Steve’s career path
- Studied Philosophy and Commercial Engineering at University of Antwerp (Belgium) & Master in International Economics & Strategy, Georgetown University (US)
- 2003-2005: Startup in industrial services, responsible for go-to-market operations
- 2005: McKinsey, Business Analyst
- 2005-2017: Accenture Consulting in all its shapes and colors: Strategy, Resources, CRM, Financial Services
- 2008-present: Mentor - Capstone Course, Master Commercial Engineering at Antwerp University
- 2014-2017: Founding Member of the Start it@KBC Board
- 2017-present: Responsible for Commercial & Operational Efficiency at Vivium
- 2017-present: Member of the Accenture BeLux Alumni Board
Having started your career in the startup world, why did you join Accenture?
There is something about the combination of business and technology that makes Accenture attractive. It’s a quality envied by many. That unique perspective of helping companies look beyond the technology hype and create actual value convinced me to make the leap. Besides, what better excuse could there be to travel the world and get to know the insides of Cadillac Ranch (RIP).
Did you focus on one or several industries?
My first engagement at Accenture was in Resources. It was a memorable time with tons of frustration, a helpless client, lasting over two years… and I got to know some of the most inspiring people thanks to it! After that I was called in to check up on things happening at the banks in our country, where a little subprime crisis had just hit the floor. I’d like to say I was able to see the similarities between industries and make maximum reuse of that knowledge, but they tend to be at extreme opposites. Wherever you go in Accenture, you’re always kept on your toes, that’s for sure. In between, I had short stints in Products and Transport, but I was always drawn back to Financial Services.
What are your outstanding Accenture memories?
I remember this one time when we had it all: the project was amazing, the team was thriving, times were good. The CRM team ventured out into Deauville, France, to celebrate and let’s say it was le…gen…wait-for-it…dary. On a more professional note, I will always be proud when I think back to the moment when our team realized that we had just turned around a huge project at one of Europe’s leading insurers where the odds were stacked against us. Without going into detail as to why, we managed to win back the client’s confidence and more: after the project, the client executives congratulated the team, all our recommendations were followed, and this brought our client tremendous success. It was a challenging experience for most of the people involved, but because of the way the team pulled together, we will probably stay in touch for a long time to come.
Key Accenture skills you will always use?
- Management by Excel, preferably with too many columns and rows
- The ability to dial into a conference call while driving
- Explaining to China or Argentina why there was no other hotel left than the Kempinski, and yes, I needed room service
- Calculating how much budget is left for a team event, without hurting the magic CCI
In 2012, you again became involved in the startup world, this time as Innovation Lead at Accenture...
Thanks to the great leadership of people like Olivier Gillerot, Wim Decraene and Fernand Dimidschstein, we pulled off some amazing things. We launched Belgium’s largest early-stage startup scene with Start it@KBC, signing up more than 300 startups in its first years. We published a first-of-its-kind coffee table book containing interviews with Belgium’s brightest innovators. We motivated more than 1000 colleagues to submit their innovative ideas to our board and helped to launch five startups from within our own company. This created a new vibe in the company that continues to this day.
Why is innovation so important for corporates?
With changes in technology, the entry barriers to any industry are dissolving. You could be a wood-processing factory today, and a mobile phone operator tomorrow. Companies are crossing traditional industry boundaries with one goal: capturing the customer journey. You have to innovate your positioning if you want to avoid falling prey to a competitor you haven’t even identified yet.
Is an entrepreneurial mindset among employees key to success?
Motivating employees to improve the way they serve customers is not the hardest part. Many of us are born with an innate will to make things better. Leadership is about how you free up their time and make it a priority to work on improving things. In other words, how you take away the ‘urgent KPI’ and replace it with ‘why do we do what we do?’ mindset. After that, the work is not done of course, but you have delivered the first sign of leadership that will permeate through your teams.
Probably one thing that is too often underestimated is giving people an explicit vote of trust. It is a strength to be able to tell the people you work with that you trust them, even if it might go against your better judgment sometimes.
How does Vivium tackle insurance market disruption?
Vivium is itself a market disruptor, meaning that we are in a position to reinvent the rules of the game. Most insurers are constantly forced to sacrifice areas where today they can make a difference through human judgment. But pure 100% automation is changing that and cutting out the human touch. We don’t think this makes sense. There are ways around this.
We need to profoundly rethink the way we scale our business. Adding more hands is not a solution, we need to apply new technologies to cover more land. Moreover, we have the moral duty to reflect on how we best serve our customers in a digitizing world, where – in my view – human-to-human communication will make all the difference.
Our business model intends to work through brokers and agents, for whom we want to be easy to work with, where things actually work – like the printers you plug and play at your homes and office, we want to be an efficient ‘plug & play’ insurer. We also want to be one that preserves the human touch at the core of our partnership: harnessing and developing those areas where we can make a real difference as a local partner.
For the past 10 years, you mentor final year Master students at Antwerp University. What do you get out of this collaboration?
It’s a personal passion and an honor to be able to work with the professors at my old university, and to be in touch with bright young minds. It pushes me to rethink what I am doing, why I am doing it and how it will evolve when the next generation steps in.
What makes our Alumni Network special?
I joined the Alumni Network Board shortly after leaving Accenture. Why? Because this network is extremely powerful, with plenty of untapped potential. People need to talk to each other about their career challenges, learn from other Alumni about how they have dealt with theirs, and help each other. I see my role as an igniter of conversations between recent and more experienced Alumni. I’m looking forward to seeing the first results very soon!
Finally, what are your passions outside work?
Over the past year, Mila has come into our lives and made me a dad. It goes without saying that she is the top star in off-work time. Other areas that always get me talking are dining out in good restaurants, what’s happening in the world of basketball and golf, or where to fly out next for a city trip or world exploring.