A banker among bricks: why I wanted to work for Vandersanden

  • 16 Mar 2022

This piece is written by Rudi Peeters, CEO at Vandersanden, a family-run company and one of Europe’s largest producers of bricks.

What is the CIO of a major bank, one of the largest listed companies in Belgium, doing in a family business that makes bricks? I think many people ask themselves the same question. The Vandersanden family also wondered this when they received my application letter. Vandersanden and I share the same DNA, and in a short time I have fallen in love with the bricks we make.

Vandersanden

 

I came to IT as a scientist, a biologist. Throughout my career I have been driven by curiosity time and time again. For me, passion outweighs knowledge. Vandersanden caught my attention because it’s a growing company in a sector that is particularly relevant to society and is a company that not only makes bricks, but is a family business too and remains true to its roots.

A family business can keep its eye on the long term, beyond the next quarter. You can build something sustainable. Collective Wellbeing is the best proof of this. Everyone at Vandersanden is instilled with the idea of contributing to the wellbeing of its employees, the (local) community, the sector, and the planet.

There were many candidates to succeed Jean-Pierre Wuytack as CEO of Vandersanden. All candidates had more experience in the sector than I did. I think that the Vandersanden family invited me to make their acquaintance mainly out of politeness and curiosity. But we surprised each other. We clicked, we share the same values, the same vision, the same drive to innovate and to lead the way.

‘I have fallen in love with bricks.’

I cannot make bricks. They don’t need me for that at Vandersanden. I visited all the factories and branches, completely immersed myself in this new world. I was enormously impressed by Vandersanden’s expertise and craftsmanship.

In a car factory, only identical cars roll off the assembly line. Not so with bricks: every factory is different; every brick is unique. You can safely say that I have fallen in love with the product. The incredibly bold, innovative things that Vandersanden does, attracted me enormously: bricks that absorb CO2 from the air instead of emitting it, dry stacking bricks, thin brick slips, etc…

My predecessor took giant steps to find answers to the major challenges that the construction sector is facing. Just think of global warming and the housing shortage. Our water-permeable clay pavers as a solution to increased flooding and drought, and Robobrick as an answer to the demand for prefabrication are examples of this. The construction world is in full transformation, and I think we can safely call ourselves a trendsetter. Vandersanden just suffers too much from the typical Limburg modesty. I want to get rid of that. We can do an incredible amount technically, we should have the courage to sell it a bit more.

Unusual ideas and co-creation

With my unconventional background, I am looking forward to guiding Vandersanden through a few transformations and introducing new ideas. The transformation of a house or a street as-a-service, for example, is a field of discovery. Vandersanden has rock-solid products, and there are also a lot of opportunities in what comes before and after Vandersanden bricks in the entire value chain.

I want to explore these new opportunities in co-creation with others, inside and outside of the construction sector. From architects and project developers to young, disruptive start-ups. I look at Vandersanden employees: no one has more expertise and more ideas than they do. I see the fire and enthusiasm in their eyes every day. ‘Together we build greatness’, is a slogan I would like to reinforce. 

Compass Point Business Park
16 Stocks Bridge Way
St. Ives
Cambridgeshire
PE27 5JL

T: (+44) 01954 268075
E: [email protected]

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