Arnaud Laviolette has been Chief Financial Officer of S.A. D'Ieteren N.V. since 2015. He has been a Co-Director for Investments at Groupe Bruxelles Lambert and has served as Head of Commercial Banking at ING Belgium. He shares with us his corporate vision of external growth and management integration.
Leaders League. Which major challenges are you facing as CFO of D’Ieteren?
Arnaud Laviolette. There are various dimensions in my job. The first one is to build a solid team and to help create a comprehensive and value creative group that shares common values and objectives. Having fun and taking pleasure in working together is also important to me. The second key dimension is to build solid relationships based on trust with the various shareholders, with the board and with my fellow CFOs within the group. My role is indeed to ensure that we build trusting relationship with the financial teams involved in our activities, that we bring them support when needed and that we are clear in terms of targets and expectations. If we want to grow, if we want to invest, it matters to get the right information at the right time about what is happening in our various markets. This is a prerequisite to address the priorities and to make the right decisions.
Does external growth have a central place in the group's strategy?
External growth should not be an objective in itself. Our first purpose is to create value through helping our activities build an organic growth trajectory. But external growth has indeed a place in the group’s strategy as it may bring new opportunities and be synergistic. Being cash-generative allows us to distribute dividends to our shareholders while constantly investing in existing and new businesses.
The recent Moleskine acquisition has surprised the markets. How do you explain this strategic choice?
It was indeed surprising to some investors, even if we had told the market not to expect new acquisitions in the car industry as we want to diversify our sectoral risks. We have been looking at various opportunities and we were appealed by the culture of Moleskine. Moleskine has a strong brand, a brand with a meaning: promoting culture and human knowledge in the world. In addition, the company has been growing by more than 10% per year for more than 15 years and is today highly profitable. We see in Moleskine a great potential for continuous organic growth.
How are you driving the integration of this new entity into the group?
I strongly believe in soft integration. We are supporting the local management team with a good plan. They are the experts in their business and our role is to ensure that the company can perform according to its full potential. The current Moleskine management team is composed of people with a strong international background and we see it as a strength to have such a diverse and dynamic team within the organisation.
What are your next projects as group CFO?
Our main focus today is on looking for a minority partner in Belron, the world leader in vehicle glass replacement and repair. We want to make sure that we find the right partner for the next growth trajectory of Belron which is looking to expand its activities in Auto and Home damage repair and replacement. This project will enable us to strengthen our investment capacity and to broaden our activities as part of our long-term strategy. Another project will be to redeploy capital in new activities, which will contribute to building a promising future for the group.
What Is your background and in which way does it contribute to the growth of the group?
My background goes from financial to corporate M&A. I am a former investment banker. I really enjoyed supporting the bank’s and its customers strategies, being a customer-oriented person by nature, so leaving the bank was not an easy decision. My interests go much further than finance. By joining D’Ieteren in 2015, I found a new opportunity to use some of my financial skills while interacting with inspiring people and taking action to ensure that we work together in a purposeful way on the long term. My job is full of passions: passion for business, passion for entrepreneurs, passion for corporate vision and strategy. And what I find most fascinating in my job is the human energy that emanates from the organisation.