Deloitte Netherlands launches Center of Expertise for Blockchain services

19 July 2018

The Dutch arm of Deloitte, Deloitte Netherlands, has launched a Center of Expertise for Blockchain services. Around one hundred of the firm’s blockchain and cryptocurrency experts in the country have joined the new community. 

Deloitte Netherlands has around 5,500 professionals; accountants, auditors, financial advisors and consultants. A growing number of those are working in the blockchain realm. “We have a dedicated team of blockchain programmers and experts who are deployed across all disciplines – from Audit to Financial Advisory and from Risk Advisory to Consulting and Tax & Legal,” said Toon Segers, partner at Deloitte and responsible for the blockchain practice.

He added that the rapidly rising demand from the business community in the Netherlands for blockchain technology applications has prompted Deloitte to open a dedicated Blockchain Center of Expertise (BlockCenter). “The BlockCenter is where all of Deloitte’s blockchain expertise is accumulated.” BlockCenter will focus on proposition development, thought leadership, development of prototype solution and facilitate staffing requests for blockchain-related engagements.

The move by the Dutch follows in the footsteps of initiatives taken by other Deloitte firms in Europe. In 2016, the Big Four firm for instance launched an EMEA Financial Services Blockchain Lab. Coordinated out of Dublin, the community focuses on the development and implementation of blockchain services and technologies at banks, insurance companies and asset managers, among others. And last year, both Deloitte UK and Deloitte France unveiled significant investments in blockchain practices. 

Deloitte Netherlands launches Center of Expertise for Blockchain services

“Deloitte’s worldwide blockchain network encompasses well over a thousand experts,” said Segers. Outside of North West Europe*, Deloitte has similar blockchain communities – the US member firm established a large Blockchain lab in the firm’s New York’s Wall Street office, while from Singapore the Big Four firm leads a blockchain team that serves the Asian market.

Across its global footprint, Deloitte regards blockchain as one of the most important sources for disruption in industries from financial services and retail to government and logistics. “Already supply chain, asset management and property businesses are definitely benefiting from the application of blockchain,” explained Jacob Boersma, a senior manager in Deloitte’s blockchain team. 

While acknowledging the massive potential which can be unlocked through the technology, Segers and Boersma warn that it's key for organsiations to not boil the ocean on the matter, and carefully look beyond the hype. “Blockchain is not a silver bullet and it shouldn’t be treated as a solution to all problems. This is where we come in to support our clients. Deloitte’s unique combination of experience, technical expertise and knowledge of legal, tax and compliance aspects allows it to look beyond the hype.” 

Deloitte Netherlands has meanwhile been active on the M&A market this year, acquiring Tytho, a tax consulting and software company, and AEPEX, a SAP supply chain consultancy.

* Deloitte North West Europe consists of the member firms in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the UK and Switzerland. The region has 28,000 partners and professionals, generating over €5 billion in annual revenue. 

Related: A.T. Kearney and PwC back French blockchain incubator Chain Accelerator.

Four tips for deploying agile in the finance function

11 April 2019

The success of agile working in the IT domain has inspired other departments to adopt the approach. In finance, agile has rapidly gained ground as a key approach for making the function more responsive, forward-looking, and, most importantly, proactive towards the business. Daniela Pleiner, a consultant at Blinklane Consulting, explores how finance can embrace agile and scale the methodology across the entire function. 

Financial Agility is realised when the finance department works in an Agile mode (e.g. using Kanban methodology) and when traditional financial processes within the organisation are adapted to support the agile way of working. With agility in place, finance can enjoy the adaptability and responsiveness needed to transition into being a strategic partner to the organisation. 

Achieving a more mature level of Financial Agility – one where agile has been scaled from a pilot environment to a more enterprise level – is however no easy feat. Typically, finance functions are used to working along the lines of rigorous and demanding processes – this is to a large extent in direct conflict with agile's core values and principles aimed at removing overhead, friction, and fostering co-creation and collaboration. 

Based on Blinklane's year-long experience in agile and finance transformations, Daniela Pleiner outlines four tips for successfully deploying financial agility:

Four tips for deploying agile in the finance function

Train your people

Behind every financial system are real people. Those professionals have to be made aware of the implications of the agile transformation on the financial processes. Therefore, it is truly important to go back to the basic agile values and to openly address challenges in the context of finance. The goal is to trigger the right discussions. You will be surprised how open they are for changes once they grasp the concept! 

Show the benefits

When you want to become a truly agile organisation, relying on business as usual from the finance function is no longer viable. However, putting some pressure on finance and asking for immediate changes to cope with agile will not help. Instead, show them the benefits from their perspective. Think: might the new process simplify their administration? Can we reduce manual data processing by linking to an agile project management tool? Or what kind of new data could we use to make better investment decisions? 

Simplify and visualise

Changing accounting approaches or funding value streams can be quite big undertakings. Too often employees say, “this is not possible in our organisation”, “we are different”, or “we need to see the return on investment” and they become doubters. What helps in such situations is to simplify the complex processes and visualise alternatives. Seeing is believing here. 

As an example, what about introducing the mindsets of venture capitalists and their investment strategies? Venture capitalists aim for a diverse portfolio that fits their strategy, they mostly invest in teams they believe in and have frequent feedback loops where the start-ups can demonstrate their value. In other words, venture capitalists plant a seed, but even if they can’t harvest the fruits yet (i.e. direct revenues), they do not bail out. This is not so different from the basic strategy at the heart of the agile approach. 

Be realistic

Turning long-established financial processes around in a few weeks? Very unlikely. In a few months? Hard to achieve as well. Bravely challenging the status quo and making small steps here and there? This is the way! Most often a hybrid version is the right first step. The goal is not to disrupt all the financial processes within the company to make them fit the Agile value delivery. Rather it is vital that Finance has a constructive role to play in supporting the business to be more effective, be it in quick funding decisions or intelligent process automation. 

Make the move: a final comment

Finance should be encouraged to be a truly supportive function – a value promoter – and Financial Agility is the key word here. For a scaled agile transformation to be truly successful in finance, it is key that the function leverage the change capabilities of the organisation. There is no question that the start will be difficult, uncertain and slow. It requires a fundamental mindset change but the benefits are certainly worthwhile.