Just one day with our multidisciplinary innovation experts, bespoke tools and tailored approach helped CFO Catherine Vandenborre reimagine the way her team works.
The utilities sector is facing one of its greatest periods of disruption ever due to the increasing drive for renewable energies, emerging technologies, evermore complex cyber threats, changing customer expectations, the introduction and rise of prosumers and more. Against that backdrop, Elia, a high-voltage transmission system operator with activities in Belgium, Germany and the UK that runs over 19,000 km of high-voltage connections to supply power to about 30 million consumers, seeks to provide society with a robust and affordable electrical system.
As Elia’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Catherine Vandenborre, along with her team, has an important role to play in helping the firm navigate the disruptive world and continue to grow. "As CFO, I'm committed to protecting and enhancing the value of the company. Together with my colleagues, I need to make sure that Elia remains relevant in its activities," she explains.
"With the changing energy landscape that we’re facing, innovation is very important. It’s crucial that we see how innovation can add value to our core activities. Our people need to become more agile and dare to challenge the norm, that’s key to facing digitalisation and innovation," she says.
To investigate how innovation can support the evolution of her field, Catherine Vandenborre and around ten team members spent a day in PwC’s new Experience Centre in our Brussels office.
Why reach out to a third party? "You cannot do successful innovation without partnering with people with different skills and different expertise. Successful innovation is never a one person or even a one group effort," Catherine Vandenborre notes.
And it’s imperative that those partners also focus on the digital future. "Innovation is key to survive so for us it’s very important to find partners that are at the forefront of innovation and that support us in our development," Catherine Vandenborre adds.
"The finance function is in transition," says Catherine Vandenborre."While tasked with supporting corporate growth, we also need to become more efficient, more digital and more innovative. We need to reimagine the way we work and open up the world of possibilities," she adds.
In that context, she believes that the PwC Europe Experience Centre offers two distinct advantages; "first, it enables department heads to align themselves with the challenges of the finance function so it creates shared awareness and second, through the use of innovative techniques, it opens up new ways to solve those challenges."
During the session, participants had the opportunity to discover more about chatbots and voice assistants, facial recognition, augmented reality and Industry 4.0 technologies, and take part in our unique Blockchain Game.
"I don’t believe we’d have reached the same outcome with a traditional approach."
Spending just one day in our PwC Europe Experience Centre, Catherine Vandenborre enthuses, "We ended with a clear vision on how the finance function could shape its future, including technological changes and the skills people need to develop. I don’t believe we’d have reached the same outcome with a traditional approach."
With regards to how PwC and the Experience Centre nurtured a successful outcome, she notes, "PwC brought different experts around the table; people from innovation, people with an IT background, people with a finance background, etc. This multidisciplinary team allows for broad reflection. Every single opinion of every person is sought and every idea is analysed throughout the process. At the same time, the tools and techniques used help make sure you get tangible results at the end of the day."
The use of new, innovative techniques is something that Catherine Vandenborre predicts will be of use going forward. She explains, :we learned to use new techniques to develop ideas like, for example, design thinking and rapid prototyping, all in a very collaborative atmosphere."
She concludes, "I really believe that finance and innovation go hand in hand; we both want what’s best for the business, but we look at the problems from different angles."