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The role of finance director within a global player in animal feed: Thomas Bosschem, Finance Director at Agrifirm, speaks


With 3000 employees and a worldwide annual turnover of 2.5 billion euros, the Dutch animal feed company Agrifirm is a leader in its sector. This cooperative of livestock farmers and growers is fully committed to innovative and sustainable products. What guiding role does Finance Director Thomas Bosschem play in this company? What (finance) challenges does his team face? A portrait.

Diverse range of tasks for finance
Thomas Bosschem's daily agenda is more than well filled: “Within Agrifirm, the rules of a matrix organization apply. I have a dual role in this. On the one hand I am financial director for the EMEA region, where I am responsible for finance and IT for 14 plants. On the other hand, I am also group responsible for the entire M&A process in the Agrifirm group.”

“Together with my finance colleagues, I not only follow up on purely operational/transactional agenda items, but we also act as a business partner for our region. In concrete terms, this means that we (want to) make a substantial contribution to improving the business results, helping to draw up the action plans and helping to realize the plans. To do this, we monitor a number of financial and non-financial KPIs. Last but not least, the MT counts on our cooperation to help define and start strategic projects, based on where we want to be as a company within five or ten years.”

Which key figures are central?
Thomas has a clear vision of which key figures and processes are of decisive importance within Agrifirm: “We focus on the usual suspects margin and EBITDA for the follow-up of the day-to-day business. On a quarterly basis, I attach great importance to RONA (return on net assets, or the company's net profit), because from a shareholder perspective this is an important indicator of financial succession. In addition, it is essential to accurately monitor the cash evolution, so that sufficient resources remain available for R&D projects. In addition to these financial key figures, we naturally also zoom in on non-financial KPIs, such as sustainability, safety – by measuring LTIs (Lost Time Injuries) – and innovation (with the margin from new products).”

Quid key processes within Agrifirm?
“We use standard processes to compare regions. From finance we lend a helping hand for this by fully utilizing the added value of an ERP system, drawing up correct definitions and incorporating consistent reporting. We can also help from finance to harmonize and structure everything for non-financial KPIs. Finally, we take our role of finance as a challenger for the correct follow-up of leading KPIs very seriously. Finance is so much more than just reporting figures!”

Impact Covid crisis on business processes
Like many other companies, Agrifirm also had all hands on deck to act quickly during the corona pandemic. Thomas outlines the impact: “When the pandemic broke out – in February/March 2020 – our plants were confronted with enormous supply problems of raw materials. This was partly due to a shortage of containers in Europe. The supply from China, among others, came under heavy pressure.”

“At that point, we noticed that working capital is becoming less important, in contrast to strategic stocks and inventory security. Budget exercises also became relative, because due to the rapidly changing world, some plans were already outdated at the time of publication. Flexibility in forecasts became more important, especially because in addition to corona, we were also confronted with other important challenges, such as Brexit and bird flu.”

“During the corona crisis, our finance team learned that you have to analyze certain market elements with an open mind and that you have to be able to act quickly together with other departments. Another lesson was that in times of crisis you should extend a helping hand to your loyal customers where necessary, because this strengthens the relationship of trust.”

How does Thomas Bosschem and his team tackle finance challenges within Agrifirm? And what impact did the Covid crisis have on the business? Listen to our podcast here.

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Posted by: Key Figures