Antwerp ZOO or Planckendael ZOO. Who has not been yet? As a child, smitten adolescent, parent, and later as a grandparent with grandchildren.

You might not realize that the financial department of the non-profit association Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (RZSA) must have financial transactions run smoothly so that it can continue to invest in new projects and infrastructure. In addition to Antwerp ZOO, Planckendael ZOO, Blankenberge Serpentarium ZOO and a nature reserve in Geel, the RZSA is also responsible for congress tourism, with a concert hall and convention facilities in the Elisabeth Center Antwerp.

Isabel Group and the Isabel 6 application will soon reach their 25th and 10th anniversary respectively — time to celebrate with the finance department of the RZSA. They have been a client at Isabel from the very outset. People say that they already have the very best pancakes. We therefore have another little surprise in store. A conversation with Donny Philips, Chief Accountant and Coordinator of Legal Accounting, RZSA (right on photo).

1. What challenges is your finance department up against? Aren’t you highly season dependent?

Our biggest challenge is to stay focused on monitoring and improving procedures. In the summer, we process up to 65 cash registers, where we have to make sure each time that the proceeds wind up in our bank account correctly. Furthermore, we process some 22,000 purchasing invoices per year, which must always be approved and paid on time. As the Elisabeth Center in Antwerp is booked a lot in the winter months, we do not feel any seasonal difference any longer in our operations.

2. How does Isabel help make your tasks easier? 

Our colleagues can prepare payments in Isabel 6 and send them to the CFO and to the head accountant to be signed. The time spent on payments can consequently be used very efficiently. We retrieve the amounts that our members pay for their membership via CODA files in Isabel 6. So we no longer have to attribute each payment to a certain membership manually for our members. On the whole, we can say that we save about 1.5 to 2 days per week.

3. How many colleagues use Isabel?

There are 6 people for the entire RZSA, including a number of people in our back office (member administration).

4. With how many banks do you work in Isabel? 

We work with 7 different banks in Isabel.

5. Do you have many foreign payments?

Foreign payments are processed weekly. We have 5 onsite projects for preserving biodiversity where we conduct the scientific research ourselves.
These include the Great Apes Project which conducts research in the habitat of the great apes in Cameroon and the Bio-Brazil Project for research in the habitat of the golden-headed lion tamarin in Brazil. We also have projects concerning okapis (Congo) and black vultures (Spain, Bulgaria) and dozens of other projects for which we provide financial support.

6. Isabel is constantly stressing security in payments. Do you focus on this issue internally as well? How do you put this in practice?

As already mentioned, we pay a great deal of attention to procedures. As we have to process very many invoices, our procedures are set up so that no money can go out without approval. Furthermore we monitor all proceeds closely as cash and bank card transactions are often involved here.

7. What do you like most about Isabel 6? 

How easy it is to enter collective payments. Also the fact that the person who signs a payment does not have to prepare it makes things far more efficient. The overview of all our banks in Isabel 6 gives us an accurate picture of our cash position day in and day out.

8. What can still be improved?

The processing of some foreign payments is not always very clear. Our payments to Brazil and  Cameroon have become a habit by now, but when we want to manage a project in Chile, for instance, getting all bank details right is still too much of a guessing game at times. Isabel 6 and by extension our banks do not speak the same bank language as other parts of the world.

9. What is your favourite spot in Antwerp ZOO? 

The reef aquarium in winter. A fine place to enjoy lots of peace and quiet.

10. Isabel 6 is celebrating its 10th anniversary. We thank you for your trust in our solution all these years! Do you like cake?

I cannot resist it…

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