SAP Treasury at IFF
“The people who work for IFF are dedicated to taste – they spend their day at work creating, say, a new flavor of soda or dessert,” says Eric Vastenhoud.
Zanders supported IFF in the centralization and optimization of treasury processes and the implementation of SAP Treasury.
Together with his co-worker Ralf van den Berg, Eric Vastenhoud manages the global treasury operations department of IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) from their offices in Hilversum, in The Netherlands.
“Zanders doesn’t believe in half measures; they really provide input and solutions.”
Vastenhoud is the global treasury operations manager, while Van den Berg is IFF’s global treasury analyst. The corporate treasury department in New York City also consists of two people and in addition to corporate treasury it is responsible for pensions and insurance. Vastenhoud and Van den Berg focus on issues such as cash management, banking partners, ST funding, FX hedging, inter-company netting, treasury technology, and the overall management of treasury processes.
Vastenhoud explained that global treasury operations is indeed worldwide: “We operate a large production facility in New Jersey, and we coordinate the cash flows for that facility right here from our offices in Hilversum. It doesn’t matter that the production facility is located just twenty kilometers (12.5 miles) from our corporate headquarters in New York.”
Tastes and scents
IFF, a public company, is dedicated to creating and producing flavors and scents for every product imaginable. The company operates in 30 countries and employs some 5,000 people. Its clients include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Heinz, and Henkel.
People in all parts of the world consume products with IFF ingredients every day. The company’s connoisseurs of taste and scent enhance the flavor of potato chips and sodas that have reduced salt and sugar, as well as creating the scent of laundry detergent, the heart of luxury fragrances, or the typical tomato smell of an instant soup.
Ralf van den Berg explains: “Say you’ve produced a laundry detergent that’s very effective but has no fragrance. We can then create an appropriate scent for you. Although probably only about ten percent of such a product consists of scents and flavors, the fragrance or taste is often a determining factor in the product’s success.”
The flavors and scents are developed with scientific precision in IFF’s laboratories. Nothing is left to chance – in the Hilversum labs, for example, there are washing machines from several continents where perfumes for detergents are rigorously tested.
Big company, small team
At IFF, treasury is a complex business. The company, whose revenue for 2008 was nearly USD 2.4 billion, has offices all over the world: from Cairo to Mumbai and from Melbourne to Moscow. In 2008, the company began the process of centralizing IFF’s treasury processes, and today all its operational treasury activities are performed at the Hilversum office.
Global treasury analyst Ralf van den Berg says: “In The Netherlands, rules and regulations related to treasury are very liberal, but that’s not true for all the countries in which we operate. That’s what makes our work such a challenge.” Vastenhoud has a team of just two people and that means they have to be efficient.
He adds: “We deliberately keep the number of day-to-day operations here to a minimum, because they prevent the progress of other projects. Any operations we transfer to Hilversum need to be automated using smart IT solutions.”
Until recently, IFF worked with a standalone system for treasury that is used only in Europe. Although the system operated properly, it wasn’t integrated with the other business units, such as accounting. Vastenhoud observes: “It was not a good situation from a control perspective. We wanted to add more controls and disclose information related to treasury.”
However, there were other reasons why the company decided to switch systems: “We wanted to increase the reliability of our cash forecasts by substituting automatically generated forecasts for spreadsheet-based forecasts,” he says. “Eventually, we would also like to incorporate hedge accounting into the system.
We were looking for a package that the rest of the world would be able to use as well, and in the Summer of 2008 we finally made a decision and opted for SAP Treasury.” The choice of a SAP application was an obvious one, as SAP is the default choice at IFF, and the company uses the same platform at all its offices around the world.
“If you want to make treasury transparent to the rest of the company, you shouldn’t disconnect it and incorporate it into a different system, but rather integrate it into the tool that the finance department is already using.”
Around the corner
Following a selection process for a consultant, IFF asked Zanders to implement the new system on its behalf. Vastenhoud notes: “Their offices are located just around the corner from us, but that wasn’t a major factor in our decision. We considered aspects such as knowledge, reputation in the market and awards, as well as continuity.
We were looking for a partner that would eventually also be able to assist us with other projects, such as the implementation of SWIFT, and Zanders scored very highly in all those areas. We also wanted a consultant that was eager and able to put themselves in our position – we were not interested in a hit-and-run exercise.”
The implementation of SAP Treasury coincided with an upgrade from the global SAP environment to the most recent release. IFF and Zanders together completed the standard implementation process developed by Zanders, which starts with an extensive preparation, followed by a blueprint, realization, acceptance, and conversion and ending with the system going live.
The project was completed on schedule and within the agreed budget. “Part of the project’s success can be credited to the professional way in which Zanders managed it,” Vastenhoud confirms. “The people at Zanders are highly skilled and committed. I particularly liked their flexibility and the ease with which they adjusted their work processes as needed.
Also, we knew we didn’t have to be afraid they were going to do a perfunctory job – Zanders doesn’t believe in half measures; they really provide input and solutions.”
Zanders consultants Imke Dijkman and Judith Wissink were involved in the implementation, and for several months they regularly shared offices with Vastenhoud and Van den Berg. Imke Dijkman says of the project with IFF: “Being that close to the business was a definite advantage for us – we literally shared a desk with those guys.
That means we could constantly ask them questions about everything. All decisions could be made right from this office; we never really had any project meetings, since there was no need for that.” Vastenhoud agrees: “When you start an implementation process, you initially think mainly of treasury, but that was really the easiest part, as we were able to do it ourselves.
The IT part of the project, however, was a lot more complex – we depended on a number of different people in various locations and in several different time zones. Zanders did an excellent job of supporting us in that process. If you can’t find the right people at IFF, you need to look elsewhere.” He continues, laughing: “Imke can be very pesky, but always in the politest possible way. She’s very persistent, which really helped in ensuring that the process could be completed. It was a very inspiring thing to witness.”