Magazine article Business Credit

FCIB Member Profile: David Vermylen

Magazine article Business Credit

FCIB Member Profile: David Vermylen

Article excerpt

It's often the challenges and overcoming those challenges that provide the greatest levels of motivation and satisfaction in a job or career. David Vermylen, BP Chemicals' global credit manager for petrochemicals and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) finance manager for aromatics agrees with this. "The unknown, the surprise, the added complexity, the new cultures and trying to find a solution with a couple of factors you're not familiar with, all of that is what is fun about working in credit," said Vermylen, who presently serves as vice chairman of FCIB's European Advisory Council.

Vermylen got his foothold at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, where he studied business engineering and international business, trade and commerce. This enabled him to launch into business first as an auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC and then briefly as a power market trader at a European-based branch of Enron. But he recognized that the versatility and range of tasks needed to thrive in credit offered a much more interesting path, so he began his career in credit as an analyst for Central Europe in March 2002. "What drew me into this, actually, was the fact that it's in the middle between commercial and finance," he said. "You have to have skills of both, which is not too easy to find. Also, the international aspect was one of the major drivers for me getting so interested in doing credit."

These days, Vermylen is involved in setting policy for just about all credit-related work streams within the Strategic Performance Unit of BP Petrochemicals, which generates about $17 billion annually. He also focuses on reporting, accounting and controls for the aromatics division, which produces plastic products used in things like polyester and packaging such as plastic bottles, etc. His is a more forward or elevated view of the credit manager, one that sees the modern credit professional as not only concerned with risk mitigation, but also with value creation and promotion of the deep importance of the department's role within a company's greater set of goals.

Looking Forward

"If you want to push the industry forward, you have to think about technology," said Vermylen. "When I say technology, I actually mean programs, software, things that help you in making reports. There's a whole raft of activities in the credit space that could be strongly helped with better technology. You also have to at least think about things like outsourcing, having companies that actually help you in drafting reports, helping you in preparing collection work. Having these big teams locally embedded just doesn't cut it anymore."

Since his promotion to global credit manager with BP's petrochemicals division in March 2005, technological innovation has been put at a premium. The company now boasts tools that include an automated letter of credit dashboard and a global credit business service center in Asia, among many other previously absent advancements.

Vermylen acknowledges that political risk is back on the rise, and dramatically so in many areas. The Arab Spring, the Crimea/Ukraine fracture and consequent sanctions against Russia, and the destabilization in Turkey all warrant careful evaluation and monitoring. Vermylen is concerned that other countries or regions could soon head in a similar direction. The monetary policies of central banks also require some attention from credit professionals, Vermylen noted. A change in conditions is more likely in 2014 and 2015 than in the last several years, and perhaps significantly, and the impact will be felt by business and their credit departments. …

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