Guests: Stefan Vermeulen and Jennifer Zalameda-Santos
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Stefan Vermeulen is a Dutch citizen born on March 8, 1971. He is a member of the Dutch Institute of Certified Public Accountants (NBA), registered accountant and holds a masters degree in Information Management. Stefan was the Chief Financial Officer of ICTS International N.V. – a NASDAQ listed aviation security provider – for approximately four years. He has also held various senior financial leadership positions at blue chip companies like Shell, Sara Lee and Deloitte.
Jennifer Zalameda-Santos takes on a very challenging role as the Marketing Manager of D&V Philippines. Jennifer brings with almost 8 years of experience in customer and marketing relations. Her expertise also includes business development. The foundation of Jennifer’s academic training was built at Adamson University, where she obtained a degree in Mass Communication and graduated cum laude.
Segment overview: D&V Philippines has a proven track record in providing professional finance and accounting services seamlessly, leading to significant cost savings and operational efficiency for businesses. They collaborate effectively with their clients in order to better results to businesses. They create an in-depth analyses of the business’ financial data and the use of modern tools to simplify and standardize their clients’ finance and accounting processes. Started with a humble group of 10 in 2012 in Manila Philippines, D&V Philippines grew into a full-fledged finance and accounting service company, operating with over 150 accountants, majority of them CPAs. They provide professional finance and accounting services to SMEs, CFOs of large corporations, accounting firms, and set up shared services centers for clients in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia.
Address: 23rd Floor, Tower 2, The Enterprise Center, 6766 Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati, 1226 Metro Manila
Contact Number: LOCAL (632) 846 1144
To know more about D&V Philippines, listen to the podcast below.
The interview will start at 35:10 mark of the podcast episode.
Henry Acosta: Hello and welcome to the Outsourcing and Offshoring in the Philippines Podcast. Today our guest is Stefan Vermeulen, he’s a member of the Dutch Institute of Certified Public Accountants and he has a masters degree in Information Management. He is also the chief financial officer of ICTS International N.V., a NASDAQ listed Aviation security provider. He’s been holding that position for the last 4 years, he’s also held various senior financial leadership positions at blue chip companies such as Shell, Sara Lee and Deloitte. Last but not least he is the owner and CEO of D&V Philippines Outsourcing. Alongside him today is Jennifer Santos, Jennifer is the marketing manager of D&V Philippines, she has 8 years of experience in customer and marketing relations. She graduated Cum Laude at Adamson University here in the Philippines. Today they’re both in studio with us to talk about outsourcing here in the Philippines. Hi Stefan and Jennifer and welcome to the show, it’s great having you guys here.
Stefan Vermeulen: Hello, thank you very much for having me.
Jennifer Santos: Hi everyone.
Henry: Hi. So for our first question for today, can you give us a quick introduction about who you are and what you guys do for D&V Philippines?
Stefan: Yeah, well D&V Philippines we’re based in Makati City, that’s the business district of Manila and we’re basically a professional services firm specializing in finance and accounting. So about a hundred and fifty people, most of them are CPAs like myself then Filipino CPAs. So we focus on finance and accounting so what we do is typically bookkeeping, accounting, monthly financial reporting, compliance and then mainly for foreign clients. We have Filipino based that’s about 5% but 80% of our business is Australian, 10% US. Long story short we’re really professional services firm specializing in finance and accounting.
Henry: And what inspired you to building the company out here in the Philippines?
Stefan: The Philippines has an enormous amount of talent, really cool talent and can you imagine something about my background, I mean besides being a CEO I used to be an internal auditor in American companies a long time ago although I’m not that old but a long time ago and I think it was in 90s already and I used to work with Filipinos, great people, very, very intelligent, very talented and besides the English that everybody knows but especially in the finance and accounting world there’s really an amazing amount of talent here. So this is really a really good place to set up your… service center for finance and accounting sort of a big multinational too, so when you need to start a company for finance and accounting and you need a country the Philippines is a great place. You’ll actually be amazed sometimes they say one of the export products of the Philippines is ‘people.’ Actually if you look for instance if you go to the big accounting firms of big multinationals worldwide in the United States, Australia, all of the Europe you’ll run into a lot of Filipinos. Very strong, very competent, very experienced, good people and a lot of specific really cool expertise. A great place to be.
Henry: What do you think make the Philippines different from other countries that service the same businesses as you guys?
Stefan: Western culture, besides the fact of course that the talent is there, English is widely spoken, a very good education system. For instance we have a lot of Australian clients for them it’s a very good match to be with Philippines, it’s relatively near but also culturally actually a good match, a lot of good people. Also for our specific needs accounting very American based training system, schooling system is very good match for what we need, types of skills expertise for our clients.
Henry: Were there any cultural barriers that you faced when you first started out here in the Philippines?
Stefan: Yes, one of my favorite lines is ‘Culture trumps everything’ and so we usually, when we have new clients that we tell them there’s three things that need to work – it’s communication, relationship and training – and culture affects all three of them. So yes…you have to understand the culture here like any culture. See I’m from Holland, I’m Dutch, Dutch people can be quite to the point sometimes it comes across a bit rude and blunt…like that but it’s just that that’s the way we are. So these small things like that can have a big impact, so yes cultural, there are cultural gaps which you need to manage.
Henry: And tell us a little bit about your company. Can you give us the mission and vision of D&V Philippines?
Stefan: Basically what we want to be is really a recognized expert in the field of finance and accounting. So forget outsourcing, forget offshoring we just want to be an expert in the field of finance and accounting and we just happen to have clients all over the globe. So as we are today, 50% of our clients come from …10% from the US…have clients from Sweden, from Cayman Islands, from Abu Dhabi…from the Philippines. But most likely an emerging market companies specialize in finance and accounting if that makes sense.
Henry: What do you think makes the D&V Philippines different from other agencies out here that give the same services?
Stefan: Offerings if you are in a company in Australia just to give you an example and you went to outsource to…books, we actually give a solution and we run resurface and we don’t do seat leasing, we don’t lease you staff so it’s not that difficult BPO company in that sense. So because we specialize and we have our niche and we focus in finance and accounting, even for the smaller clients like if you only need less than one FDE for instance which is perfect for us, it will fit nicely with us. So we actually show you a solution, a service which means we provide backup company with the training for our people with different levels of expertise. So even if you’re an Aussie or US company we’ll put in front somebody who have experience already with your country and the specific rules of compliance and regulations, etc. and I will put some juniors but as well but they will be reviewed. So it’s more like a service provider that we really offer solution and the service rather than seat leasing.
Henry: And what will be your advice for anyone who’s planning outsourcing here in the Philippines?
Stefan: Number one, really try to understand the culture, so go here and what I mentioned earlier is the relationship, communication, training. So if we look at the clients that we’ve done this now for a number of years and we if look at the clients really went smooth, have no hiccups and it’s very easy actually to slide up what happened is that they came to the Philippines, they spend time with the team and they took time to invest in training and invest in the people so they went really to the country at the latest date our all people actually visited them, when I was in Australia or in the US or in Europe so it helps to cement the relationship, builds it’s really good for team building. So really invest time, come to the Philippines, understand the culture, understand the people, try to build a relationship with the people which is always important but I think in the Filipino culture even more, we always really encourage our clients to visit us, we love to have visitors here in our office. And of course our people love to go abroad to visit clients as well but that investment in the beginning, that will take time.
Henry: How was been the experience of the clients you’ve worked with? Can you share with us any stories or any testimonials from them?
Stefan: Sure, we actually love to share testimonials and we have a couple of those in the website as well. We have over a hundred fifty clients, we have actually quite a number of smaller clients that … does really gone many years, well they’ve became like ambassadors in the marketing sense. So don’t forget also in our case like 60 – 70% of new clients is word of mouth, so as referrals so really get a lot of new clients. So but it can be any kind of client, it can be professional service, we’re in based in Australia, the US that need an extension of their practice and have a bunch of CPAs or compliance of bookkeeping, like assistance with us junior to senior, it can be a CFO who needs help with accounts payable or needs financial controller or financial analyst, we’re an extension of their department. It can be many, many different things.
Henry: So with your process for recruiting clients, is it mainly only word of mouth or do you have any other ways or how you recruit clients?
Stefan: Mainly today it’s word of mouth I think, Jennifer over 60 – 70% before? Now I mean a few years ago before Jennifer came on board I was trying do the marketing, so that was not really good. I was half on the accountant with marketing so when Jennifer came on board in 2013 that was a big quality push, so we get also clients of course they Google they find us, so a bit of thanks to our inbound efforts.
Jennifer: As we do have some tours or visitors from Australia, the delegations in which they are very interested in… in the Philippines so they usually visit us here in the office and take a look at our operations.
Stefan: But actually we use social media as well for actually for…sales so to speak, we actually use social media to reach out. That has been successful in the past as well. But by far 60 – 70% is driven by word of mouth and referrals.
Henry: I have a question for both of you. Can you give us an insight on the process of recruiting employees and what do you look for when you hire an employee for D&V Philippines?
Stefan: Well first of all, very good attitude is number one, we get a lot of, what we have…University but we also have…people who have worked in actually all the firms in the Philippines or like a controller, so experience…but mainly we look for 2 things, it’s the attitude and basically eagerness to learn, so fast learner is what we need. See what we need, see for instance w have Australian accounting firms what they’re looking for is were really specific Australian compliance or US with… tax or whatever and it’s hard to find them, so we usually train them ourselves, so when we have people the right mindset of course with right background and the right attitude and fast learners then it’s usually a good match. Also there you will see by the way a lot of the experienced hires as we get also through word of mouth so it’s same things as our current people who are actually have friends who they recommend or a former officemates who join us at the latest stage. But the key thing for us generally speaking, what we try to do is we have a very young crowd, I think as a general practice at the office.
Jennifer: We call them Millennials.
Stefan: So basically we try to recruit from below so that we can actually offer people career growth. So they feel that they progress in their careers as well.
Henry: What are the common misconceptions that you usually face with clients when they’re asking about outsourcing here in the Philippines?
Stefan: The first thing is that a lot of clients think you can only do basic stuff here like data entry whereas our philosophy in finance and accounting is we try to automate what we can so a lot of the data entry today you can actually automate already and we focus on the other stuff where you really need a bit of experience and specialized skill. So we for instance make a distinction between transaction processing and closing the books, transaction processing is mostly what client thinks we can do and we do as well that’s not always as a business case for automation but then a lot of cases can be automated already. So what we focus on is just closing the books, so sometimes clients are surprised actually what kind of level of work you can bring to the Philippines. The other thing is sometimes when the clients make a mistake they think that if you throw some work over the email into the other side of the world, you don’t manage your virtual team properly then it’s not gonna work. So you need to invest in managing your virtual team, that people in various different locations so you really need to do that. And that’s why I mentioned earlier to invest some time in setting up, building and managing the virtual team, that it works.
Henry: How long have you been staying here in the Philippines Stefan and can you share with us any standout or any memorable experience that you went through here in the Philippines?
Stefan: Well pretty much I would say close to 10 years, it’s very different from 10 years ago, I think I’m not even sure Global Bonifacio City 10 years ago was there. So tremendous growth, companies really…the country is doing well, so it’s getting better everyday here. So I love the country, it’s a great place. Besides work it’s a great place to travel around, visit really many, many beautiful islands and I love to be here, it’s really a cool place.
Henry: For Jennifer, can you share with us any memorable experiences that you had with D&V Philippines?
Jennifer: Okay, so at first it was really challenging for me because I’m the only marketing person in the beginning working with the accountants, so the challenge is to make the company become more lively because the connotation for accountants is that they’re sometimes boring, the typical ones. However… I can see that the D&V Philippines actually have these young professionals and that they’re very active and very interested in all the type of work that you give them. So basically the staff here are very young, dynamic, fresh ideas, very talented people.
Henry: For anyone who’s interested in D&V Philippines either potential clients or employees how can they get in touch with you guys and where can they find you here in the Philippines?
Stefan: Our best way is probably to go to our website, dvphilippines.com.
Jennifer: Well you can actually find us anywhere in Facebook, Twitter, Google, Google+ or Linkedin so we’re pretty much everywhere in social media. Well the physical office is located at the Makati City, so we are located at the Enterprise Center. We are in the Tower 2, 23rd floor Tower 2 Enterprise Center which is in Makati City.
Henry: Then well that’s all of our question for today and thank you Stefan and Jennifer for being on the show.
Stefan: Thank you very much for having us.
Jennifer: Thank you very much.
Henry: And that was Stefan Vermeulen, owner and CEO of D&V Philippines alongside him is Jennifer Santos, the marketing manager of D&V Philippines. It was great having you guys here in studio, I’m Henry Acosta and thank you for tuning in. You’ve been listening to Outsourcing and Offshoring in the Philippines Podcast. If you’ve missed this podcast and want to give it another listen you can go on our website at www.offshoring.com.ph, you can also find us on Soundcloud and iTunes.