Behind the scenes with... Members' Council Finance Committee18 February 2020
The Members' Council Finance Committee takes a critical look at the annual figures and budget of Royal FloraHolland. What does the Committee do exactly? And do they really have a say?
The Members' Council has four sub-committees. Each committee has its own area of focus, namely: Strategy, Finances, Member loyalty and Cooperative. These committees engage with the Management Board and the Supervisory Board. Furthermore they advise the Members' Council. Final recommendations to the Management Board or decisions are made by the Members' Council.
"Normally we come together as a committee four to six times a year", begins Niels de Groot (de Groot Nursery). He has been a member of the Finance Committee from the very beginning. "But if it is needed, we meet more often. This was the case last year when we met nine times. This was due, among other things, to money theft at Royal FloraHolland".
CFO David van Mechelen is always present at the committee meetings as well as the nine Members' Council members of course. Depending on the agenda, other members of the management team or the Supervisory Board join. "In the case of the theft that was Ali Ahrouch, Head of Internal Audit & Risk Management. We asked him: How could this happen? And how will this be prevented in the future?" Niels has the feeling that his committee has really influenced this topic. "It is difficult for the Management Board to gauge which questions are being raised by members. Because we, as Members' Council members, are watching and asking questions, we have been able to better determine how this could have happened. A thorough plan has been drawn up to avoid such fraud in the future and this has been extensively explained. We have also been able to convey the sense of urgency to address this".
Until 2019 Royal FloraHolland worked with advisory councils Niels can provide more insight, as he was also involved at the time. "As a member of the advisory council, you can only give your advice or opinion. We were well informed but we had no voting rights. We had to take what the Management Board said at face value", he says. But that changed considerably with the introduction of the Members' Council and the committees. The management involves us early on in important matters, for example, the rates for members. We then enter into a discussion about this. Should they be adjusted or not? What pros and cons do we as growers see?"
The committee is a good cross-section of the members of Royal FloraHolland. And that is important to be able to think together and talk as members. Niels: "As an individual you cannot have knowledge of everything. It is simply too much. And to really move forward as a cooperative, a thorough vote is needed - based on the best choice for the most members, while taking into account the minority". The Finance Committee regularly keeps the other Members' Council members updated about the topics that are discussed, what the process looks like and which questions and answers arose. "Ultimately, the Members' Council votes, and in this way they are well informed."
The annual accounts are currently the focus of the Finance Committee, explains Niels. "Pascal Visée, member of the Supervisory Board, showed us their working method during the previous meeting. The Board supervises the Management Board. How do they look at the annual figures? What are they paying attention to? Who has which role? Very enlightening for us as a committee. It almost feels like we are supervising the Council".
The Finance Committee is already included in forecasts during the year. What do the figures look like until then? As a result, the annual figures hold few surprises. "And if that is the case, then we ask questions. We enter into a discussion. Always in consultation with our members, the Members' Council. During the member sessions this spring, the Management Board presents the annual figures from the previous year to the members. Finally, the Members' Council votes in April on adopting the annual accounts. Through this process we have a better understanding of what is behind the numbers. In this way we can continue to back our cooperative with confidence."
In the Finance Committee there are nine Members' Council members. These are: Herman de Jong, Ben Olsthoorn, Bram Bernhard, Jan Mantel, Martien Middelburg, Martien van der Weijden, Niels de Groot, Peter Varekamp en Walter Straathof.
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