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Our journey
“Ideas ParkLane Insight to further develop TriFinance”  

Gert Smit, founder & chairman

My 26-year career, which led me to the top of several big companies, had been successful and gratifying. However, during my walks in London’s Hyde Park at the end of the 20th century, I came to the rather shocking conclusion that I had enjoyed my first job more than my last one. I realized that the working environment in large companies and organizations had fundamentally changed. The possibility to develop yourself by being challenged by more senior people had become very rare. I also became convinced that the rat race in the Fast Lane needed to be counterbalanced by walks in Park Lane in order to reflect and to recharge one’s batteries.

The concept of ParkLane Insight, a company in which I would not be limited by all kinds of constraints, took shape. I decided to create my own company based on one primary goal: the growth of people. With my finance background and my entrepreneurial spirit, the decision to start a finance company felt very natural. It introduced the Hub Philosophy: a working environment guaranteeing mental space and freedom, an environment where people are being challenged by seniors so that they can grow and further themselves. This Hub Philosophy became the cornerstone of TriFinance, which started its first full year of operation in 2002. It has chosen to put the workers first, so as to help them as well as their clients optimally.

  • 750 finance professionals - Me inc.®’ers

    The ideas and values of the ParkLane Insight gave in 2002 birth to TriFinance. We started a new generation of work environments. A coordinated, warm and motivating context where people can grow, have ownership and take their career into their own hands. By giving them the space and trust to develop themselves, they become highly motivated to support customers in their daily challenges. Fifteen years later TriFinance has become a real reference in the market as a career accelerator and destination finder for candidates and a pragmatic solutions supplier for customers. Currently, 700 finance professionals work for us in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

  • 26-year career

    “Ideas ParkLane Insight to further develop TriFinance”

    In the summer of 2000 I was the CEO of the global staffing company Vedior. At the time Vedior was number three in its global industry, one rank above Randstad, and its shares were listed in Amsterdam. Under my tenure, we had grown to 6.5 billion annual sales, from half a billion, in 1988. But that summer, after 12 years in the lead, I decided to leave.

    I took the opportunity to reflect upon the 26 year journey that had brought me there. My first job, in 1974, was at the Dutch steelmaker Hoogovens, where I was responsible for planning and reporting guidelines and ‘Grundsatzfrage’. After the merger between Hoogovens and the German steelmaker Hoesch, I moved to the headquarters of the newly created entity Estel. The content of my job remained the same, but the scope changed to an international group with 70,000 employees. Estel had many different types of companies in a variety of business environments with their own rules of the game – from mass production and single piece, made-to-measure manufacturing to large engineering and contracting projects. The experience fostered my fascination with business economics.

    I later moved on to be a controller, CFO and MD at Esmil, Estel’s engineering and contracting subsidiary. 1988 marked the last stage of that journey. I moved to become the head of all Services Business Units at the family owned Vendex Int NV, where my main responsibility was to expand. We wanted to benefit from the positive developments in the service economy to countervail the slowed-down retail business, which was Vendex’ traditional core activity. After having carefully grown Vedior I carved it out of Vendex after 10 years and went public as a listed company. Two years later I felt that my job was completed and I stepped down.

  • Shocking conclusion

    So there I was. My journey had been successful and satisfying. After all I had realized my dream of becoming the CEO of a global listed company and top player in its industry. Along the way my jobs had become increasingly complex, as had the world and the business environment. I took ample time to reflect on my next journey. After one year of careful analysis, I came to a rather shocking conclusion: although I had loved all my jobs and efforts, I had enjoyed my first job more than the last one. My conclusion was that over the years I had lost mental space and freedom. I had experienced this throughout the years, but I had never fully realized.

    At the beginning of my career I was looking at CEOs as having the ultimate business freedom. Looking back, I understood that CEOs are working under constant time pressure and many other constraints. Originally I was under the impression that this downside was countered by the degree of impact a CEO has on the company’s future. But having lived the experience myself, I knew that it was not. The strategic and managerial margins of ‘freedom’ are very narrow for business leaders.

  • Hub Philosophy

    Why am I telling you this story? In 2000 it dawned on me that the working environment in large companies and organisations had fundamentally changed. What I had experienced 26 years before – an ‘oversized’ development environment where I was constantly challenged by more senior people who offered me the opportunity for personal growth and to further myself through mental and career space and their experience – has become very rare indeed.

    What I was looking for had been lost along the way. That is exactly why I decided to create it myself: a company based on one primary purpose, the growth of people. With my finance background and entrepreneurial spirit, the decision to start a finance company felt very natural. My experiences with 10 young economists in my department at Estel, with annual inflow and outflow of about 25%, had been the best breeding ground I ever experienced. This observation led me to the Hub Philosophy®. A working environment with mental space and freedom – where people are being challenged by seniors in order to grow and further themselves. This Hub Philosophy® was the cornerstone of the TriFinance start. But already at the start I had a bigger picture in mind. That bigger picture is ParkLane Insight.

  • FastLane and Park

    As CEO of Vedior I did countless roadshows in New York and London. In London the accompanying investment banks usually booked me in the ParkLane hotel, near Hyde Park. After my late-night dinner presentations and before I went to sleep, I used to take a walk in Hyde Park. I needed to step out of the FastLane to clear my mind and prepare for the next day, which usually featured a breakfast presentation at 8 o’clock for around 20 people and afterwards a full day of one-on-ones with a lunch presentation in between. This FastLane work was a great and challenging experience, but after two weeks of road shows, I needed more than a nocturnal walk in the park.

    The concept of ParkLane Insight, a company in which I would not be limited by all kinds of constraints, is older than TriFinance. During my walks in the park, I realized that the 'killing effect' of the FastLane should be much better counterbalanced than was the case in all listed companies I knew.

    TriFinance is the first step of the much bigger PLI idea. Currently we are in the next phase of PLI. The ideas of ParkLane Insight are now the highest priorities to further develop TriFinance. We are currently finalizing our organisational philosophy.