Merlijn Groenenboom and Menno Wiersma on their Protiviti journey

18 December 2020 Consultancy.eu

Settling into a new job can be difficult even without the additional challenges presented by a global pandemic. Fortunately, according to Merlijn Groenenboom and Menno Wiersma, Protiviti pulled out all the stops to make sure they eased into their new roles quickly and smoothly.

Global consulting firm Protiviti generates revenues of over $1 billion and has more than 80 offices in over 20 countries. The company mainly works for multinationals – including 60% of the Fortune 1000 and 35% of the Fortune Global 500 – as well as for large regional companies, helping them with a range of services including financial management, internal audit, risk management, data and analytics and cybersecurity.

At the start of 2020, the firm signalled its intent to expand with the addition of new offices in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Zurich. In parallel, the firm has recruited key experts across its European operations – something which led to the arrival of Merlijn Groenenboom and Menno Wiersma in Protiviti’s Amsterdam office.

Merlijn Groenenboom en Menno Wiersma, Protiviti

Menno Wiersma

Explaining why he became motivated to join Protiviti, Wiersma explained, “Protiviti has been in the list of Fortune’s ‘Best Companies to Work For’ in recent years and that also shows in the working culture in the Amsterdam office. There is a lot of freedom to do what you like, excel in areas where you are good at and thrive as an individual… Further the organisation is very active in product and market development, empowering its people to be on top of the latest developments.”

After he studied Quantitative Business Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Wiersma started his career as a Distribution Analyst, before switching to investments with Allianz. He later went on to work for consultancy FundPartner, offering structured product solutions and ALM related services to Dutch pension funds, and for ING, where he was responsible for structured solutions for pension funds and insurance companies.

More recently Wiersma worked for Amsterdam Trade Bank with the responsibility for Treasury and Asset Liability Management, and Anadolubank, where he was chief risk officer. Throughout his diverse career, however, he has always applied modeling and what almost inevitably comes alongside, coding, “as these are two aspects that have always thrilled me!”

According to Wiersma, this focus area is well suited to his responsibility at Protiviti, Model Risk Management and Model Audit. This area spans traditional modelling and risk-related work, as well as emerging issues like ethics in the use of artificial intelligence. This all is supported by “a great ICT environment,” including a variety of content and education tools, suiting Wiersma’s ambition “very well, as I can build on my broad experience, but still learn, often also from younger colleagues.”

He has subsequently spent his first months with the firm building a Model Risk Management (MRM) offering from Protiviti’s Amsterdam office; something done in close cooperation with colleagues from other countries to unlock “a more European approach.”

Merlijn Groenenboom

Groenenboom meanwhile arrived in Protiviti’s Amsterdam locale one month after Wiersma, having spent the last eight years working for a company that provides governance, risk and compliance (GRC) software and manages GRC software implementations. Following almost 15 years of non-stop full-time work, she decided to take a short sabbatical to spend more time with family, and take stock of her own options in the world of GRC.

Eventually, this led her to join the consulting firm. “Joining Protiviti provides me with the opportunity to combine my interests and create a bridge between risk management and GRC-software,” Groenenboom explained. “Being part of Protiviti means being part of an international network of colleagues that are eager to share their knowledge and experiences.”

“For example,” she continued, “we have a lot of training materials, webinars, and feedback sessions. This all gives me the opportunity to grow within my fields of expertise, GRC-tooling and risk management… and to expand my role by advising on GRC-software solutions, implementations approach and risk management methodology.”

“While the market for GRC-software is growing pretty quickly, Protiviti stands out for its deep expertise, track record and independent approach,” said Groenenboom.

Integrating during lockdown

Groenenboom joined Protiviti’s Dutch win on May 1st, as a Manager focusing mainly on GRC Technology – a move which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. Understandably, she was initially concerned that the lockdown might make it difficult to settle into the team – however, Protiviti embraced the digital welcoming of its new members.

Groenenboom recalled, “Although all actions taken can’t fully imitate real life interaction, it does help to stay connected, get to know each other and feel welcome. Looking back, I am surprised how starting at Protiviti during the Covid-19 period went very smoothly and I am still delighted with the move.”

“The difficult part of the current situation is building strong relations with colleagues and clients. Luckily Protiviti underwrites this and encourages us to stay connected with everyone; arranging fun events online for all Protiviti colleagues, like an online winetasting, a pub quiz and weekly coffee meetings.”

On top of the less formal measures used by Protiviti, the consulting firm also has regular meetings where Covid-rules and guidelines for the company are explained by management, and where staff are asked for feedback – helping them to feel listened too at a difficult time. Meanwhile, a new taskforce set up, named ‘Back to the Future’, is working to learn lessons from the situation, and how to incorporate them into the firm’s future work and office.

Wiersma is similarly positive about his induction into the firm during the pandemic. He expanded, “The Protiviti Amsterdam office did an amazing job on keeping all employees involved. In addition to the regular office-wide meetings and the virtual coffee, we had weekly calls with the management, with a random colleague, we played virtual bingo, escape-room, pub-quizzes, and more.”

On a number of occasions, Wiersma was positively surprised at receiving a gift at home. “Management facilitated anything necessary for colleagues who had difficulties to combine their work-life with their private life.”

In between the lock-downs, Wiersma has also been present at the Protiviti office a few times under strict guidelines; “only if necessary with sign-up to a maximum of only a quarter of the staff, a variety of hygiene measures, a travel and a one-and-a half meter policy,” which also helped him acclimatise.

Tapping into opportunities

As a result, he has been able to expand his remit. Wiersma unpacked, “In addition to client work for the largest banks in the Netherlands, I started to coordinate the development of a Capability Maturity Model (CMM) for Model Risk Management, a tool using Protiviti methodology to analyse the maturity of an organisation regarding their model infrastructure. This can be of help for organisations to benchmark themselves against peers, to see in which areas they can improve their organisations, and in defining the steps / projects how to bring the organisation to the next maturity level.”

The tool, which can be deployed in financial services but also beyond, can assist organisations that are less adept using risk management, but also be used in much more complex settings with an established model risk management organisation and involving more in-depth analysis and project management. “I am very enthusiastic about the offering and look forward to continue to grow this exciting field of work.”

Similarly, Groenenboom feels established enough at Protiviti that she is also looking to branch into different lines of work, and unite with new aspects of the business. She concluded, “One of my ambitions is to establish a closer connection between risk management and GRC-software, enabling clients to take a holistic view underpinned by cutting-edge technology.”