Wolters Kluwer is a benchmark in the world of professional firms and in the
medium business area. We spoke with the highest authority in our country.
Interview with Tomàs Font, CEO of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting Spain
You have been managing the Tax and Accounting division of Wolters Kluwer in Spain for a year. What has it meant for you?
The truth is that I have accessed the management in difficult circumstances due to the pandemic. The truth is that already in December 2020, with the appearance of the first vaccines, we thought that we would return to normality in a short time and the reality is that at Wolters Kluwer we still do not go to the office. All this has meant that we have to make a greater effort to try to mitigate the situation and I think we have shown that we are a group of people that really works as a united team. Internally, the coronavirus has forced us to work on human resources policies in a much more focused and intense way.
From the positive side of the situation, it has given us an opportunity because it has strengthened our cloud-oriented strategy and it has also been good to be able to accelerate some projects. In short, the balance I make is very positive. The results have been good, we have closed well, both in Spain and in Europe. So, in the year, we are well positioned both in terms of growth and profitability.
One of your main clients are professional offices, how have you seen their evolution in digitization?
They have clearly accelerated their digitization processes. We have a very strong position in firms, both small and medium, especially with human resources solutions. The offices and our clients in particular had a level of digitization in which they still had a long way to go. It is true that the solutions they had installed have allowed them to face the remote work situation quite immediately. In my opinion, companies should have a digitization strategy, but this, as they say, goes by neighborhoods. There are some that have it very well planned and others that are going to jump from the bush. The good thing is that the pandemic has allowed us to put the discourse on the importance of digitization on the table. And it has allowed the digital transformation to begin to be tackled gradually, beginning very clearly with the elements of productivity and efficiency. It has been possible to see that the digitization of processes that were not digitized was a necessity. This, to Wolters Kluwer, has meant to value our strategy since we have had an elaborate, structured and very solid discourse for years.
We must understand that digitization is done to protect the people who work in company teams: they protect themselves by introducing solutions that allow us to gain productivity and efficiency. These are the two great axes. And another important section is the boom that collaborative work has experienced, something that we have been talking about for ten years.
What can access to European funds mean for your clients? Wolters Kluwer will be Digitizer Agent, what does it mean for them and for you?
Obviously, the funds are a historic opportunity to rethink the business itself. But not to create a new business, but to adapt the business to the demands of the moment. We are in this Digitizing Agent process and we also have a good opportunity, not only as a business opportunity, which there may be, but also because of the great responsibility that it entails, since we believe that we can have a significant impact on the market and on the evolution of the companies. NextGen Funds don’t have to be converted in a flash. It is not about burning that money, but about making good use of it. And this is the exercise of responsibility in which, what it really is about, is to guide companies well, to create the paths for this transformation to take place in a sensible way. That guidance is not about getting clients into investments, which may sound good, but make little sense for your business. The objective of the funds is to use them with a very practical approach. So, our role as Digitizing Agent will be crucial since we have the obligation to give meaning to the investment made by companies. The objective is to see what needs companies have so that they take advantage of this opportunity and help them because we find cases in which they do not know where to start on their digitalization path. Companies need clarity and someone to help them. You have to sit down with them, understand their needs. This is not about dispatching and that’s it. We think that you have to develop a plan, a strategy so that you, as a client, choose the one where you see your level of maturity, your current situation and the elements that best fit your business. And that will be our job. We do not intend to sell solutions for selling them.
It will be three years since the launch of a3innuva, what has been the evolution of the platform?
The platform is made up of a set of domains and is being very well accepted. For example, among accounting tools we have grown in all segments. It is true that we had drawn different scenarios, and we thought that in some scenarios the adoption would be faster and in others a little slower, but the truth is that we are happy with the evolution. Because at Wolters Kluwer, we do not have a tax approach with our clients, but a proactive one. We do not force a client that works on-premise to move to the cloud.
One of the facts that the pandemic has brought is the commitment to the cloud by companies. You who insist on the advantages provided by this model, have you noticed this increase in interest in the cloud?
Yes, yes, although less than what the market forecasts claimed. And this is so because there are hybrid solutions that are valid. Even if they scale badly, even if they are cost inefficient, but they are valid. In other words, there are on-premise solutions that allow you to access remotely, that allow you to work from home. It scales worse and may have higher costs because you have to pay for an infrastructure, but there are customers who see that they continue to work and do not want to risk moving to a cloud environment. So they continue to stretch that model, although there comes a time when there begin to be limitations that must be managed. And it is then that, thanks to our ecosystem of partners, they discover that there is a tool that fits them for that problem and thus they see that the cloud model has many advantages. But we do not impose the model on them, we serve both worlds. For us, the priority is that the client can continue working.
You have bet heavily on the marketplace. How’s the acceptance going?
This is the strategic axis of Wolters Kluwer for this year. The objective is that in the domains of payroll accounting and Office Management, that is, what refers to management, we continue to increase the functional perimeter. To do this, we work on three elements: the first is to reduce the time to market, the second is to provide innovative solutions and the third is monetization. Another of the axes is based on compliance, because we think that around us there is an entire ecosystem that we can develop, but that we are not going to develop ourselves, not because we do not find it interesting, which it is, but because we cannot try to cover everything. This would be a strategic and operational mistake of the first order. We are very good at understanding our industry and we see that the collaborative model is going to take on a special role and is good for everyone.