Settling in Europe has been an exciting rite of passage for Atterbury Europe’s dynamic team. Finance director Martin Olivier took some time out of the extremely busy time around financial year-end to share some of his impressions of the first three years.
You’ve lived in the Netherlands for three years; how have you adapted to life in the Netherlands, and what do you like most about living there?
We have settled in well, and enjoy life in the Netherlands. We have made good friends, and also became part of a family at church, which helps in calling the Netherlands home. We enjoy having friends over on weekends, and also travelling to various other countries within Europe. Our travels are usually centered around sporting events in Europe, and in this regard, Europe has a lot to offer.
Has your command of Dutch improved since we last spoke? And what about your status… you were single when you moved across?
My Dutch is still not very good, I’m afraid! The difficult part is speaking the language, especially getting the pronunciation right… But better news on the marital status – I was indeed single when I first moved to the Netherlands, but got married to Annemei in March 2019. She is a “boeremeisie” from Pretoria and has also settled in well over here, and both of us enjoy the privilege of starting the journey of marriage in the Netherlands.
Atterbury Europe has grown considerably since you moved overseas. How has your role adapted to the growth over the past three years?
We are now a much bigger team than when we first settled here, so although I am still involved in all of the business, time spent on the functions where specialised staff has been appointed has decreased significantly.
Are you able to single out one or two learnings over this period that have been most significant? Do any processes come to mind that have been streamlined particularly well, and how has that been beneficial?
The growth in the size of our team, together with the various stakeholders we work with, places a great emphasis on good communication and also having the necessary structure in place. I have definitely learnt a lot about keeping structured communication in place with the various functions of the business to make sure the business functions optimally.
What is the biggest challenge to handle around the financial year end?
We have various countries reporting into our structure, and also require inputs from various parts of the business to report accurately and within the required timelines, so good and constant communication with the various individuals are extremely important.
What was 2019 all about in your department – were there particular challenges that had to be managed, or successes that you benefited from?
We put a lot of work into restructuring our capital structure, which started early in 2018, and was concluded in July 2019 after Pareto was brought in as a 25% shareholder into Atterbury Europe. The process took about 18 months, and included obtaining loans to repurchase shares, selling some assets and raising cash from issuances to new shareholders. Lots of valuable insights were gained during these 18 months.
What are your biggest areas of focus during 2020 – what will you be spending most of your time on?
We have plenty of exciting development opportunities that are commencing, or are in the process of being assembled and some are near completion. These developments happen in Serbia, Romania and in Cyprus. This will need a lot of focus during 2020. New developments are however always at the heart of our business, which makes it a very rewarding part to be investing in.