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.”