Interview with Koen Dierckx, CFO Vanbreda Risk & Benefits.
Automation and robotization offer finance teams a range of new opportunities enabling them to advance and specialize, says Koen Dierckx, CFO at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits. And to fully assume their internal role as a business partner. Although the latter usually requires new skills that sometimes also have to be acquired outside the discipline.
This blog is part of the ‘Finance beyond the figures’ Trend Report.
Koen Dierckx, CFO at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits: “The time when accountants watched from the sidelines holding their reports in their hand is a thing of the past. An increasing number of people today look to finance to help them move their business forward. But you can only be a business partner if there is sufficient latitude for you and your colleagues so that you can listen to their needs and then offer them the added value that they expect.”
Technology is already playing an important role in making this possible today. The CFO sees this gaining in importance in the future. Koen Dierckx: “Automation of routine processes frees up time for advanced specialization. This sounds like music to the ears of financial controllers of course, but in more operational finance departments there is also the fear about job losses. Nothing could be further from the truth: there is still considerable room for role intensification in this area as well. By automating simple workflows, the team can concentrate on difficult cases and resolve them effectively.”
Fintech vs. legacy
“If we shy away from all these new developments today, we risk losing part of our market share in the long term.”
Data storage in the cloud has become the new norm and many innovative applications are cloud-based. Nevertheless, the CFO still expresses some caution in the insurance sector in general and in his own company when it comes to moving over to the cloud. Koen Dierckx: “Protecting customer data remains crucial for us, but we are following developments in the fintech world closely of course. Today we already work with a number of technology start-ups, because we want to offer our customers optimal service.
Besides, it’s the only way forward, even though I realize that it is not always an obvious match for our strict procedures and legacy. Moreover, if we shy away from all these new developments today, we risk losing part of our market share in the long term. The lion’s share of our client portfolio is made up of companies, but I still ask my team to keep a close eye on developments in the consumer market. What functions do people expect from their banking apps, for example? How do they use them, when and on which devices?”
The human factor
“As CFO you have to dare to surround yourself with new talent. Even with expertise that, strictly speaking, falls outside your field of finance.”
In addition, data mining techniques also mean that we can gain new insights from financial and other data – across all data sources. Koen Dierckx: “Data is crucial for our profile as a business partner. As long as we can provide our colleagues with ready-made information in the form of visual dashboards for instance. That is why CFOs have to dare to surround themselves with new talent. Even with expertise that, strictly speaking, falls outside their field of finance. For instance, we strengthened our finance team by appointing a data analyst. If controllers have this kind of expertise working alongside them, they are better able to fulfil their advisory role.”
In-depth advice: this, according to the CFO, is what internal and external customers are increasingly looking for. Koen Dierckx: “You can automate processes and then apply self-learning algorithms. And although that is not yet on the horizon, blockchain will eventually completely eliminate the need for certain processes. But being there for your clients in the role of expert and sounding board when they have to make important decisions is the work of human beings. Machines will not be able to replace this any time soon.”
Download the trend report ‘Finance beyond the figures’.
Isabel 6 spoke with 7 other top CFOs. Are you curious to find out how their field is transforming and how they view the future? We have brought together their findings and future visions in five cross-sector trends.
Vanbreda Risk & Benefits