As a renowned consultancy firm, VGD plays an essential role in the daily operations of numerous companies. When Covid-19 began its passage through our country in March, it was therefore essential for the group to find the right solutions in order to remain operational. How did they experience the lockdown and how did they handle the situation? We asked them the question ourselves.
Covid-19 presented VGD, like many other companies, with a very unusual situation. What were the main challenges you faced?
Within our business line accountancy we have been working with Silverfin's platform for many years. Due to this far-reaching digitisation, our offices were in fact already relatively well prepared to remain operational during the lockdown period. We heard from many other offices that it was difficult to receive and process their clients' documents on timehat was much less of a problem for us. Nevertheless, the switch to 100% remote working was not a foregone conclusion. Almost overnight, we had to get everyone ready to work from home. The direct contact with our customers, something with which we really want to distinguish ourselves as an advisor, was also completely eliminated and was replaced by video calls. Our motto is "let's talk", so we had to find another way to maintain that core value, even though no one was present at the office.
Another important pillar for us is the transfer of knowledge. We find it extremely important that our people have the most recent and accurate information available and that they can continue to grow and evolve. So we help them to maintain and expand their knowledge. I am not only thinking of tax and accounting knowledge, but also of knowledge of modern tools such as Silverfin and the new templates and workflows that are available. As a multi-branch office this is always a challenge, but now that everyone had to work from their own home office, that challenge was even more present.
Finally, there was also the question of the human aspect. As a manager, it is extremely difficult to manage a team that you don't see on a daily basis. But social contact and comradery are also very important within our teams. As an employer, we pride ourselves on being a big family and an internal survey showed that our people miss that aspect of connectedness the most. So we had to find something to help with that as well.
What initiatives have you taken to deal with these challenges?
The pure teleworking itself was relatively easy to implement because our operation was already highly digital. One of the things that we did work on very quickly, however, was the set-up of our Knowlex knowledge database. In this database, employees can find all kinds of advice, watch videos and have access to all kinds of manuals via the search function. In addition, we also post Silverfin's updates in the database. The whole idea of such a knowledge database had been in our heads for some time, but circumstances have accelerated, so we have implemented everything a lot more quickly. .
To keep our customers up to date with the latest developments, we have also undertaken a number of initiatives. We found it very important that we could continue to approach our customers in the right way. We used the Silverfin template to keep up with the latest government measures and the stress-test template that gives an indication of how healthy a company is and what the impact of Covid-19 has had on its cash position. In addition, we created our own website around Covid-19 with a separate email address where customers could contact us with all their questions. In this way, we were able to keep our finger on the pulse of their concerns. But we also ensured that direct contact remained possible - albeit digital. Discussions are currently taking place via Skype in combination with Silverfin Pulse. The ability to share screens allows us to have truly valuable digital meetings. What's more, thanks to Silverfin, those meetings can be highly interactive.
Finally, we also felt it was important to maintain the close relationship with our employees. We gave them full confidence and put maximum effort into flexibility. For example, they are completely free to schedule the times they work so that parents have enough time to supervise their school-age children. We also surveyed their experiences with both the practical and social aspects of teleworking. The survey showed that our employees are very grateful for the flexibility offered to us and that we have gained a lot of respect as an employer. Nevertheless, it does not look as if homeworking will become the permanent norm in our company. Our employees love the social aspect of working together in the office and want to be able to return to that physical cohesion as soon as possible.
What lessons have you learned from this crisis? Did it also create certain opportunities?
We have learned two important things from this period: first of all, this crisis has shown us how important the big family story is for our employees. They like to be in the office and enjoy being part of a close-knit team. In addition, it has always been our ambition to be a digital pioneer. The past few weeks have made it clear that we live up to that role. We met our deadlines, were able to continue discussions, ... None of that would have been possible without a strong digital story. Working digitally is the future. We had already jumped on that bandwagon and the past few weeks have made it clear that we have chosen the right one. Via our Covid-19 website, we were also able to put our advisory services in the spotlight.
How has Silverfin been able to contribute to your operation over the past two months? Has our platform made certain things easier?
Without Silverfin, the switch to working from home could never have gone so smoothly. Thanks to the platform we are not tied to our offices, as there are no more physical files. The various tools we can use on the platform, such as Pulse and the stress tests, helped us to keep a total overview of the files of each of our clients. Thanks to Silverfin, we were able to continue working as before. That helped us enormously.
Do you still have certain advice for fellow accountants and offices? What would you advise them to do to get through these uncertain times?
This is more than ever the perfect moment to focus on digital transformation. It is an opportunity to learn from the current situation and establish a new digital first way of working. The entire sector should seize this opportunity. At VGD, we have always found it particularly regrettable that accountancy carries such a dusty image with it. We hope that the profession now realises that things can be done differently. Who knows, maybe next time our sector is discussed in the press it won’t be as old-fashioned and boring but a digital innovator and indispensable advisor.
A profession in which attracts young people to join. That would be great.
Here you’ll find information and advice on how Silverfin can help you respond to the challenges represented by COVID-19. We’ll keep you up to date with developments on our platform, training resources and information from other sources.