Bruno says: ‘A good consultant considers the impact of all his actions: from the impact on a strategic level, to the impact on a small activity in a process'
As a project consultant for CFO Services, Bruno Baets completed fourteen projects, most of them in Credit Management and with a focus on technology, tool selection and process optimization. After graduating as a master in Business Engineering and a short stint in teaching, he landed at TriFinance in February 2014, to work on a few projects for Antwerp's Transition & Support unit. After that, 'I chose to pursue the ambition to engage in more project-based assignments,' he says in this interview, 'and focus on more advisory functions from a process and systems point of view. I was fortunate to be able to take my first “next step” within TriFinance, transfering to CFO Services to engage in advisory projects, and learn from experts in both functional expertise domains and methodological ones.'
Bruno will leave TriFinance in June for a job as a Business Process expert in the finance department of a large technology company. This step, as much as his career path at TriFinance, is all what the TriFinance employability philosophy is about: Give direction to your career and choose your own path.
Interview by Dieter Verbeek, business manager, CFO Services
Bruno, how does somebody with a master's degree in Business Engineering end up at TriFinance?
Bruno Baets: ‘I graduated as a Business Engineer in the field of Finance. That's a very broad degree, which already links different fields like ICT, production technology and business strategy to the field of finance. At TriFinance, you get the opportunity to engage in different functions within finance departments, and also pursue functions that allow to interlink with different fields of business.
In true TriFinance philosophy
Looking back at your time at TriFinance, is this what you expected?
Bruno Baets: ‘Yes, throughout my time here, my personal development has always had a prominent place in the projects that were handed to me, and was always a consideration. In true TriFinance philosophy, I’ve always been able to discuss next steps in terms of projects and align with my own preferences. This is not just due to luck. If you allow yourself enough time to profit from the unique philosophy, you can surely achieve your mid- and long-term goals as a finance professional.’
You started as a Transition and Support project consultant, can you give us a peek at the kind of assignments you worked on?
Bruno Baets: ‘I started my TriFinance career with a large Belgian retailer, in the accounts receivable department. I was very fortunate to have a lot of liberty to work on small administrative improvements whilst learning the ropes of working in a corporate environment and in a large finance department.
For my second project, I worked on the billing department at a marketing services company. This was a very dynamic environment, where I was able to learn a lot about business operations, and the importance of customer centricity (both towards internal and external customers), even for finance departments.’
Going into management consulting
You decided to switch to a management consulting role at the CFO Services business unit. What triggered this?What interested you about a role in Credit Management? Bruno Baets
Bruno Baets: ‘Once you arrive at a certain level of experience, you either evolve into more specialized finance functions, or you take the next steps in terms of management and leadership by heading a team or a department. As neither of those options felt absolutely right to me, I chose to pursue the ambition to engage in more project-based assignments and focus on more advisory functions from a process and systems point of view.
‘I consider my time doing transition and support assignments as very valuable to my career. You need a sound basis in operational tasks before you can start thinking about advising customers on those same operational tasks, and how to improve their efficiency.’
: ‘When I worked in Transition & Support, my assignments all revolved around accounts receivable
, credit management
and debtor management
. From that point of view, credit management was an excellent angle to start my career as a management consultant, because I already had formed a general vision on how efficient credit management processes should be organized, and how systems should be implemented and interact to support these processes. With the strategic importance of credit management on the rise, I only became more resolute to choose this domain to further my career.'
Some special ingredients that are needed for the Credit Management expertise?
Bruno Baets: 'The scope of credit management is very broad. From financial analysis to negotiation skills, a credit management professional constantly needs to balance between skills that aren’t necessarily easy to be found in one person.'
Thriving under different and changing circumstances
What skills did you acquire during your first assignments that you needed in your advisory and implementation projects?
Bruno Baets:'You learn how companies work, whether your first mission is at a startup or a multinational. Graduating and obtaining a degree provides you with certain skills, but the ins and outs of finance departments are only truly understood when experiencing the real deal.
'Also, a thorough understanding of the smallest of tasks is necessary in order to advise and implement change in organizations. You can’t just start out advising on vision and strategy. As your career grows, the level at which you conduct projects grows. Starting at the lowest level of tasks allows you to build up knowledge and experience and organically allows your projects to grow with you as a professional.
'Finally, you get to see and learn about lots of different corporate cultures. Being able to thrive under different and changing circumstances is a very important skill for a consultant. Being comfortable and confident in any situation is key, and there is no better way to learn this than diving into different challenges in different environments.'
What makes a good consultant?
Bruno Baets: 'In my opinion, a good consultant considers the impact of all his actions: from the impact on a strategic level, to the impact on a small activity in a process. Clients expect a consultant to advise them on a certain task. You need to make sure that the advice you give or the change you implement is tailored to your client's needs, on every level, taking into account all constraints and exceptions. Your work needs to be both effective and efficient.'
Our TriFinance philosophy is based on furthering people. It makes us proud that we could make your next career move possible. What exactly are you going to do?
Bruno Baets: 'I will further my career at a large technology company that develops visualization and collaboration solutions. My new role will be in Business Process expertise for the finance department. In this function, I will assist in optimizing all the processes in the finance department, and collaborate closely with the IT department to ensure the systems support the users as much as possible to efficiently execute all their tasks. I hope to be able to combine my experience from working on software projects in the credit management team at TriFinance with this opportunity to expand my experience in the much broader field of finance.'
Bruno has left the building. Or has he?
We still hope you could come back and become a boomerang one day (Me inc’er who decides to return to TriFinance after a job at another company). Would you be up for this?
Bruno Baets: 'It’s difficult to answer this question without any doubt, as I haven’t even left the building yet. All I can say is that I’ve never regretted choosing to start my career at TriFinance in the T&S Antwerp unit. I’ve learned so much over the years, and I was able to give direction to my career and choose my own path. I was fortunate to be able to take my first “next step” within TriFinance, transfering to CFO Services to engage in advisory projects, and learn from experts in both functional expertise domains and methodological ones.
So I believe my final answer is: 'Who knows!' I certainly enjoyed my time. In the meantime, I hope to further broaden my skills, become a better finance professional, and remain a true MeInc ambassador.
We wish you the best of luck in this new challenge.