Royal FloraHolland changes its ‘constitution’

Posted On 09 Jun 2016
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Algemene Ledenvergadering Royal FloraHolland 2016.

Algemene Ledenvergadering Royal FloraHolland 2016.

AALSMEER, The Netherlands: Royal FloraHolland chief executive Lucas Vos has revealed the direction the New Auctioning is heading towards and how Royal FloraHolland is working on an online transaction platform. This will make logistical services simpler, more efficient and more in line with customers’ wishes. By approving an amendment to the auction’s Articles of Association, members agreed to a new corporate financing model.

Those who expected immediate miracles from the New Auctioning were likely disappointed by the auction’s update. Those grower members with a more realistic outlook, however, would have understood, that performing open heart surgery on the auction house’s beating heart, the clock, needs extra time and in-depth study.

Grower Johan Buijs from the audience asked Royal FloraHolland director Lucas Vos about possible complications that arose during the coronal intervention, as he sensed less resolve to get things done.

Vos said that he expected the answers to be different. “I would have thought ex-work (read ex-nursery) and afternoon auctioning to be the right solutions, but I am glad with our change of direction. Moving the auction to the afternoon, would have disrupted the flow of things; it would not have been the right decision. Meanwhile, the auction should offer its growers alternative sales channels through a digital 24/7 platform. It depends how one interpretates my words: either you hear that I am a dedicated follower of the clock with little to no change needed, or it becomes clear that the auction rooms will disappear and we will relocate, to the cloud, thus heading in the direction of nation-wide auctioning. All in all, I believe future solutions will be quiete rigorous. Choosing the right time frame is important, provided the whole operation is carried out gradually with the utmost accuracy. So far, the heart hasn’t been exposed, but we did carefully assess all the vital organs surrounding it.”

The Royal FloraHolland chief executive was speaking at the auction’s General Members’ Meeting (GMM) on June 2 where key decisions were reached regarding the immediate future of the world’s largest flower auction.

The auction’s GMM on June 2 marked an important moment for the cooperative as grower members cast an historic vote following a proposal for financing reforms.

With banks tightening lending criteria for loans and members feeling particularly uneasy that the auction might ‘misuse’ the member loan to cover losses, the pressure to amend the auction’s business model was never more opportune than now.

As such, the board proposed a ‘constitutional amendment’ to enable a new financing model to be put into place. Voters overwhelmingly supported the cooperative’s new financing structure which is the perfect fit for the auction’s 2020 business strategy. The financing is based on three key principles. It assumes equity coverage and includes a single system for the participation reserve and the member loan. In the new business model there are member companies rather than partners.  The new financing structure will come into effect on January 1, 2017.

Commenting on the historic vote, the newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Steven van Schilfgaarde said, “The financing structure is the bedrock of our cooperative. It will now be simpler for members and offer them greater financial security.”

Schilfgaarde replaces Rens Buchwaldt who left the auction in a surprise move after almost ten years on the job. Though generally praised for his passion, expertise and deep commitment, Buchwaldt came under heavy criticism from members who expressed anger over the €550,000 pay out.

During the GGM, the departing Royal FloraHolland chairman Bernard Oosterom tried to defend the auction’s policy, which also involves bonuses for executives at the company. Meanwhile, members remained unclear as to why Buchwaldt left the company so suddenly.

Royal FloraHolland appointed Jack Goossens as its new chairman at their GGM. Goossens is a grower from Nispen, a village near the Dutch-Belgian border. Working together with his brother, 47-year old Goossens grows field-grown (20ha) bay laurel including 3.5 ha of greenhouse space. Goossens was born and raised on his family’s farm where his parents started growing tropical houseplants such as Dieffenbachia, Schefflera and Kentia in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Departing chairman Oosterom said he was delighted to have Jack on board, while also asking his audience for support in the future, even when difficult decisions need to be made.

The members in attendance also approved investments in the auction site in Aalsmeer. The 2015 annual accounts, which were published in mid-May, were adopted by the members.

Author: Ron van der Ploeg


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