Yvo Jansen – CEO, Bureau Veritas Benelux
The CEO of Bureau Veritas Benelux discusses the importance of the Netherlands office to Bureau Veritas, how operations have shifted locally from a product focused to a customer centric model, and the support this local office has provided to major global projects such as Shell’s Prelude FLNG.
You have been in various leadership positions at Bureau Veritas since 2011. What have been your major milestones since joining?
The first major breakthrough is that we have changed Bureau Veritas in the Benelux from a product-focused organization to a customer-centric organization. Instead of only discussing our technical abilities, we established a sales and marketing organization, which is still expanding. This was an important breakthrough that established a significant amount of organic growth, especially in these unstable market conditions. We have fairly remarkable growth in the Netherlands, mainly derived from industrial services, and focused on oil and gas.
The second milestone was to add value to the core business of operating companies established in the Netherlands as well as to add value to major contractors using the Netherlands as their main hub and who have projects abroad. On one side, we focused on North Sea doing full certifications, validation, and QAQC for North Sea operating companies. On the other side, we have been working on international projects. It was a major milestone to actually set up there without fully having history in those market segments. The third milestone is, of course, growth. We now have more people and different processes; we’re looking at acquisitions and a new kind of alignment. We are very much working with people internally to continually improve our processes and customer satisfaction. This is our main driver today. There are still lots more to do, but we’ve come a long way.
Bureau Veritas has three major offices throughout the Netherlands with different duties for the organization including commodities, marine and certification, among others. What is the significance of the Netherlands to the company’s overall portfolio?
Yes, we have various offices throughout the country, and our services are very much in the testing, inspection certification, and advisory services. Our main goal is to be with our clients as much as possible, which means we are always working outside the offices. The Netherlands is very important because in the past we have done some acquisitions here, which we had to integrate into the company. The Netherlands has always been a very special hub for the market, not just in oil and gas but in infrastructure as well. Furthermore, it is the main gateway to Europe. If you look at big companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever, they all have their big headquarters in the Netherlands; however, their project locations are not always here. The Netherlands is not just important for Bureau Veritas, but for the major operating companies and the whole supply chain around it.
How much of your portfolio is devoted to oil and gas, and, within this, how do you mix your portfolio between upstream and downstream?
As I mentioned before, we have integrated oil and gas into our operations only over the last few years, and it is now about 60 percent of our revenue. Regarding upstream and downstream, we have a specific business unit for upstream, however the techniques for inspection, certification and testing can be quite similar in certain areas.
Bureau Veritas provides a full suite of solutions from design to operation, including verification to inspection to certification to compliance. Which services are most in demand from your regional clients and how is this evolving?
If you look at this from a holistic approach, and from our client needs, it is very easy to say that we can deliver everything; that we are a full one-stop source providing multidisciplinary services. However, every day we have to make a decision between serving the government and regulations, and serving our clients’ needs. We see a clear demand for all our services, as we are involved in CAPEX and OPEX in many sectors, and with a wide range of services. We are innovative and rigorous with our quality systems, and invest in the competencies of our staff. One thing that we have found particularly successful has been our procurement assistance services including vendor inspections.
How do you believe QHSE can play a simultaneous role in promoting safe business practices without inhibiting the growth of the industry?
A sustainable business is a business that effectively manages all QHSE associated risks. This is in the companies’ best interests, and Bureau Veritas is the partner of choice in making this happen and assuring that companies stay in business while addressing these topics. There is a tendency for “overregulation”—leading to further cost increases and restrictions for our clients in the North Sea that are already operating with low margins. They also sometimes do not know which regulations are imposed and how to comply. We help our clients alleviate regulatory burdens in a cost-effective manner and, in turn, make sure that they can continue focusing on their core business. We remain impartial in this area because we are there to demonstrate compliance in an effective and transparent way, but also to avoid our companies being overloaded with rules and regulations, which do not contribute to a higher QHSE level, as we’ve learned from historic events. In the end, we still want to save the world and create trusted environments—safeguarding a future for generations to come. This means that we do not have to invent more and more rules, but instead, focus on proper application of the current rules.
How are you adding value to the market during a time where oil and gas prices are exceedingly low?
As our business structure is not fixated on the oil and gas prices, we add value to the market by understanding the clients’ risks and producing mitigating solutions as a team. In the context of a stringent operating climate, we’re starting to see players across the value chain evaluating methods of effectively leveraging the extensive network of platforms and pipelines in the shallow waters of the North Sea to extend the lifetime of operations in a safe and reliable manner. Our role will focus on enabling our clients’ initiatives in this regard. In light of our success in the sector so far, we hope to further refine the depth and breadth our service offerings and continue accommodating the demands of the oil and gas industry for the next 100 years at least.
How does Bureau Veritas keep technologically up to date and what resources are you investing in to ensure your regional team is up-to-date in the newest technologies?
The biggest challenge is continually providing effective and quality services for our clients from project to project. It’s not just training on the job; we have a very rigorous approach that is embedded in our absolute code of ethics. The qualification process and surveillance program is quite rigorous. In the end, it’s about education. At Bureau Veritas we have two parts. We have the internal international BV Academy, and then we have many investments in our external processes, which means that we would like to grow our union inspector staff to the next levels by obtaining academic degrees in testing, inspections, and certifications business. This is a challenge for us, because if people do not have a comfortable balance between their work life, educational endeavors, and their home life, they can never be at their best. Although the balance may differ greatly from person to person, the overarching philosophy is something we truly believe in.
This regional branch of the company experienced year-on-year double-digit growth and was the number one performing region, with regards to growth. What leadership initiatives account for the dramatic shift upwards?
It’s first about customer focus, which was a big change. There is a vision, an eagerness to not only empower people to make this change, but to actually drive this change. We all have different roles and responsibilities within the company, but we are all ambassadors of our company in the end. It’s not just about creating behavior and awareness; it’s about creating the change. We are in the services industry, so our job is always to be better, faster and more empowered than others. This requires a certain need for constant improvement.
Where do you hope to see Bureau Veritas in five years?
Five years is a timeline within our own strategic plan as well. We are a very international company, looking at many different markets, so in 2020 we are focusing on growth drivers. Here in the Benelux, we look forward to growth in diversification of our service, and growth mainly of people. To reach this growth, we need to make sure there is knowledge transfer. We have a very rigid program where we have senior staff working intensively with junior staff to reach our goal. Of course, each country has a different focus, but many will be focusing on client segments and sectors where we would set up very specific teams of people who possess the necessary skills sets and knowledge base to facilitate our clients’ success. We will have a team of experts understanding the business, whether it’s in fuel, oil and gas, petrochemicals, and renewables. Despite being very international, BV entrepreneurship is in the heart and spirits of the establishment. Entrepreneurship is what keeps us going, because in the end we are a team.