At the beginning of April, BDO and the Antwerp accountancy firm Beirens & Wellens joined forces. A very conscious and strategically complementary choice. The customers and employees of both players benefit, continuity is assured, the pool of experience and multidisciplinary expertise expands, and penetration in – and proximity to – the Belgian market is strengthened.
Mieke Loncke, Director BDO Marketing & Communication
“The mission of Beirens & Wellens Accountants en Belastingconsulenten is to make entrepreneurs wiser about accounting, tax and financial management by giving them clear and personal advice – and by thinking along proactively with them – to the benefit of their company.”
With these words, the Antwerp branch praised its business model, which has been successful in the market over the past decade. “But due to the increasing complexity of the same market, the increasingly stringent compliance requirements, and the accelerated digitisation and internationalisation, we stood at a new crossroads,” say founders Michel Beirens and Luc Wellens. “Either we would make a new quantum leap ourselves, or we would hand over our customers and expertise to an organisation that would continue and upgrade our business and service at least as qualitatively and in a future-oriented manner.”
Multidisciplinary and digital
They chose BDO because “their vision and culture fit seamlessly with our DNA,” says Luc Wellens from experience. “The customer always comes first – and I know that our employees will also feel at home within the BDO family.”
BDO Belgium Chairman Johan Vandenbroeck considers the mutual trust and the click between the cultures in the two organisations to be even more important than any business consideration: “Both the customers and the employees of the integrated organisation must benefit from it in the long run. We both firmly believe in the added value of the complementary cooperation.”
“BDO is strengthening its position and portfolio in the Antwerp port area.”
Johan Vandenbroeck, Chairman BDO Belgium
By the way, Beirens & Wellens has already worked regularly with BDO for specific projects or when a customer required expertise in areas in which the office itself was less well equipped. Michel Beirens: “Since the founding of our own office in 2008, we have built up strong expertise in accounting and in assisting family entrepreneurs and medium-sized, multinational SMEs. Thanks to the years of experience and cooperation with tax and legal advisers, notaries, company auditors, etc., we have evolved more and more towards providing a multidisciplinary service – with the emphasis on accounting, tax and legal advice.” Thanks to far-reaching digitisation since 2017, accounting with the associated reporting and budgeting is done in real-time – and it has thus become, more than ever before, an indispensable strategic policy tool. “The more the customer is able to do the processing autonomously, the more added value we can provide with advice and guidance.”
This multidisciplinary and digital approach fits in perfectly with BDO’s strategy. “The match is also expressed in various other facets,” confirms Dirk Vandendaele, Managing Partner at BDO Accountants. “The family and ‘mid-size’ customer profile, the proactive creation of added value, the pursuit of proximity, etc. Moreover, the location of the office – which we are retaining as a branch office – at the port of Antwerp fits in with the development of a close-knit, flexible network and with BDO’s proximity vision. Last but not least, thanks to their know-how, training and experience, the 14 employees are a great asset in an era in which highly-skilled profiles are scarce.”
“The heart of the matter? Serving the customer in every phase of life.”
Dirk Vandendaele, Partner BDO Accountants
BDO already had solid roots in Antwerp, but according to Johan Vandenbroeck: “thanks to the new office, BDO is strengthening its position and portfolio in the port area. A first step on this strategic axis was already taken in 2017 with the acquisition of Crossroad, today BDO Digital.” The new BDO branch office – which does not require you to go through the Kennedy tunnel – will also be an asset for ‘employer branding’ and will serve as a kind of hub or beacon to attract customers and employees from the surrounding region.
For the customers of Beirens & Wellens, the added value lies mainly in the broader, multilateral service under one roof that covers all aspects of the business chain. “The world is becoming more complex, and so are the questions from the customers,” says Luc Wellens, who is well aware of where Beirens & Wellens’ boundaries lie. “For example, today we employ IT-minded people, but not IT specialists, to guide our customers in their ICT investments. Finally, do not forget the international component. Our customers who are active internationally can now call on the knowledge and expertise of BDO’s global network. Our customers can also rest assured that I, together with Michel, will continue to remain on board for a number of years.”
“Choosing the BDO family provides our customers and employees the assurance of continuity.”
Luc Wellens, co-founder Beirens & Wellens
Johan Vandenbroeck: “The accountant is usually the confidant and the first point of contact. That will not change any time soon. However, he or she will be facing more and more questions about digitalisation, strategy, change, etc. But it’s always important to be able to serve the customer efficiently and accurately, with the right expertise at every phase of life and growth. This ‘1+1=3’ story ensures the future of both employees and customers.”
“By joining forces, our customers get a complete business-wide, multilateral service.”
Michel Beirens, co-founder Beirens & Wellens
‘White label service’
Digitisation is paving the way for new, often disruptive business models. The platform economy is a textbook example of this. Players like Amazon or Apple offer services via their online platform (such as banking services), which are not part of their own core business. The partnership between BDO and the Polish fintech Vodeno and its digital bank Aion is such a ‘white label service’ cooperation model (also read the article “’My accountant powered by BDO’ – the Aion story” in To The Point 2/2020). In addition to traditional ‘banking’ products, the digital bank also integrates accountancy services and solutions for its customers via a central app.
‘Slingshot into the (digital) future’
BDO is a strong digital player. The majority of the internal processes and customer activities and the exchange of data with customers, branches, authorities, etc. are almost entirely digital. Teleworking is well established – although, until the COVID crisis, the office workplace always played a central role.
From the first day of the lockdown in March 2020, ‘almost entirely’ became ‘fully’ digital, and ‘central role’ changed to ‘supporting role’. Peter Van Laer, CEO BDO Belgium: “For the non-digital links, like so many other companies, we had to look for solutions quickly. And we succeeded. Live meetings and contact moments were replaced by video chats. We put seminars and conferences in a digital format. Commuting and travel fell by the wayside. Instead, we improved our home offices and adapted.” BDO is convinced that the lockdown provided a kind of ‘slingshot into the (digital) future’. “Perhaps all these events were the push we needed to take the final leap into a world of ‘digital first’.”
According to Peter Van Laer, CEO of BDO Belgium, the DNA of Beirens & Wellens is exceptionally well aligned with BDO’s ambitions and “how we see the world evolving towards ‘white label services’ (read the inset below)”. “The strategic location in an economically important region and the focus of the office on one of our core segments – medium-sized companies – match exactly with our inorganic growth strategy.”
“The integration matches exactly with our inorganic growth strategy."
Peter Van Laer, CEO BDO Belgium
However, this does not at all mean that BDO is looking for acquisitions. “No growth just for growth’s sake. Beirens & Wellens was already on the right, future-oriented track. Upstream, Luc and Michel had firmly positioned all the building blocks, including digitisation and robotic accounting. In short, the puzzle was as good as complete. We could not possibly pass up such an opportunity.”
5 complementary advantages
Proximity to the customers
Acquisition of experienced and well-trained experts
Strategic location in Antwerp port area
Future-oriented (digital) tools and building blocks
Perpetuate the leading role in the family business market segment