Karin van Baardwijk is COO with asset manager Robeco, and in that position responsible for IT. Her old function as CIO has thus fully integrated into the business. “Robeco has emphasized the importance of the value chain in recent years, ” she explains. IT is an integral part of the activities we have invested within the COO domain. “
Until recently, IT, the shared service center (Operations), as well as portfolio information, were own columns in the organization. Van Baardwijk: “We have consciously brought about a change. We want to take advantage of the synergy that can be achieved by achieving more cooperation between those silos. Why should your activities aiming to make our investment process run as well as possible within our own department, with our own management, own budget and own KPIs? From different perspectives, it is much more efficient to bring that together and to be jointly responsible for a larger whole.
“Managers in the MT COO all have a broad responsibility in the organization and are increasingly working together on issues that transcend the old departments. For example, you find that similar activities are done in different departments in different ways, so you can now organize much more efficiently. The IT organization is no longer a separate department, but an integral part of that value chain. My task is to optimally set up all the links in that chain and to be as effective as possible.
Right place in the organization
“Technology is relevant to everyone. But do you need a separate function there? I think it is much more important to secure the subject at the place it is causing. It’s not about technology on its own, you’re hard at it, it’s about me how to use new technologies to get smarter, faster or better. You can think of the most beautiful application of technology, but there must also be customer demand or need. What you want to achieve from a business perspective is the most important thing, then the question is what the technology is for the most appropriate.
“We therefore do not have one IT boss. There are several managers who focus on IT issues. Consistency in our architecture, data and application management remains important. There is also not one person in charge here, but we organized one step in the value chain.
“Of course, the subject of technology is high on my agenda. The fact that you are organizing your organization in a different way does not mean that you should not make technology a central theme. I would like to know what’s happening and what new developments are, how we can use IT as Robeco to be successful for our customers. If the business is going to ask you, you know that you are still standing, you are not doing well.
Digital Transformation is a term everyone is talking about. I do not have so much with these kinds of terms. It means something different for everyone. It’s just what the core of your business is and how future-proof your current application architecture is, or even how future-proof your business model is. For example, for a traditional publishing house, this is very different from a hospital or a bank. Also for Robeco, it is important as an asset manager to take full advantage of the potential of technology. However, the core of investing does not transform digitally, it is about thought leadership, intellectual property, which is in the minds of people. But the whole process around it is very good to automate, accelerate or personalize.
“From our customers, we are getting more and more questions about how we have organized our processes, how robust and controlled it is and what the role of technology is in it. That is not so crazy in this spirit of time. As a asset manager, we have a fiduciary role in ensuring the integrity of our processes, systems and people. Often the questions focus on data, security, continuity management, as well as the current state of our application landscape. However, questions about how much budget is going for innovation are also coming on. Usually the questions are driven by the supervisors who ask our customers for the way they oversee the activities that have been outsourced to Robeco. In this sense, technology also drives conversation with our customers.
“Data is one of our most important assets, we get data from the market, use plenty of data ourselves and make data available to our customers. Reliability of data and its security is therefore on top of the agenda. We must deal with this in a good way. I see our investments on the security side, to counter cybercrime, only in recent years. The developments in the outside world are so fast that we need more and more knowledge to help them determine the impact for Robeco. That is a clear difference to the past, when a DDOS attack was already a very exciting event. We have now set up an external security operations center that manages 24 hours a day what threats occur in the world and where we can do this.
Robeco is selective with whom we partner in IT or do business. The importance of investment that a partner does in technology and product innovation is also important to us. We do not always have to be early adopters, but at an early stage, we want to match changes we find valuable to our customers.
We hold innovation sessions with our suppliers to see what they can do for us and look at start ups that may be interesting to us in the future. In the field of Fintech start ups, from an investment perspective, we often have an idea of the quality of some companies, so it’s interesting to be at an early stage with these companies to see if we can help each other.
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