck and the replacement for Hilde’s assistant wasn’t available. Hilde continues: “I worked day and night for a month – all on my own. It was obviously an untenable situation. So I called Sven again. Sandra has been working as my assistant since 1 December 2007.
Deloitte: a real partner
Hilde first met Sven when he had made a presentation on Deloitte ACS at a previous employer. “It made quite an impression,” she explains. “Why does Deloitte ACS make the difference? It does more than just plonk a ‘profile’ at a desk. Deloitte really treats its employees as its own people. Professionals who deliver quality to the client. They hire their employees on permanent contracts and train them, so they stay really up to date. They can then be sent out to projects where they flourish. They follow up their people and clients closely - even after the project is complete. That’s very reassuring.”
Hilde was pleasantly surprised by Sandra’s knowledge and insight. “She jumped right in at the deep end and came up swimming. She brought along a few fresh ideas and noticed a few things that were ripe for improvement. I asked her to make a proposal. I asked her to stay another month to develop this project when my assistant gets back.
“Vivianne is staying on a little longer too. She is going to help us tackle a few old points of contention at Heijmans Vastgoed. It’s easier for an external employee. She hasn’t been submerged in specific ways of working and has no emotional resistance to change. So yes, the influx of external people is positive, especially in companies where the market place is changing so drastically. That’s exactly the point at which a Deloitte employee can push through the necessary changes on an internal level.
“Working in the building sector is not plain sailing. Projects last between six months and three years: lengthy processes, which are difficult to change. The structure of the administrative and financial departments reflects this too. Distilling and translating results from that underlying process into year-end accounts is no easy matter. On top of that, technical people don’t always see the point of bookkeeping and reporting. They claim that we will never understand or have a feel for what happens on a building site. But you don’t have to know every detail to understand the process. You have to really get to know the building sector. And you have to stand firm. And the Deloitte ladies managed that superbly.”
Breathing space in a fast growing group
FINCO nv, the coordination centre of the Colruyt group, enticed five eager young professionals from Deloitte to come to the rescue of the accounting department: Jena Cruysberghs, Olivier Bernard, Gunther Kemps, Sofie Vandesompele and Peter Verlinden. A win-win situation according to Véronique Basteleus, department head of central accounting. The Deloitte team learns how to work in a multi-company environment. The staff from FINCO are free to get on with new and temporary challenge.
Sixty companies to take care of
FINCO nv is the coordination centre for the Colruyt group, employing more than 200 staff. The Colruyt group has sixty companies in Belgium. Véronique Basteleus: “We’re divided into four main departments: a ‘transactional accounting’ department, the ‘business management’ department, the ‘process coordination’ department, and the ‘general accounting’ department. Every Colruyt company in Belgium does its own accounting, which is then centralised at FINCO nv. We offer these services to sixty or so companies with headquarters in Halle. The French subsidiaries are managed entirely in France. But the consolidation takes place here."
Temporary projects and increased workload
Véronique Basteleus: “Our group is growing fast. There are a lot of temporary projects, which means that the ‘general accounting’ department is struggling to cope with an increased workload. We implemented IFRS, but that just made more work for us. We still have to optimise the existing work instructions and this year the French companies are being consolidated for the first time in Belgium.
At Medio 2006 we were faced with a real dilemma. Should we recruit people? If so, we would have to train them ourselves, which takes a lot of time and slows down project completions. And then we’d probably only need the extra manpower temporarily.
Deloitte solves the problem
Véronique Basteleus: “Wim Biesemans, financial director of the Colruyt group, had already worked successfully with Deloitte in another company, and suggested we contact Deloitte’s Sven Asselbergh.” After discussing it internally, we were so enthusiastic about the benefits of outsourcing to Deloitte that we decided to go for it. In spring 2006 Gunther Kemps was the first Deloitte employee to arrive, followed by Sofie Vandesompele in May and Jena Cruysberghs in December. Peter Verlinden and Olivier Bernard arrived in January and February of this year.”
Well trained, quick to adjust
“There were several reasons for considering a partner like Deloitte. We expect our people to have an excellent knowledge of accounting and to be very comfortable with basic IT programmes such as Excel. They also have to work on their own initiative and develop projects. The people from Deloitte lived up to all these criteria. They are all well trained and very flexible, which means they can adjust fast. They also have the right background for our department.”
Hands free for new challenges
“The greatest advantage of working with Deloitte is that we can offer our own people new challenges. They love their current jobs, but are eager to learn. Therefore, we deliberately chose to give them new challenges, while handing over their usual work to the Deloitte people. This way our staff gain new experiences and build up expertise that stays within Colruyt."
Supported, not replaced
“The Deloitte people were welcomed enthusiastically in the department. We explained to our staff that this would give them the chance to work on temporary projects, in place of their normal assignments. This means continuity in their own project and time for the necessary follow-up. In addition, they know they can return to their workplace once their temporary project is finished. It went down very well with everyone. Our people now know they are being supported, not replaced.”
Open communication, smooth integration
“Deloitte and Colruyt share this open and communicative mentality”, says service manager Véronique Basteleus. “There is open communication on all levels at Colruyt, and because the Deloitte people fitted in with this approach, they were included in meetings and were quickly able to learn and participate".
Even our IT system reflects our openness. To start with, we work with an open digital diary: you can see what meetings are being held and who is there, and you can find out who is working on which project. At a glance and indirectly you can find out what’s going on in the company.”
Green pastures in the internal archives
Internal information is available to everyone Basteleus explains: “Correspondence, memos or accounts, everyone is a few mouse clicks away from all the information they need on a project.”
Diplomatic and elegant
What else is striking about the Deloitte people? “It’s really nice working with them", thinks the FINCO service manager. “They are very diplomatic and flexible. They have an elegant way of wording things and getting their point across. If they have any observations, they make them in the correct way, without the slightest feeling of superiority. Perhaps they are simply reflecting the environment in which they are working: Colruyt has a democratic, no-nonsense culture. Everyone is equal before the law and everyone is valued equally for their input.”
Not the lowest price, but certainly the best quality
Colruyt’s slogan is ‘the lowest price’. So how does that square with Deloitte? “They don’t quite match us there”, laughs Véronique Basteleus. “Deloitte is expensive, but then the quality is good too. And it can certainly be justified for a two-year period."
“What is the greatest value of Deloitte? With continuous training they make sure that their staff are always equipped with the latest knowledge.”
It’s a win-win situation for us”, concludes Véronique Basteleus. “They learn from us, from our way of working and from things that are particular to our company. In return, we learn from their working methods. But, above all, the open communication ensures that we learn from each other.”
Deloitte and Etex Group
The presence of Treasury Solutions was for the treasury team a great source of comfort since they could fully rely on their competences. During the interim period, Treasury Solutions worked with high autonomy and in a very organized way. We are certainly willing to count on Treasury Solutions to cover the next holiday period!
Chantal van den Meutter - Treasury Etex Group
Deloitte and Atos Worldline
Treasury Solutions is our business partner in Treasury and Financial Risk Management. Their hands-on approach lifted our current treasury processes to a higher level. They prepared important building blocks for our Treasury Organization to achieve higher efficiency in the future.
Bert Vanbrabant - Executive Director Atos Worldline