My Life in Finance
Jeroen van Loenen, Senior Credit Controller, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Nederland B.V.
Readers will be familiar with Jeroen van Loenen, whose article in edition 250 on transforming credit and collections at Konica Minolta was one of our best-read articles so far this year, following on from the well-deserved 2016 TMI Corporate Recognition Award for Credit & Collections. In this feature, Jeroen shares some perspectives on the profession and how it is evolving.
How did you come into finance – specifically credit and collections - and what attracted you to the profession?
I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue when I completed national service after business school. I got a temporary job at Bosch in accounts receivable, and quickly discovered that it was a role I enjoyed and to which my skills appeared to be suited. In particular, I liked the role of mediator between the company and the customer, and the ability to solve problems in a very tangible way by satisfying customers and bringing the cash into the business.
How did your career progress through to the role that you hold today?
I fulfilled a variety of roles in different industries, including the telecom sector during a period of explosive growth in mobile telephones, and ultimately went to Fortis for both business (B2B) and consumer (B2C) credit. When Fortis sold the business, I joined the mortgage subsidiary of Lehman Bros that provided sub-prime mortgages. When Lehman collapsed, I looked back on my time there and decided I no longer wanted to be involved in B2C credit management, and I was uncomfortable about the behaviour and rigour with which organisations at that time pursued payment, and the impact on people’s lives.
After a short time, I was employed by the European division of Japanese engineering firm Yanmar in November 2009. This was my first experience of implementing a credit management system. While Japanese companies are typically quite reluctant to chase up customer payment, the European CEO, who was also a member of the board, recognised the benefits of implementing a structured and sustainable approach to credit and collections, and the project was approved. Even so, ‘selling’ the project to internal customers was very challenging. During this time, I recognised the importance of greater sense of political and emotional intelligence and refined these skills. I also realised how much I enjoy bring people together, and encouraging collaboration and resolution across multi-disciplinary teams.
I joined Konica Minolta in 2013, and have since led the project to transform our credit and collections processes by implementing FIS’ GETPAID, and it was a huge privilege to be awarded the TMI Corporate Recognition Award 2016 for Credit & Collections.
How have demands and needs in terms of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does it now require?
Ten years ago, credit and collections management was relatively simple, particularly for a bank. At that time, banks were always right. If you couldn’t pay, no matter why not, the bank would pursue payment. People have more rights now – and have a better knowledge of them too. Credit managers need to understand these rules too, which can be particularly challenging when managing credit and collections internationally. Indeed, sometimes it goes too far, and the amount of detail on consumer rights given on invoices can be excessive – perhaps some people are interested to that level of detail, but not many! Technology has also changed, of course, and tools such as FIS’ GETPAID have transformed the processes, controls and quality and transparency of decision-making in credit and collections.