Arjen de Boer on his debut as CEO of consulting group Redmore

11 January 2024 Consultancy.eu 8 min. read
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Early last year, Arjen de Boer was selected as the new CEO of Redmore – a consultancy group with over 2,500 staff across six member firms in seven European countries. As De Boer approaches his 1-year anniversary in the office, we spoke with him on the group’s DNA and how he is helping to connect Redmore’s clients with its boutiques.

Arjen de Boer is not your average Chief Executive Officer. While you might expect someone stepping into the top job of a company to affect many of the platitudes of a newly appointed football manager – ‘it’s always been my dream to be here’, ‘this is the job I have wanted ever since I was a kid’, etc – De Boer is not shy of admitting, “it was not my goal to become CEO of Redmore.”

De Boer had previously co-founded ITDS, and co-led the firm through several phases of growth. In 2018, ITDS became part of Redmore – at which point De Boer was invited to become a member of Redmore’s management team.

“Since taking on that role, I learned a lot about our internal way of working, and the relationships between Redmore’s boutiques,” De Boer explains. When House of HR – Redmore’s parent company – was acquired by Bain Capital in November 2022, De Boer was asked to run for the top seat.

“The CEO at the time [Edwin van den Elst] wanted to become less executive – he’s still involved, but in a different capacity – and I was still in doubt. On the one hand, I would not have put myself forward for the role on my own, because I was concerned I would lose a lot of freedom in my work. But at the same time, I have a real competitive streak in me, and once it became clear I was in the running, I said let’s go for it.”

As he progressed throughout the process, De Boer realised he was facing one of those rare opportunities that would likely not present itself again, as well as a fresh challenge for someone who had never been the head of a larger company before.

At the helm of an international group

Fast forward to today, and De Boer is delighted with the vote of confidence he has received, and how the role has unfolded. “Life has changed quickly in many ways, as expected. Becoming CEO of a larger entity employing 2,500 people inescapably asks a lot of time,” he admitted.

But the investment is one he faces with a smile, adding that he relishes the opportunities it brings, both for him personally and professionally. 

“The first three months were about getting to grips with the way the company works. Certainly, I had extensive Redmore baggage under my belt, but attaining an overview of the six boutiques and teams in seven countries, and to really understand them all – individually, and as part of Redmore: that took me some time. Obviously, I’m still constantly learning.”

“But I am surrounded with some really good and ambitious professionals within our management team at Redmore. And I feel backed by the trust from the board of House of HR.”

An interconnected group of boutiques

Redmore is made up of six firms across the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal and Poland. Along with ITDS, these include Triple A – Risk Finance, Talent&Pro, Profource, Vialegis and Agium. The firms help financial services, corporates and public sector entities to prepare for the future. The group is part of House of HR – one of Europe’s largest human capital and staffing firms.

The different boutiques of Redmore

The more De Boer has come to understand the group he leads, the better suited his outside-the-box personality seems to be for the job. As clients across Europe respond to various headwinds, they need agile, tailored advice which can help them stay one step ahead of the competition.

“I do believe that there is still space to grow – for us and our clients,” De Boer notes. “We are not blind to the problems of the world around us, of course. We are working in an uncertain time, and we see issues like a shortage of labour in Europe, new legislation around staffing/consulting in the Netherlands, “but there is immense potential within Redmore and our boutiques, since all our customers require expertise.”

“Redmore’s secret is that we have six unique boutiques within our group, each of which is at the top of their class in their respective industries or specialisations. Each one of them has a degree of independence to do what they do best – and that gives us a big advantage, making us adaptable and agile. And combined, we have the appearance of a holistic single firm that can compete with the largest players in the industry. That aligns with the DNA and success of House of HR itself.”

Redmore in action: pensions

Illustrating the way Redmore is helping clients cope with huge changes, De Boer points to the incoming changes for the pensions market of the Netherlands.

As it is implemented, the ‘wet toekomst pensioenen’ (WTP) – roughly translated as the Future Pensions Act – will set out three goals. It will lead to a supplementary pension that adapts more responsively to economic changes; a more personal and clearer pension accrual; and a pension system that is better suited to the fact that people no longer work for 40 years with one boss.

“There is a lot at stake here, these are some big changes that pension providers need to adapt to in order to comply. Our end-to-end offering at Redmore means we can help our customers from design and advisory, through to implementation support, project delivery, as well as digital transformation, and special situations such as high-volume peaks in workload.” 

With the industry still enjoying a number of years to complete the transition, “we are still in the calm before the storm”, notes De Boer. As pension players prepare for the overhaul, De Boer says “its not just about implementing a new law, but about working more efficiently through digitalization. And to really connect on a personal level with pension holders.”

Making connections

As well as the localised flavours of advice Redmore can dish out, thanks to its boutiques, being under the same umbrella brings rise to additional benefits.

“Our boutiques are increasingly teaming up on engagements to offer a more in-depth and rounded offering,” says De Boer. “Speaking to the C-level of our customers, we are seeing huge potential within Redmore to cross-sell the services of our boutiques. Overseeing mutual opportunities, Redmore has established an interdisciplinary panel to manage prospects and projects, combining specialisms and geographies to provide a more holistic service when needed. That’s a huge potential.”

The areas of opportunity for this kind of teamwork are numerous. According to De Boer, there is potential to cross-sell services in areas such as the future pensions act, know your customer regulations in banking, data management and analytics, and artificial intelligence. “In such areas we are building a ‘Redmore offering’ with the goal to benefit our clients and help them become future proof.”

“At the same time, for the (young) professionals joining Redmore, we can offer specialised training and make sure they are always on top of their game. Offering learning & development, providing new challenges and making sure our professionals can continue to evolve is really one of our key priorities.”

What’s next

Looking ahead, Redmore aims to continue its growth trajectory – an ambition that is being supported by the top echelons within House of HR and Bain Capital. 

An integral part of the roadmap is to expand abroad, with Germany, France and the UK earmarked as top targets. Not organically, admits De Boer: “I genuinely believe that when we enter for example the German market, we cannot do it by ourselves. We will have to ally with a local player to become successful there – and we have planted seeds for when the time is right.”

“Interest in joining the group is there” he says, “because boutiques become more commercially successful after we bring them into Redmore. Our unique approach, allowing boutiques to continue as the specialists they are – benefits Redmore and its clients, but it also allows the boutiques to accelerate on the paths they were already on.”

Admittedly, De Boer still says that Redmore still faces room for growth. “We are working on an agenda that spans numerous opportunities. These include enhancing our good employership proposition, positioning ourselves as a frontrunner in ESG, boosting our diversity and inclusion, reducing our cabon footprint. These and others are pivotal topics for the development of Redmore.”

In doing so, the group not only seeks to tick all the boxes but instead, “really embed these values at the core of our vision, operations and all what we do at our clients.”

Despite the big agenda, De Boer is confident in the firm’s future, in particular in light of the key asset he has uncovered during his ten months in the role. “I wasn’t fully aware of the huge potential of all the people within the group. It’s amazing how much intelligence, expertise and positive mindset is housed within the boutiques. For me now, it’s all about just connecting those talents to bring the very best out of everyone. Our talent is what truly makes the difference.”