Interview: Caroline Bongaerts - Treasury Consultant Zanders

Caroline, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us how you started working at Zanders?
I am Caroline Bongaerts and I studied in Groningen just like you. I started with the BSc Business Economics, but after one year I switched to the BSc Business Administration. After three years I realized I wanted to focus more on Finance so I did the specialization course Finance, after which I started the MSc Finance. During this year, RISK organized the Advisory Inhouse Days for the first time and Zanders was one of the participating companies. From the moment I walked in, I really liked the relaxed atmosphere and the way co-workers interacted. So when I got home, I immediately sent an email to the recruiter and asked whether I could become a working student at Zanders. They had not done this before, but they were really open to this idea. So I applied and started as a working student at the public sector department for two days in the week.  After half a year I finished my master and I really wanted to stay at Zanders, so I applied at the Corporates sector. I have been working fulltime at Zanders for one year now.

Were you interested in the consultancy sector before you participated in the AID?
No, like most MSc Finance students I thought I would end up in the M&A sector. I liked the course corporate valuation a lot too, so I have been in doubt for quite a while. I also participated in quite some inhouse days at Deloitte, PwC and KPMG, but at one point I realized that this was not the right sector for me. All the cases were rather similar which made me realize that working in the M&A sector might not be as varied as it is in the consultancy sector. Here at Zanders I think the projects are much more diverse. During my one year at Zanders I have been working on a project at a bank, where we had to write and implement a new policy concerning bank account management. Furthermore, I did several projects related to the management of foreign exchange risk of large multinationals. Now I am working on an unconventional project with 80 people from different offices for 9 months already. My role is to coordinate all these people, which I really like.

After you decided that you wanted to work in the consultancy rather than in the M&A sector, why did you choose Zanders and not a multinational?
As I said, I really like the variation in the projects and I think that at a large multinational your job is less challenging and I believe that I would easily get bored there. On average a project here lasts for approximately 4 months where you work in teams of 2 to 3 people and you usually work on 2 or 3 projects at the same time. I really enjoy this variation in tasks and I also like the fact that you get to work with some really smart people here. Zanders focuses solely on treasury consultancy, so we don’t do a bit of everything, but we specialize in those things that we are really good at.

The most challenging is that I still have to learn so much.

What is the hardest part of working at Zanders?
As for me, the most challenging is that I still have to learn so much. Every time I start a new project I don’t know where to begin. Luckily, this is no problem at Zanders as I can ask all colleagues for help, who will then calmly explain me everything. So it is challenging, but it is a challenge I like to take. I guess everyone has this problem once they finish their master degree and start working. It is hard to bring the theory you learn to daily practice.

Could you briefly describe a typical project of Zanders at the Corporates department?
I would say that the typical project is a foreign exchange project, in which a multinational asks us how it should hedge its currency risk. A multinational is active in different countries and thus sells its products and buys its inputs in different currencies. As these currencies fluctuate, these companies are susceptible to currency risk. Such a project consists of two parts: first we have to design a specific policy for the client whereafter we have to go to the treasury department of the client and implement this policy.

Which part of the project do you like most?
I actually like both parts as you have to solve challenging problems in the first stage, whereas in the second stage you have to convince people working at the treasury department that they have to change what they did for all these years, because you think you know it better. Furthermore, I highly enjoy the fact that I, as a starter, also get to visit all the clients. 

Which project did you like most?
I think I liked the projects with multinationals whose department was located in a foreign country the most. For one project I had to go to Geneva for two days and I have also once been to Spain for 3 days. During those days you will be at the treasury department and have to carefully explain the new policy to be implemented by means of presentations and workshops. This is also one of the reasons why I switched to the Corporates department within Zanders as these trips are more common in here.

Are there differences between large and small companies?
We only do projects with large multinationals as smaller companies don’t need advice on their exposure to currency risk, so in terms of market cap all companies are rather similar in size. The size of the treasury department, however, can vary remarkedly. I would say that in general, the larger the department the more difficult it is to implement the new policy. Sometimes we offer the client a solution for their problem, but then they do not implement it as it is so different from what they are used to. Accordingly, the will to change can vary substantially between companies, but we cannot assess beforehand whether the client is willing to cooperate.

What does your future look like?
That is a good question. As a first, I want to get better in what I do now and in about 5 years time I would like to do a bit more in terms of managing people. At this moment I really think this will be at Zanders. Eventually, I will have to specialize in a specific area, but at the moment I do not know yet which area as I first want to experience more areas.

Being yourself is the most important.

What are important qualities to possess if you want to work at Zanders?
I think that the people that work here are all very professional in what they do. Almost everyone here has done either the MSc Finance or Econometrics, so it is all pure finance. I am not sure whether people with a Business Administration degree would become happy here. Next to this, you also should be able to have some fun! Zanders organizes a lot of activities and once a year we go on a trip with all 150 employees from all offices.

What is your advice for the students of Risk?
My tip for students is that you should really work together with your fellow students. When I was a student we had a group of students who were all really good in different courses and then it was really helpful to work together and share your knowledge. In your future job you also have to work in groups, so for me it really helped that I was already used to this.
And for those students that want to work at Zanders, I would say that being yourself is the most important. Of course, we are looking for bright students, but we also look at personality, since you will be working in small teams here. Quality is the most important here, but next to that we also find it really important that you like your job and your co-workers.