4 minute read 14 Feb 2024
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How the City of Antwerp is transforming financial systems for future-proof governance

By EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

4 minute read 14 Feb 2024

The City of Antwerp focuses on security, standardization and efficiency in upgrading its financial platform.

In brief

  • In partnership with EY, the City of Antwerp embarks on a journey of financial modernization and efficiency.
  • The initiative prioritizes streamlining processes, bolstering security, and ensuring cost-effective governance.
  • With a focus on unity and adaptability, the city aims to optimize operations while safeguarding against cyber threats.

At the end of December 2023, the mayor and alderman of finance of the City of Antwerp, called the press together. The reason: the historical debt of the city has been paid off. “And we want to keep it that way,” says the alderman. That's why the city's financial back office is also being prepared for the future. The ingredients: security, standardization, simplification, and a touch of innovation.

Both the mayor and aldermen of Antwerp govern the city from the historic, recently renovated town hall. The most important civil servants also have their offices there, including the newly appointed financial director of the city Pieter Dielis, who took up his new position on January 1st.

Starting at the source

“Such a stately historic building is certainly not the cheapest workplace. But as a municipal government, you watch over the pennies ànd the heritage of the citizens,” says alderman Koen Kennis. “We aim for a sustainable and sound policy, taking into account cost effectiveness. That's why we always strive for more efficiency.”

Within the City of Antwerp, many people and entities work together on this efficient service delivery. In principle, all those city services work on one central financial software platform, but it's based on software that will be outdated in a few years. So the City of Antwerp started looking for a new system in time to continue to guarantee service delivery to citizens, and that's when EY came into play.

We help our clients maximize their software system adoption and ensure that all users feel as comfortable as possible.
Davy Van Ingelgem
EY Belgium Consulting Partner

“Initially, we were engaged to write a vision statement to improve and future-proof internal project reporting. For this, we conducted an analysis. It turned out that in addition to renewing the system, we also needed to simplify and align the financial processes more. This while also taking into account the uniqueness of the different entities. We want to take advantage of this moment to optimize and standardize processes where possible, taking into account the different characteristics of the governance of City of Antwerp,” explains Davy Van Ingelgem. He leads the Belgian SAP practice with a strong focus on business integration. “We help our clients maximize their system adoption and ensure that all users feel as engaged and comfortable as possible, but also competent to work with it.”

“Besides the technical aspects of the system, we also try to implement a business and human transformation at the client. Here in Antwerp, we want to formulate the right objectives together with the city and then achieve them. The goal is to develop a technology platform that is ready for the future and supported by the City of Antwerp and its employees.”

“We are now concluding the blueprint phase, which is drawing up the future way of working and the future system. A first part of this blueprint will be implemented in 2024, followed by the second phase a year later. By early 2026, the transformation of the financial systems and processes will be completed. And of course, we will continue to optimize along the way.”

Focus on security

The city deliberately chose an external partner for its transformation process. “EY has years of experience with large projects, both in the private and public sector. Moreover, it is a neutral player. Over the years, the city's employees have developed their own processes. It's good to have an external partner take a look at those and distil simpler processes from them,” explains Kennis.

The policy is allowed to cost something, but of course not at any price. That's why we always strive for more efficiency.
Koen Kennis
Alderman of Finance of the City of Antwerp

“We all worked in one system, but each in a slightly different way. That has grown historically,” agrees financial director Pieter Dielis. “Such a transformation project requires a lot of change management because people are creatures of habit, and we see that here too,” adds Van Ingelgem. “Like with our other clients, we want to relieve financial and logistical employees by automating transactional tasks with little added value. Through this systemic exercise, they can focus more on policy. They must become a sort of business partner.” The alderman and the financial director emphasize that the new system should ensure more efficiency but will not cost jobs.

Specifically, the city wants its employees to make maximum use of one system. Of course, understanding that, for example, the police and fire department have different needs and must consider different legislation than, say, the cultural centers or municipal education.

“Safety comes first,” says Dielis, referring to the large-scale cyberattack suffered by the city's services at the end of 2022. The problems persisted for months and cost a lot of money. “Ultimately, that was the catalyst for pushing through on this transformation project.”

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The city of Antwerp is modernizing its financial systems in collaboration with EY. The aim is to streamline processes, enhance security, and ensure cost-efficient governance. Leveraging EY's expertise, the city seeks to implement a unified software platform while accommodating the diverse needs of various municipal entities. With a strong emphasis on efficiency and security, this transformation not only optimizes operations but also fortifies defenses against potential cyber threats. 

About this article

By EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization