Louwman Group, one of the largest automotive companies in Europe, is innovative and ambitious. The family business wants to be able to adequately respond to the rapidly changing trends in the mobility world with new revenue models. The implementation of Board supports this ambition with improved processes for integrated planning, consolidation, and tax reporting.
“The world around us is changing, and we want to adjust the organization accordingly; we are going from a decentralized structure to one Louwman. This new way of working requires faster and more efficient planning and analyzing,” says Erwin van Roon of the Louwman Group, about the reason for implementing the Board platform.
Louwman Group is one of the largest automotive companies in Europe, with more than 90,000 car sales per year. The family business, founded in 1923, is active in the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. The focus is on mobility with a wide range of activities: importer and dealer of, among others, Toyota, Lexus, Suzuki, Morgan, and McLaren, but also lease and financing activities, Auto.nl, Fietsvoordeelshop, car-sharing company WeGo and mobility aids in healthcare.
Using scenario planning to respond to market trends
The move to a less decentralized organization fits in with the overall strategy, says Erwin: “Our vision is to be a leader in mobility. Mobility doesn’t take organizational islands into account: when you buy a Toyota, you want a Toyota experience. From the customer’s point of view, we want to act as one company.”
The changing market also requires new mobility concepts, such as car-sharing services and mobility passes. “There are various trends within the mobility market,” says Erwin. “For example, a clear shift from ownership to usage. We also see an increasing difference in mobility requirements between urban and rural.”
In addition to customer changes, technical changes play a role as well. For example, new fuel variants such as electric and hydrogen, and the rise of online car sales.
Finance supporting new business models
Responding to these trends requires new business models. Erwin: “Think of new concepts where you can access multiple forms of mobility, including public transport, with an app or pass.”
Louwman Group is not the only organization pursuing this strategy. “As Louwman Group, we are moving from the private side to mobility as a service. We see parties such as NS, RET, and HTM offering broader mobility from the public transport side as well. There is a rapprochement between both sides of the mobility spectrum.”
Developing these new revenue models also impacts finance. “We are still primarily an asset organization, with large amounts of capital to buy, lease, and sell cars. We want to convert our revenue model into new forms, such as subscriptions. These changes are trickling down to our back office, which means we need different and faster information.”
Integrated planning with Board
Considering these ambitions, the automotive company wants to take significant steps around its financial processes. Although the consolidation and reporting processes are also addressed, the focus is on the planning process. “Responding to trends requires integrated planning,” says Erwin. “As far as I’m concerned, the magic word is integrated. We want to work towards one planning in one tool.”
“We wanted a planning solution that would allow you to report efficiently in different ways and work well together. Board makes that possible” – Erwin van Roon
After an extensive tool selection, the company chooses Board. “Our focus was: what is the planning tool from which you can report efficiently in various ways and work well together,” explains Erwin. In addition, flexibility and user-friendliness are essential requirements. “I want the controllers to do functional support and adjustments themselves so that we are as little dependent on IT as possible.”
“You don’t have to use scripting in Board, which is very pleasant from a user perspective,” says Bart van Dillewijn, consultant at Finext and closely involved in the implementation of Board at Louwman Group. “You can see that users are increasingly able to work with the tool. They’re in control of the system and using the flexibility the tool gives them.”
Optimizing multiple finance processes
The optimization of the financial processes is tackled in phases. Despite the focus on planning, the program starts with the implementation of the consolidation. A deliberate choice says Erwin: “We started with the least exciting part of finance. That is a logical choice because you’re legally required to consolidate. Banks and stakeholders also want to see consolidated figures.”
A disadvantage of this choice is that this first step does not immediately reveal Board’s flexibility internally. Consolidation is, by definition, a more defined process because it is based on laws and regulations. “This flexibility becomes much more visible around the planning module,” expects Erwin.
Automated tax reporting with Board Tax Template
After this first step, the company’s tax reporting processes are automated as well, using the Board Tax template. This template, based on best practices, was developed by the tax specialists of Taxvibes. Taxvibes is a sister company of Finext that specializes in tax automation.
A significant advantage of automating the tax reports is that the Tax template and the financial reports use the same platform. This way, one data source is used for both the consolidation and the tax reporting. Bart: “The data for the tax reports are taken from the consolidation data.”
Both Erwin and the tax department are positive about automating the tax reporting processes. “In the past, we collected the tax information in a very fragmented manner, which was inefficient and undesirable. Now we collect the tax data from the financial controllers in Board, as well as the valuation differences between fiscal and commercial,” says Erwin. “This allows us to map our tax positions and generate reports much more efficiently. The tax department is very enthusiastic about this; they have never worked with tooling before.”
Sophisticated planning with scenarios
Erwin sees not only the world of mobility changing drastically but also the finance profession. “As a group, we will fully focus on the business navigation role for finance: no ‘counting beans’, but sharp advice and thus giving direction to the company. This tool is very suitable for that.”
The planning module within Board will help with this. Erwin: “We will be able to further refine the planning so that we can present better choices with better scenarios to the management.” The fact that Board offers one platform in which all companies come together helps coordinate the planning and scenarios for the whole of Louwman.