Interview with Koen Van Acker, CFO at Artes Group

Koen Van Acker has been the CFO at the construction group Artes since 1990. The financial department has been involved in ongoing development for just as long. What was once a transaction factory with primarily operational tasks, has grown into a high-performing financial function. The CFO attested to the role that Isabel 6 and SignHere play in this development during a webinar.

The Artes Group is a reputable player in construction, restoration, civil engineering and water works. It consists of various contracting companies, each of which has its own area of specialization. The group has some 680 employees and generates a consolidated turnover of €300 million. Together with some fellow contractors, Artes is giving shape to the Oosterweel link which should relieve traffic in and around Antwerp.

Auditing bookkeeping

Koen Van Acker reminisces how the work of the financial department was carried out mainly with paper documents two decades ago. “From booking invoices to preparing tax returns, and onto entering and signing VAT returns, everything was done manually,” the CFO points out. “The transformation to ICT tools in recent years has been a boon to our operation. We have gone from input accounting to auditing accounting. As a result, that auditing aspect looks different also, as software take various verifications out of our hands.”

Comprehensive digitization is creating room for a more strategic role.

“Digitization offers us more possibilities and time to create value. For instance, it enable us to focus more on devising financing forms or supporting the CEO in decisions concerning acquisitions, pricing or cost cuts.” Koen Van Acker points to the challenges that such digitization entails. “The implementation of a new ERP package requires the requisite knowledge in the financial department. Investments in training are consequently crucial in such a case. Needless to say, employees must also be open to change and improvement and it is best to choose software tools that are supported by management.”

Payments across companies

Isabel 6 constitutes an important link in the digitization process of finance at the Artes Group. “Isabel 6 enables us to streamline our payments better,” says Koen Van Acker. “This is no superfluous luxury, given the fact that temporary trade associations are commonplace in our sector. That implies a plethora of signatures, powers and responsibilities. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity as to who should or should not forward or confirm a payment. In the end, you form a team in that trade association, but at the same time other companies with their own way of doing business are also involved. Each partner likes to retain control and an overview. Isabel 6 creates a uniform, clear picture and lends itself entirely to our business.”

Liquidity monitoring

“I need a helicopter view to see which pennies are in which accounts. Thanks to handy reports from Isabel 6 I can get the whole picture at a glance.”

Another advantage of Isabel 6 according to Koen Van Acker is the close monitoring of liquidity. “The Artes Group has several sites with their own accounting. I therefore need a helicopter view to see which pennies are in which accounts. Thanks to handy reports from Isabel 6 I can get the whole picture at a glance.” In addition to convenience, reliability is an important argument as the CFO sees it. “The shareholders of Isabel are four major Belgian banks, which creates the necessary trust.”

Time efficiency thanks to SignHere

The Artes Group has for the last two years been using SignHere, a user-friendly, secure solution for signing documents digitally. “Our employees would previously have to go from construction sites to our offices more frequently than they liked in order to sign certain documents and contracts,” Koen Van Acker explains. “That could scarcely be described as time efficient. SignHere enables our people to sign documents digitally from other locations, without relinquishing control from our offices. We opted for SignHere because it is secure and user-friendly. In the meantime, other construction partners are using SignHere also. All it takes is to send them an e-mail indicating the document to be signed. Our administration is then apprised immediately that everything is cut and dried, so no-one has to go specially down to the office to sign any longer.”