In an interview with students of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Leontine Koens-Betz, Managing Partner of Accuracy in the Netherlands, and Gijs Siecker, Senior Manager at the firm, reflect on the ambition of the financial advisory firm and how the consultancy stands out from the corporate finance crowd.
Could you please introduce yourselves?
Leontine Koens- Betz, Managing Partner, Accuracy (“LKB”): I’m Leontine Koens- Betz and I started my studies here in Business Economics in 1993, thanks to the selection/lottery system still in operation then. I graduated in 1998, after finishing an internship at Delta Lloyd in Amsterdam. Like most Groningen students I looked to Amsterdam for work, where I joined Arthur Andersen, starting there as an auditor. After three years of audit, I realised checking numbers wasn’t ever going to be fulfilling enough for me. I was looking more for the story behind the numbers, and I discussed this with the partner I worked with most closely. He took me along on my first due diligence engagement – a hostile takeover. After this experience, I decided to pursue a full-time due diligence career and switched to KPMG.
At the end of 2006, I was headhunted to join Accuracy to set up its Dutch office. At the beginning of 2007, I became Accuracy’s Managing Partner. My main reason for joining Accuracy was the challenge of proving that this kind of work could be done differently. I liked – and still like – the work very much but, in my opinion, we had lost the focus on delivering value to our clients and our own people, one of my main motivations. Being able to do challenging and interesting work, but in such a way and in a timeframe which also suits your personnel agenda and work/life balance, means you’re going to be happy doing it for a long time.
Gijs Siecker, Senior Manager, Accuracy (“GS”): I graduated in Financial Value Management from the University of Groningen and I started my career at KPMG Transaction Services, followed by a role as Finance Manager at CSM Bakery Solutions. I chose to switch to Accuracy because I was looking for challenging work on a project-basis, with realistic deadlines and a young and ambitious team. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to help build further the Accuracy office in the Netherlands, thus working in a stimulating entrepreneurial environment.
What are Accuracy’s services and ambitions?
GS: Accuracy in a nutshell is: great national and international clients in 10 countries (soon to be 11 with Singapore), over 280 consultants and 37 partners worldwide, impressive and steady growth since 2004, and a recognised brand.
LKB: We are a unique, wholly internationally-owned partnership. My colleagues and I have been able to grow Accuracy continuously since its incorporation 10 years ago and will continue to do so. We have ambitious plans to expand our footprint further internationally and grow our current offices, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, India and Singapore. Additionally we have been able to expand our position (especially in the Netherlands) from due diligence provider to comprehensive financial advisor. We started as a due diligence provider mainly based on our employees’ areas of expertise but, by expanding our services to both new and existing clients and by recruiting new employees, we have now become more of an all-round financial advisor. We provide financial advice to our clients in challenging situations such as acquisitions and refinancing but also business plan preparation, strategic reviews, disputes and restructuring.
GS: Accuracy helps companies translate their strategies into the language of figures, thereby enabling decision-making in the context of transactions, financial difficulties, conflicts and disputes. We challenge, analyse and substantiate figures, integrating accounting, finance and economics to solve our clients’ problems.
What differentiates Accuracy from other Corporate Finance firms?
LKB: What makes Accuracy different is of course our people. We are experts and entrepreneurs, all with our own unique personalities and strengths, and we all work across the board in terms of the services we provide and the various situations that arise, giving our firm a unique flexibility towards our clients and ensuring our work is always exciting. We really work as one international team, with no service or country silos. This is also visible in the different international team events we have, such as the Accuracy School, which every new joiner attends.
GS: For me Accuracy is also different in the fact that we’ve only been around since 2004 (and our Dutch office only since 2007) which means business development and growth is a vital part of our agenda. This means we have to show initiative in every project we undertake but also in the context of recruitment and commercial awareness. Compared to the Big Four, we have the opportunity to be truly innovative.
LKB: As people get more senior, they tend to specialise more. In that respect my “specialism” is transactions, especially due diligence advice. However, the great thing about Accuracy is that it is not “just” due diligence, we are really able to connect and think along with our clients about the whole process, whether this relates to the strategic rationale for the acquisition, the valuation or the purchase documents. Our transaction service advice is pragmatic and our focused approach is unique: we work with a high level of senior involvement and are really focused on adding value for our clients. We have strong client recognition, with some of our appreciative returning clients including DSM, Philips, Michelin, Unibail-Rodamco and IS Interned Services (part of KPN), and private equity firms such as Waterland and Carlyle PE.
GS: The entrepreneurial spirit I mentioned before can also be seen in the way we work and the jobs we do. We work in small teams, enabling everyone on the job to be involved in all parts of the process and to complete a steep learning curve. Of course we enjoy working for the big corporate names but we also perform jobs for start-ups and new market initiatives. For example, we recently supported a wind energy company in obtaining growth financing and also a renewable energy company with the preparation and validation of a business plan to attract investors.
What opportunities are there for students and experienced joiners?
LKB: As we said before, Accuracy has major growth ambitions. As such, we’re always on the lookout for the right people to help us achieve this growth, from the inexperienced to the highly experienced. We rarely wait until there’s a vacancy, believing that there’s always room for the right people! What we offer is a challenging international career, in a great team environment.
GS: We have 16 nationalities who come from a variety of backgrounds including business school, engineering school, university and PhDs.