Interview with Jochem Janssens – Commercial FP&A Manager at Beer Brewery AB InBev

For the Dutch version, click here

Jochem Janssens has been Commercial Finance, Planning & Analysis Manager at Brewery AB InBev for the past six months. AB InBev is one of the world’s largest players in the field of beer brewing, mainly known for many famous brands, including Hertog Jan, Jupiler and Corona. In this interview, he tells more about his career and the impact of COVID-19 on AB InBev.

Can you tell something about your career? 

I was born in the Netherlands, but when I was two months old, I moved abroad with my family. Most of my life I have lived abroad, including Singapore, Dubai and England. I lived in Singapore for eight years and spent my high school life there. After that, I moved to Canada for three and a half years to earn a bachelor’s degree from McGill University. During my Bachelor of Commerce I got the opportunity to do three different internships in three summers. First at Unilever, then at IndusInd, a bank in India, and my third internship was at BBDO, at a Canadian branch of the American marketing company. After these internships, I joined AB InBev in 2018 as a Global Management Trainee

What kind of impact did growing up in many different countries have on you? 

Meeting many different people from different cultures has brought me the most value.
However, nowhere in the world does it feel like home and your friends are spread all over the world, which makes it socially more difficult. Living abroad has its pros and cons, but I gained a lot from the many life experiences. I know who I am, what I want and which norms and values I want to apply in my life.

How did you experience the transition from studying to working?

The biggest difference was that as a student you have much more control over what you do with your time. When you start working for a company you have to adapt to the norms and values that prevail in a company. Some organizations are much more flexible than others. I am a social and interactive person, that is why I like team sports. I have the same feeling in my work, working together with a large team on a subject, I like that a lot. The special drinks you produce, which people enjoy very much in a social environment. That’s one of the best things about working for a beer company.  

What attracted you to do a traineeship at AB InBev?

The traineeship I did at AB InBev is an intensive ten-month program, where you learn a lot about the different departments in the company. You do projects in supply, sales, marketing and e-commerce. That was a fantastic learning experience for me, because it gives you the opportunity to see various sides of a company up close and you see how all the departments come together.  

“The special drinks you produce, which people enjoy very much in a social environment. That’s one of the best things about working for a beer company.”

What does your work as a Commercial Finance (FP&A) Manager look like?

In my role as Commercial Finance Manager I’m actually the spider in the web. I’m certainly not the central point of the company, but mainly the person who brings everything together. My specific role is financial planning & analysis, which means that I am responsible for reporting the financial figures of the Dutch company. My role consists of two parts. I work in a cycle that starts in the first week of the month with booking all costs and revenues of the previous month. After that, I start analyzing the performance of the previous month. Then I switch to the forecast part, in which I work together with the hospitality industry and retail sales directors to determine their forecast for the rest of the year. Then you bring together the analysis of the past month and the forecast for the upcoming months, with which you will build a forecast together. This forecast shows you what the company can expect for the coming year and this will be adjusted every month. In order to make the forecasts as accurate as possible, data from different departments is needed, in other words, a good collaboration.

What effect will the current crisis with COVID-19 have on Beer Brewery AB InBev?

We are a company that works with two major channels, namely the hospitality industry and the retail industry. Those two are always the balance for us in the company. The impact of COVID-19 has mainly affected the hospitality industry, where a lot of restaurants and bars had to close down. This means that people have only limited opportunities to consume beer. This is very painful for us, because the hospitality industry is a segment on which we rely very much in terms of performance. One ray of hope, however, is that a lot of consumption from the hotel and catering industry has flowed on to retail.
For us, it was important to find ways to support entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry during the crisis. This often concerns an individual, namely an entrepreneur who has set up his own business. Approximately 10% of our hospitality relationships have a rental construction with us. Besides, we are not owners but intermediate tenants, we do not own any premises ourselves. To accommodate our tenants during this crisis, we have offered them a discount on their rent. In addition, we offered them to return the already sold tank and cask beer and to credit them on their next order.

Who are AB InBev’s main competitors?

Not only in the Netherlands, but also in the rest of the world, that is of course Heineken. Certainly when it comes to beer, but I think it is always nice to work as an AB InBev employee in our competitor’s largest home market. You are the underdog and you have to compete against the bigger brewer. I think, if you look at the Dutch business and if you look at the growth in market value over the past ten years, that we are on the right track with a good portfolio of brands that appeal to consumers.

Do you have another golden tip for the current generation of students?

Choose something you have a passion for and what you like. People usually think too much about the future and what a job is going to involve in terms of salary and opportunities. The most important thing in your study and work is that you can enjoy the work you do. If you can do that, everything will be easier and more enjoyable, both in your career and in your studies. With the help of this pleasure, the results will come naturally.