Interview: Bas Dantuma
The Risk Magazine Committee was also present during the Risk Conference 2018, with the theme: ‘New Financial Focus: What Are the Odds of Surviving?’ Besides listening to the interesting lectures by inspiring speakers and participating in challenging workshops, we had the opportunity to interview Bas Dantuma, Senior Manager at Accuracy, one of the partners of the conference.
Hi Bas, could you please introduce yourself?
Sure! My name is Bas Dantuma and currently I am a Senior Manager at Accuracy. I have studied in Groningen as well, from 2000 until 2006. I studied the Bachelor Business Administration but then switched to Corporate Finance for my Master. During my studies I was active - to a modest degree – at my student association, where I was part of the Keiweek organization for example. After my studies I worked in Paris for one year as business analyst for Primagaz, one of the many subsidiaries of SHV. That was intentionally one year to get a taste of what working life was like. Thereafter, I moved back to the Netherlands and started working for EY Transaction Support, what I really enjoyed. I recalled from my studies that I really liked the valuation courses.
Then how did you get in touch with Accuracy and why did you decide to work there?
As part of my personal career development it was expected of me that I went abroad for some time to work for another EY office. Therefore, I was in the process of moving to London to work for the local office there. However, then the British voted in favor of Brexit, which made this adventure too difficult for me. This was frustrating for both EY and me, but it gave me the opportunity to explore the possibilities elsewhere. Through a recruitment agency I got in contact with Accuracy. I had quite some conversations and cups of coffee before I made the decision to join. I really liked the ‘Accuracy story’ and the independent role they play in the Dutch market, not being attached to an audit department but also being a young, international and entrepreneurial company. In the end, I joined Accuracy in 2017 where I became Senior Manager.
How did you experience the transition from student life to full-time working?
It is already ten years ago, but I remember it quite vividly. I really enjoyed the transition. Of course, it is true that your student life is a such a great time with all that freedom and spare time. But when I started working, I really liked to have some purpose throughout the week and being able to develop yourself and to follow my ambitions. In combination with still a lot of freedom, but then in the weekends only. So, for me it was surprisingly nice actually.
Could you briefly explain what Accuracy does and what your job entails?
Well, that is quite broad actually. In the Dutch market we are well-known for our work on transactions, which entails financial due diligence, valuation and all other support activities surrounding mergers and acquisitions. But Accuracy is much broader than that: we offer financial and strategic advice in important events that require management decision making. That is not only asset transactions, but also litigation, restructuring and strategy planning. It depends on the branch and country what subservices are most visible. With my background in transaction services I am mostly working on due diligence for either buying or selling parties and writing the due diligence reports. This also involves active conversations with management of both the target company and the client, in order to find the motivations for their decision to either buy or sell, and to design the main criteria for the transaction.
You mentioned the ‘Accuracy story’. Could you elaborate on that?
Yes of course. The company was founded by some former Arthur Andersen partners in Paris. The Arthur Andersen team was acquired by another Big-4 firm, but these partners were still quite young and looked for an alternative option which was more flexible, more entrepreneurial and less political. They then decided to set up their own advisory firm and to compete with, among others, the Big-4 firms. This is of course very difficult as new player, with such a small team, but they managed and these founding partners are still very active in the organization. We still see them regularly during international events or when they visit the local branches. For Accuracy, these values of entrepreneurship and having the flexibility to adapt to changes in markets or client demands are still of utmost importance.
You left a Big-4 firm for Accuracy, which is also an internationally operating financial advisory firm. What are the differences?
Yes, we are bigger than regular financial advisory firms with 380 people working for us worldwide and offices from Singapore to Canada. But we are still small enough to be able to actively discuss with the people who steer the business and to maintain the values I explained that are so important for Accuracy. We are not as massive as the large firms and we really do have influence in setting the direction for the company. I would never say anything negative about Big-4 firms as I learned so much and had such great time there. However, we do not want to become like one ourselves, as we really appreciate the benefits of being a small firm, such as the opportunity to act on your own initiatives. So, we have the benefits of both the large international financial advisory firms as the smaller local ones.
In the Netherlands, Accuracy is situated at Schiphol International Airport. Besides, you stress the international focus of Accuracy. Does this mean the projects and the teams you operate in are also internationally oriented?
Yes! What is also unique compared to the large international advisory firms, is that we have one international P&L and one international planning. So, for example, when we in the Netherlands are very busy and in Italy there are some colleagues with spare time, they will come over to assist us in our teams and vice versa. So, that also enables us to offer a company a broadly composed team from different nationalities and provides us with many opportunities to work in international teams, either here in the Netherlands or abroad.
The current economic climate is characterized by the overheated M&A-market, which was also one of the subthemes today. How do you experience that at Accuracy?
There is so much capital in the market at this moment. Recently, I attended an international conference in London and one of the speakers referred to it in a nice way as “the wall of funds that is coming to investors”. That is really the driver behind the many investments and the popping up of private equity everywhere you look. What I saw, especially in 2016, is that there were quite broad auction processes with a lot of competition between various investments funds and private equity parties, all trying to acquire that one nice asset to add to their portfolio. I feel that now, all these investment funds are not so eager anymore to participate in an auction process and rather look for targets themselves by starting conversations with business owners directly. For us, this development is favorable, since a one-on-one situation often gives the selling party the opportunity to fully cooperate and increases their willingness to provide all necessary information and to have frequent conversations. This is better than auction processes, at least from our perspective as advisory company. For M&A boutiques this is obviously not the case, since an auctions process often drives up prices and increases the importance of the role of M&A boutiques in the process.
Are there any challenges specifically for your team?
First of all, a major challenge is to attract new team members who are not only capable and ambitious, but also have a good fit with the organization. We are with 25 people at Schiphol, which makes a good fit between the company and the employees even more important than with a large corporate, I would say. Secondly, for Accuracy it is important to diversify its services a bit more in the Netherlands, so we become less dependent on the financial due diligence services. We also want to provide corporates with excellent strategic advice and to help them solve their complicated financial problems.
What are your personal goals in your career?
At this point, I have learned a lot in terms of technical skills in the last ten years. So, for me the biggest improvement point is to develop my own personal network in the Dutch M&A market. That is something you are a bit more passive about when you are working for a Big-4 firm, as you do not actively operate in the market. So that is something I will be working on the coming years. Furthermore, I really appreciate working with my current colleagues and one of my main goals is to further grow the team in the Netherlands and I am really passionate about trying to contribute to the development of my younger colleagues.
Accuracy often stresses their unique international training program. Could you elaborate on that?
When you join Accuracy, you first go to ‘school’ for two weeks with all starters worldwide. This is something one of our founding partners was really passionate about and it still exists. One week will be in Paris and the second week will be at another international non-office location. You will be attending theoretical sessions and working on cases, but more importantly you will get to know one another and have great fun. This period is quite legendary within the firm and is often referred to in informal talks. After that, you will be able to develop your own training program and you will be given a personal budget for this. Furthermore, we occasionally have international seminars in which we share our knowledge and expertise.
What advice would you give students who are at the beginning of their career?
To be honest, I was clueless when I was looking for a job, even after my year in Paris. Personally, I always followed my gut feeling. I would recommend just go for what you enjoy. Don’t think that there is only one right way to go and don’t over-rationalize your career decisions. Be a bit naive in the beginning and if it doesn’t feel right, there is always the opportunity to change your path.
For more information about Accuracy please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020- 754 7600.