5 Years at TriFinance: My Risk Management Consulting Journey

Key messages
  • Commercial Risk Management: What is it about?
  • 5 years consulting: lessons learned
  • My furthering journey at TriFinance Financial Institutions

Get a glimpse of Wouter Spitaels' day-to-day activities as a commercial risk consultant at one of Belgium’s largest retail banks. Find out more about his work, the lessons learned and how he furthers his career and personal development at TriFinance.

July 2020 – Persistent low interest rates, significantly increased credit risk and economic challenges caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic put financial institutions’ business models under severe pressure. In addition, commercial departments of banks and insurance companies have to stay on top of rapidly evolving customer expectations, monitor market evolutions and make sure that emerging risks are managed properly.

Get a glimpse of my day-to-day activities as a commercial risk consultant at one of Belgium’s largest retail banks. Find out more about my work, the lessons I’m learning and how I further myself and my career at TriFinance.

Interested to read more about my first three years at TriFinance? Click here!

Commercial Risk Management

As a first line commercial risk expert, my goal is to provide risk management continuity within a financial institution’s commercial organisation and strengthen its relationship with the second and third line of defence. Together with non-financial risk SPOCs of different commercial departments I carry out the identification, controlling, managing and reporting of (non-) financial risks (e.g. compliance-, third-party-, business continuity-, security- and process risks).

In order to provide continuity and ensure follow-up, I’ve installed a Commercial Risk Committee during which members (i.e. CCO, Commercial Directors, first line NFR SPOCs and 2nd line experts) and guests follow up on (non-financial) KRI’s, incidents, results of internal controls, recommendations and ad hoc topics & evolutions (e.g. Covid-19).

Furthermore, I provide ad hoc risk support & expertise on topics such as MiFID II suitability requirements. During my assignment, I supported the client to prepare the ESMA Common Supervisory Action (CSA) 2020 on the application of MiFID II suitability rules conducted by the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA). This included supporting the overall coordination of the inspection at the client’s side, providing input to complete the survey, gathering the required data and reporting to c-level executives.

Carefully maintaining relationships between all stakeholders is a tough challenge but determines a mission’s success.

Wouter Spitaels - Project Consultant

Lessons Learned

Working as a commercial risk expert has been my 8th mission as a TriFinance Project Consultant. Being able to work at multiple clients within different company cultures enables me to grow tremendously as a risk professional. I learned several valuable lessons throughout my journey. It all comes down to this: be more like a llama. A llama is a very social animal and extremely curious. They will approach others easily and are protective of their herd. More specifically:

  • Stakeholder management is vital. Carefully maintaining important relationships and alliances between all parties involved (in first, second and third line) is a tough challenge, but determines a mission’s success. Get out there, meet them on a regular basis and you’ll learn so much more.
  • Multiple internal, external and regulatory stakeholders closely monitor the results presented at risk committees. Data, evolutions and results you present should be consistent, clear and need to support your story. This is key when you want to deliver effective risk reporting.
  • Within a commercial environment, it’s everyone’s duty to stay on top of rapidly evolving customer expectations, new digital products (e.g. payments) and other market evolutions (e.g. cashless society). As a first line risk expert, it’s important to be curious and stay informed (e.g. by having discussions with experts in/outside TriFinance). Additionally, it’s necessary to remain vigilant in order to make sure that different types of risks, resulting from new commercial initiatives, are consistent with the financial institution’s predefined risk appetite.

In my opinion, 'creativity'is a fundamental consulting skill, which will soon become even more important when new technologies and financial ecosystems will disrupt the financial landscape as we know it.

Wouter Spitaels - Project Consultant

Furthering Myself

Apart from the on-the-job experience and ultra (trail)running, which became quite addictive I must admit, I’ve furthered myself in different ways during these past 5 years. TriFinance offers a work environment in which knowledge and ideas can easily be shared. As a true Me inc.®’er, I take full advantage of the tools and opportunities offered:

  • Together with my colleagues of the Risk Management & Compliance Practice, a team of professionals with a solid blend of experience and seniority in various risk management and internal control domains, I perform a market watch, capturing and sharing continued regulatory changes and requirements in both banking and insurance. Discussing my own findings within the RMC Practice and being supported by other members when I need help or feedback, feels reassuring.
  • Driven by my passion for investing and financial markets, I founded an internal knowledge sharing community focused on investing and personal finance. Within this community, members are able to share tips, tricks or personal experiences via our online platform and attend a yearly expert session hosted by myself. Earlier this year, I was also invited to share some investing insights at Vlerick Business School, which was a great way to connect with the business leaders of tomorrow.
  • This year, I’ve been admitted to TriFinance’s Young Innovation Board. Within this advisory committee, which consists of 6 young and enthusiastic Me inc.® colleagues, we’re able to share our thoughts on various strategic initiatives and leadership topics. Alignments with other colleagues from different Hubs spark innovative ideas and boost creativity, which I believe is a fundamental consulting skill. A skill which will soon become even more important when new technologies and financial ecosystems will disrupt the financial landscape as we know it.

About the Author

After finishing his Master in Banking and Finance at UGent, Wouter Spitaels started his professional career at TriFinance. As a member of TriFinance’s Young Hub Program, TriFinance’s Young Innovation Board and Risk Management & Compliance Practice, Wouter worked on several risk management projects at four major clients within the Belgian financial sector. Currently, Wouter is working as a Commercial Risk Expert at one of Belgium’s largest retail banks.

For more info you can always contact Wouter Spitaels via or +32 494 60 58 68.