Sylvie Vandevelde

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Société Wallonne des Eaux chooses Isabel Connect to automate its financial operations

Société Wallonne des Eaux (SWDE) produces and distributes drinking water for around 2.5 million inhabitants of Wallonia via 40,117 km of pipes and 1,317 reservoirs and water towers. The company, which is based in Verviers, believes that water is a common necessity, and should not be viewed as a commodity. As part of its sustainable development objectives, SWDE strives to provide high-quality water that is readily available in sufficient quantities, at a reasonable price.

swde logo

THE CHALLENGE AND THE SOLUTION

Every day, SWDE has to handle a very high volume of financial transactions via coded bank statements (CODA) and manual payments. As well as taking up a considerable amount of time, processing these is open to risk of error and, potentially, even fraud. SWDE therefore decided to automate payment handling by using Isabel Connect.

Now, at 5 am every morning, the CODA files are imported directly into SWDE’s SAP accounting software. When the members of staff responsible for overseeing payments arrive at work, all they have to do is to finalize that morning’s import operation before going on to enter the manual payments. Before the integration of Isabel Connect, each CODA file (of which there were around thirty) had to be entered manually.  

In addition to this automatic importing of payments received, SWDE is now able to automatically send payments based on files prepared and validated by various operational departments (Accounting, Customer Service, HR). These same files pass through an internal directory before being forwarded to Isabel’s payment environment – a process that happens without anyone from the Payments department having to get involved.

Isabel Connect thereby ensures smoother processing while easing the workload for SWDE personnel, including the treasurer, who can quickly obtain an overview of the company’s financial situation.  

THE EXPERT AND HIS CAREER

Stéphane joined SWDE more than 30 years ago, having been attracted to the company by an interest in water management – something that was already dubbed as “blue gold” even back then. Since becoming Head of Finance, he has always pursued the same goal: “Keeping the price of water under control” for the benefit of the Wallonia company’s many customers. It was with this aim in mind that, in 2019, the automation of payment data became a topic of internal discussion. “We had employees who were spending a large part of their day just uploading and booking account statements and preparing payments. A monotonous and time-consuming activity with no added value. The computer work for each CODA file could take as long as 30 minutes. We needed to be more efficient.”

sthirion new rounded

“We brought our IT and Finance departments together in a working group and they quickly made the decision to utilize Isabel Connect. We had it installed by an external partner who was used to working with Isabel and therefore knew the product well. The integration took about two to three months.” To achieve optimal efficiency following the installation of Isabel Connect, SWDE’s own IT department took on full responsibility for its operational management.

REDUCED RISK OF ERRORS AND FRAUD

The Isabel Connect integration was completed early in 2020, just before the Covid pandemic. “With Isabel Connect, everything can be done remotely. Teleworking is therefore no problem at all. This solution saves us a lot of time and gives us a much higher level of control and performance, while reducing the stress associated with manual processing. Because of the number of transactions we process every day, we were constantly faced with the risk of error or fraud. Security is very important at SWDE.”

UP TO 30,000 PAYMENTS PER DAY

“Even though our activities are limited to Wallonia, we have to deal with a huge number of transactions. With more than a million customers, SWDE is one of the 10 biggest ‘billers’ in Belgium. As well as receiving between 10,000 and 30,000 payments per day, we also receive around 40,000 supplier invoices each year. These invoicing files are pretty big, both in terms of their size and the amount of money involved.”

It was essential to find a solution that combines efficiency, security, and user-friendliness. Fortunately, we now have this with Isabel Connect. I don’t know of any similar product in Belgium.

Stéphane Thirion Head of Finance at SWDE

“We are very satisfied with the Isabel Connect solution,” concludes Stéphane Thirion. “If there is one aspect that could potentially be improved, it is the search function. At present, we are limited to a one-year history for account information and (in Isabel 6) a three-month history for payments. In some cases, it would be useful to be able to go back five years.”

 

Thank you, Stéphane, for the pleasant conversation. Your feedback on our Isabel Connect solution is very much appreciated. In the meantime the account information available via Isabel Connect has been increased. A history of 2 years is now available for both Isabel Connect and Isabel 6. 

Discover all the possibilities of Isabel Connect here

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