In the summer of 2019, Kristof Van Dam starts his trajectory as Business Controller at Alcomotive. The departure of his experienced predecessor forces Alcomotive to find a quick solution to safeguard continuity and efficiency within the finance department.
During the introductory interview with Hyphen, Head of Controlling Eva Swolfs immediately saw the right match: "I think this is the shortest recruitment process we have ever had. In the past two years, Kristof and also Hyphen have taken our finance organization to a higher level."
Hyphen consultant Kristof Van Dam has been with Alcomotive for just over two years today. Although he is always looking for new challenges, he says he hasn't felt a moment unchallenged at Alcomotive. "It is inherent in our job as consultants to look for a new trigger faster than average in the job market but at Alcomotive I am constantly challenged and nothing is routine."
As an importer and distributor of several Asian car brands in several European countries, Alcomotive has the challenge of growing the existing brands but also launching new ones. That's where the finance function plays an important role. How well does the business know the finance function at Alcomotive? "The knowledge is quite strong here," says Head of Controlling Eva Swolfs. "When I joined the group myself, for example, everyone knew what the ROCE (Return on Capital Employed) was. In our organization, you have a number of financial targets that everyone knows. Most employees know the importance of financial performance, which means the business controllers are quickly contacted when the business has questions. "At Alcomotive, we believe in the importance of a smooth and informal flow of information between business and finance. There is a daily collaboration with controlling, which therefore extends far beyond a strict reporting line. Setting up new brands, improving internal processes and helping to outline future strategies are just a few of the various tasks within controlling."
The first year Kristof co-draws the story of the car brand SsangYong, followed by the new LCV brand Maxus for which the controlling function had to be built from scratch. The latter was recently exchanged for Suzuki. "As business controller I help set the structural lines, in cooperation with the management of the brands. In addition, I am constantly working on the information flows. The link with the business is therefore very strong." Head of Controlling Eva Swolfs now sees Kristof as a full member of the controlling team. "If you were to ask our colleagues whether Kristof works here on an interim basis, more than 90 percent of them would not know. His role has actually become contingent due to the various projects that are running here. Our business and organization, like so many other firms, are confronted with constant changes in product offerings, reporting requirements, forecasting, etc. In short, a strong understanding of the business and a flexible mindset ensure that as a controller you are a full part of this process."
For example, Kristof made budget preparation a lot more dynamic for the business. "For the business director, that proved to be a great added value," he says. Eva also praises Kristof's communication skills. "What is usually forgotten in an international group is that the people who are close by in central functions know everything. The people in the entities across the border, on the other hand, are sometimes forgotten and therefore feel too little part of the group. Kristof has ensured that there is a constant and strengthened line of communication to foreign countries. This has been an important aspect of Kristof's job."
When we look overarchingly at the finance function and more specifically at the role of interim management, Eva is convinced of the benefits. "I see that changing circumstances such as the economic climate, the current production problems, ... have meant that finance roles have to be much more flexible. Finance is much more hands-on than before, even as a manager or CFO you are more closely involved than before. Change has become a part of almost every work environment and people management has become increasingly important. For some finance employees, this often feels unnatural, but at Alcomotive we try to keep it in perspective. An interim manager like Kristof can help here to bring the right mindset to life in the team."
"In the past, numbers were numbers, numbers. We are now evolving much more into a more in-depth role, where we have to clearly substantiate figures and underlying statements towards the shareholders and the business. We bring a realistic view and a translation to the business so that the opportunities but also the possible risks are clearly visible. We used to look at the past, now we look to the future. And in our business that sometimes changes every week."
Alcomotive imports and sells vehicles from Hyundai, Suzuki, Isuzu, Maxus, MG and SsangYong and operates with some of these brands in the Benelux, Germany, Switzerland and Poland. In 2020, Alcomotive's turnover was 495 million euros. Today, the company is owned by majority partner Bergé Auto and Alcopa.