"Beer is still an emotional product" - Interview with a Management Trainee at HEINEKEN

Siza Toro
04 februari 2019

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Reinout. I started off my studies doing History. After that I realised I wanted to develop more of my hard skills, so I decided to study financial economics. I did not study econometrics myself, but I did follow a couple of courses in the econometric field. After that I started as a finance trainee at HEINEKEN The Netherlands eighteen months ago. Before that I had already done an internship with HEINEKEN in Mauritius. That’s when I knew that I wanted to work at HEINEKEN. The finance trainee consists of three assignments, that is, three times six months, during which you work in a different branch within in your own discipline, so in my case that is Finance. I did my first six months in Zoeterwoude at Customer Service and Logistics. At Customer Service and Logistics your work consists mostly of everything regarding supply chain except production. I’ve worked on a deposit (statiegeld) compensation project. After that I went to Kinshasa, Congo for 6 months.  There I worked more on the commercial side of Finance as a revenue manager. As a revenue manager, your work consists mostly of pricing and price elasticities. And now I work at Vrumona, which is the soda branch of HEINEKEN, where I am trying to create a start-up that produces a special kind of sodas.

How did you end up at HEINEKEN The Netherlands?
I’ve always been interested in working for a big Dutch firm that is internationally known for its fantastic product. When I was a student, I discovered that a lot of great people work at HEINEKEN and that there are some great opportunities at HEINEKEN. So, I’ve always been attracted to HEINEKEN where you can start your career. The work consists of applying your knowledge of finance, but in the end, it’s all about business. So, you’re not only working with financial models all the time, but you actually see the results of the models and you are part of the decision making.

Did your work at HEINEKEN meet your expectations? Was your experience at HEINEKEN The Netherlands something new and different?
Very much so, yes. It’s totally not in line with what I studied, it is way more practical than that. It’s all about getting results and much less theoretical than what I expected.

What do you think makes the management traineeship at HEINEKEN The Netherlands a unique experience?
I think that what makes the Management Traineeship at HEINEKEN unique is the fact that the company and its employees are focused on independence. That means that the work that you do completely depends on you and that you shape your own work. The traineeships here at HEINEKEN are custom made in the sense that it is not dictated beforehand what a person is going to do. At HEINEKEN we look at who you are, where your strength lies and where we spot growth opportunities. Based on a combination on these things, you will be assigned a certain direction or traineeship.

In what way is it possible for an econometrician to use his/her skills at HEINEKEN The Netherlands?
Like any other company, HEINEKEN is a company where use of data is becoming more and more important. And we see that there are actually not enough people with data skills in the company. I think that if you’re a good econometrician who’s a little business-minded, then you can make a difference within HEINEKEN. So there lie a lot of opportunities for both HEINEKEN and any future econometrician employees. Within our finance department we have a small data team which is rapidly growing every year. But even within business control, financial control or even marketing offers some chances for good econometricians.

What does HEINEKEN do with data at the moment? For which branches of the process do you use it?
HEINEKEN consists roughly of the departments Finance, Marketing, Trade Marketing, Sales, Supply Chain (which has its own subbranches), IT and HR. In almost all branches data is used, but it’s used most in the production process. We try keep track of all the data and we try to use this data as much as possible, but I must say that there is room for improvement. Especially in the sales department I think they could be using more data.

Follow up question, how does HEINEKEN make use of econometric techniques or Operations Research techniques within the supply chain department?
As far as I know a lot and HEINEKEN always looks for more. For example, last year I did a supply chain project on behalf of the finance department. Here in HEINEKEN The Netherlands we send a lot of beer to the foreign markets. This is done in kegs or sometimes crates. The value of these casks holds deposit money (statiegeld). So as soon as we sell to the foreign market, for example HEINEKEN USA, the entity in the United States should pay the entity in the Netherlands deposit money. On the balance of HEINEKEN The Netherlands we have to reserve a debt position for the moment that America delivers back these casks. So HEINEKEN The Netherlands knows how much debt we should repay. The problem is that these casks don’t always find their way back to the Netherlands, so the debt position is gradually building up. My job was to estimate what the actual market position is. That means I had to estimate how much debt to hold for HEINEKEN USA, how much debt to hold for HEINEKEN Germany, and that for 150 export countries. So that became a complex system. The way we handled it was to measure empirical cycle times. Every time a cask was returned to us, we would see how long it has been gone for and where it went. Using statistical research we have developed a model in order to determine what debt position HEINEKEN The Netherlands should hold.

What happens after the traineeship at HEINEKEN? Do people find a job elsewhere, or do they stay with HEINEKEN?
Most people stay with HEINEKEN and start in a leading position. In my case I will, in a few months, start with a leading job as a financial controller or business controller.

In what branches does HEINEKEN The Netherlands offer traineeships for econometricians?
We offer finance, IT, supply chain and commerce traineeships, but I think the finance and commerce traineeships are most relevant for econometricians. But then again, the knowledge econometricians have is applicable almost everywhere. So, for example, if you like supply chain you should feel free to apply, because as an econometrician you’re highly valued.

Do HEINEKEN The Netherlands employees participate in a lot of social activities?
Yes we do. For example, we have an small committee that organizes a lot of fun activities, such as a skiing trip. They also participate in a lot of sport activities such as football and hockey.

Econometrics is also very focused on programming skills. In how far does algorithms dictate decisions?
Algorithms are mostly used in supply chain planning and production planning. But decision making in the business and finance department, where I work, we haven’t seen a lot of algorithms making decisions yet. We have to keep in mind that beer is still an emotional product, so no one knows beer better than humans.

Last but not least, what kind of training opportunities are there within HEINEKEN? Or what kind of trainings do you receive as a trainee?
The model that HEINEKEN follows is that roughly 10% of knowledge is gained from trainings, 70% on the job and 20% from colleagues. And within the traineeships you have a few standard trainings which are very focused on leadership and soft skills.