Creating more investment opportunities and supporting their international growth strategy
The Low Down
With a focus on international growth, Belgian investment company Sofina knew it had to improve its processes and standardise its tooling. Sofina choose Salesforce guide and manage all its investment opportunities. The design and implementation of the solution was performed by 4C. Sofina opted for 4C based on references, its proven experience and the close links with Salesforce.
Founded more than 120 years ago as an engineering conglomerate, Sofina is now a listed investment company with equity holdings in Europe, the United States and Asia, across many sectors with a particular focus on Consumer and Retail, Digital Transformation, Education and Healthcare. Sofina has regional offices in Brussels, Luxembourg and Singapore.
“Our network of contacts is our most valuable asset,” says Jean-François Burguet, Senior Investment Manager and Head of Digital at Sofina. “Through our contacts worldwide with entrepreneurs, portfolio companies, investors, families, bankers and start-ups, we detect and spotlight new investment opportunities.” Until recently, we had many independent tools and systems for interacting with prospects and for storing information. That worked fine until the firm opened a new office in Singapore and increased its hiring pace. “Collaborating with colleagues in a different time zone was a major change and we realised that we needed to formalise our commercial processes to keep everyone up to speed on our activities. The tools we had, no longer suited. We wanted something that could support us in our development, a scalable solution that would carry us into the next steps of our expanding business.”
A long-term, trusted partner
Before Sofina decided on Salesforce and 4C, the firm consulted with its peers, and through informal contacts and demos, Salesforce’s name kept coming up. “These interviews convinced us that Salesforce was the right partner, both in terms of functionalities and intuitiveness.”
Sofina decided to work with 4C for several reasons. “They are a Platinum Partner of Salesforce, that guarantees you work with experienced consultants. We were also impressed by the growth strategy of 4C, and by the number of references they had from well-reputed companies. We wanted to work with a company that is really specialised in its field, that can go in-depth, and get the job done.”
JF Burguet worked closely with the 4C consultants. “We are convinced that these consultants would have been able to do the job entirely on their own, but we wanted to be involved as well and have proximity to the project. If you are redesigning the processes of your company, you need someone from the company who is deeply involved to steer that. We really appreciated the pragmatic approach and flexibility of 4C, and how they managed the project. We continue working with them on maintenance and future use cases.”
Efficiency through standardisation
Sofina has three investment strategies and three operating regions (Europe, Asia and America). The firm takes long-term minority equity stakes in European companies, invests in venture and growth capital funds and also supports fast-growing companies. Each of these strategies follows its own process and that has now been reflected in the set-up of Salesforce. “We can follow opportunities in each strategy in its own, distinct flow. We also filter our opportunities by region, sectors and priorities,” said JF Burguet. “By putting all our information in Salesforce, we have created transparency and visibility for everyone. Everyone can know everything and having access to all the information provides team members with more autonomy. When people are more autonomous and have clear goals, they become more productive which, in turn, leads to a bigger volume of opportunities.” Similarly, the efficient sharing of information leads to time savings, but also to more investment opportunities, supporting the continued growth of the firm.
Sofina chose to implement Salesforce in two phases. A first one to test the waters and acquire experience. “We did not want to work top-down and immediately build a big system,” said JF Burguet. “We started with a minimum viable product to add value to the team. So, we started with the basic functionality, the follow-up of sales opportunities. We wanted to see the funnel, the flow of opportunities.” In the first phase, Sofina worked with just one 4C-consultant. Once the first phase had proven the case, Sofina incorporated all business units from the company, which made the project bigger. For the second phase, several 4C consultants helped build the model and implement it. “We were pleased with that way of working,” said JF Burguet, “especially with the scalability. We started small and added functionalities as we went along, without having to make changes to what had been built before”. Sofina expects Salesforce to support the growth of the company. “If our company grows, all we need to do, is buy extra licences, there is no change to the structure of the solution and no impact on response times. That is the beauty of working with a cloud-based solution.” That’s why Sofina also appreciates the regular updates to the product, which add extra functionality or extra ease of use with each update.
Ease of use accelerates user adoption
“We wanted a tool that was intuitive,” said JF Burguet. The tools Sofina used before implementing Salesforce were not all that user-friendly, nor were other tools that came into the evaluation process easy to use. “Salesforce seems purpose-built for business users, not for technical users like some of its competitors. This explains why the adoption of the product was so fast. The software is very intuitive and users have been fast to get up to speed with it.”
“I would recommend 4C to any organisation. From my position in the steerco, I experienced how well they managed the project and how they delivered it on time and within budget. They delivered the right kind of consultants, real professionals.” - Jean-François Burguet, Senior Investment Manager and Head of Digital, Sofina
Investors now have access to all information
The scalability of the solution allows Sofina to grow the system in line with its international expansion
Now that everyone has access to more information