Strategy& delivers the data, insight and guidance finance & invest.brussels needs to continue to create real value for the Brussels region
Relatively new to the firm, Pierre Hermant’s remit as CEO is to transform finance & invest.brussels and make it future ready. finance & invest.brussels is the Brussels regional investment company that helps firms grow and develop themselves in the Brussels region, thereby creating jobs and value for the region and the people who live there.
"For the last ten years, the deal flow's been almost dead. We need to re-boost the deal flow and re-energise activities," says Pierre Hermant. To date, finance & invest.brussels has invested in 395 companies and plans to invest another 500 million euros over the next seven years. To make sure it invests wisely and creates the greatest value, the firm wanted to find the most appropriate themes to invest in for the region; "we not only look at sectors to invest in, but themes too," Pierre Hermant explains. To help it identify those themes, finance & invest.brussels reached out to Strategy&, PwC’s Strategy Consulting practice, as a true sparring partner.
"Efficient transformation means recognising what you can and can’t do", Pierre Hermant believes. finance & invest.brussels began its transformation by introducing a new operational approach and tools like CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.
But, he notes, "for strategy, it’s very important to talk to someone outside the firm, someone who’ll tell you the truth, who'll challenge you. It’s good to have fresh perspectives and to be able to think outside of the box. I really believe that to devise a new strategy for the future, it's important to have an external partner, but," he advises, "it should be one that can speak the same language as the company." And that’s something he found with Strategy&.
"More than just a consultant, the Strategy& Partner in Belgium - Fernand Dimidschstein - acts as a kind of coach. We've developed a fantastic partnership with him and his team," Pierre Hermant enthuses. And he goes on, "We worked together for two months and the Strategy& team was a real part of our team, providing the competencies we lacked internally. They worked hard to understand our culture. If they hadn't, they wouldn’t have been able to challenge our dream in the way they did and help us reshape that dream into a new strategy."
He adds, "during our first meeting, they asked "What do you want to be known for?" That's really key in strategy. The answer for finance & invest.brussels is facilitating and completing the financial value chain in Brussels to help companies grow and develop in the Brussels region."
Looking at how to develop its strategy going forward, Pierre Hermant states, "today, you can’t develop a strategy without data and you need to be sure that the data you're using is real and relevant. Strategy& demonstrated that it not only had applicable experience, but a substantial database of pertinent information too, specifically, good references in the analysis of smart cities. It’s useful for us to know what themes other similar cities invest in to compare and benchmark our approach," Pierre Hermant explains.
One such city is Washington DC. "Brussels is one of the biggest diplomatic regions in the world, like Washington DC. Strategy& had key figures about Washington DC and an analysis of the themes invested in there. For us, this represented a kind of inspirational analysis and we discovered we have similarities with the American capital," Pierre Hermant notes. Other cities covered in the analysis included Paris, Stockholm, Singapore, Amsterdam and Berlin.
"You may choose a company due to the brand’s reputation, but it’s the local team that makes the difference."
finance & invest.brussels challenged the results of Strategy&'s results along with other investment parties in Brussels to make sure they’re relevant for all players actively helping local firms develop and grow.
"We want to build a project for Brussels, but not one developed by just one institution, so we sought to validate discoveries with other enterprises too. In this context, Strategy& played an important role," Pierre Hermant says. Once validated by key stakeholders, the results were then presented to the government. "Having the stamp of PwC and Strategy& on the analysis was key here. They're brands with a huge amount of credibility," says Pierre Hermant.
finance & invest.brussels isn’t just about attracting companies to the European capital, but supporting those based there with their expansion ambitions. Having access to international data via Strategy& plays a key role in this.
"If we want to convince a company to conquer New York, for example, we need to have a lot of information about how business is done there, which themes are important and how they’re approached. That’s very important for the company we’re investing in to help make them as successful as possible," Pierre Hermant says. To further support them, he recommends that they call on the wide-ranging services of PwC and Strategy&.
Having developed such a trusting relationship, Pierre Hermant naturally calls on Strategy& for advice and guidance.
"I know that the day we have another challenge it’ll be easy to call Strategy& and work together again. Being in regular contact means the team stays in tune with our business and will be able to quickly step in to support us," he says.