Clear objectives moving forward

previous icon These were major challenges for the company to grapple with at a time when the whole economic and cultural environment was hostile to business, and the financial sector in particular. How did Belfius go about achieving their goals? “Well the first thing was to make sure we had crystallised, meaningful and communicated objectives,” says Smet. “We had to be realistic as well as ambitious and we had to take staff along with us. The truth was we had too many staff and we needed to move to different skillsets. In practice, this meant that we needed to fundamentally trim our workforce. On top of that the company can’t afford the levels of salary and other remuneration that were in place until just recently. The business is just not sustainable at that cost level. The staff too therefore has to contribute to the bottom line and understand that their position, and the future of the company, is dependent on them continuing to offer a cost-effective return. As a start, we have reduced the board and senior management numbers also by similar proportions.”

Belfius Enjoys Change

What sort of effect did this have on the staff – morale, industrial relations, and public perception? “I believe people accepted that things had to change and that if they hadn’t lost their job they had to find a way to make themselves valuable and integral to the success of the business. I think it shocked many inside and outside the business to see the scale and rapidity with which we made the cuts and began to move the model away from staff-intensive areas such as the branch network and into channels like mobile and online banking. We will also shift the emphasis away from pure banking towards insurance, as this is also a part of the Belfius Group. This extra dimension gives us added diversity and a business advantage when banking conditions become difficult. The insurance business has a different emphasis to banking with after sales being much more important; this was another feature that had to be factored into our reconstruction.”

 “We decided that to help the business and the people move on we would need a more active internal communications strategy with clear values and mission; ones that were new and exclusive to Belfius and not handed down from the Dexia legacy. A more flexible and fluid decision-making structure also emerged from this process and this also helped with inclusion and engagement,” he explains. “What is starting to emerge is a more responsive and accountable business where everyone is signed up to the corporate plan and where the values are demonstrated top down and all the way through the company.”

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Clear objectives moving forward

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