"Go out there and do it – if it doesn’t work out, we'll fix it together."

Frederieke de Haas- van den Vlekkert

Finance Director

Finance Director

“If all our brands stopped selling plastic bags, it would have an enormous impact. The vast reach of our company is such a powerful tool,” says Frederieke de Haas- van den Vlekkert, Finance Director Business Planning & Performance at Ahold Delhaize. “As the Finance department, we help lead sustainability within the rest of the organization and make it a top priority. It feels really great to contribute to a better tomorrow.”   

Crosswords, sudoku and jigsaw puzzles: as a kid, Frederieke loved all of them – and she still does. “It’s the analytical part I like most. In a way, finance is like a big puzzle. Once I’m faced with a challenge or issue, I won’t let go until all the pieces fall into place. That determination is certainly a big plus in my role as Finance Director Business Planning & Performance at Ahold Delhaize.” 

When Frederieke was promoted to this role in November ‘21, she seized the opportunity with both hands. “I had just spent eight years working in business control for Albert Heijn, one of Ahold Delhaize’s family of brands. Although it was super interesting and a very valuable experience, I was also keen to get a wider perspective on the organization and all its other brands. It’s definitely one of the many benefits of working for a huge organization like Ahold Delhaize; the endless possibilities to grow and develop yourself. Although I have been working at the same company for 12 years, in that time, I’ve effectively held at least seven different jobs. Each position comes with new colleagues and departments, different challenges and fresh perspectives. The learning-on-the-job that’s accompanied each role has made for a very steep learning curve.”  

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Broadening horizons 

If a wider perspective was what Frederieke was after, she certainly got one. “As Finance Director, I get to see and learn so much about our different brands. I work very closely with our American brands, which has opened up a whole new world to me. Underneath all the constant new challenges, there’s the support that I have always received from Ahold Delhaize. I find the unconditional trust that we’re given as associates truly remarkable and inspiring. ‘Go out there and do it – if it doesn’t work out, we’ll fix it together' is pretty much the credo of this company, which I love.”  

“As a director I try to give my team and the people I work with that same level of confidence and freedom to do their jobs. They are the experts, they should do what they think is best. I trust my team to reach out to me if they need advice or help. Clichéd as it may sound, I strongly believe it’s all about empowering people. That feeling of being part of a team and achieving great things together is one of the key reasons I love my work as much as I do.”  

But there’s so much more she likes about spearheading the Business Planning & Performance team. Its strong focus on sustainability plays an important part. “I spend about 30% of my time working on sustainability-related topics. We concentrate on important questions like ‘how big is our carbon footprint?’ and ‘how can we reduce food waste?’ As the finance department, we take the lead in making the topic a priority. As the second biggest retailer in the world, we can really help address some pressing challenges, both societal and food-chain-related. Since the birth of my three children, I’ve felt it’s even more important to take on this kind of responsibility. And I’m happy to work for an employer that sees sustainability as a top priority, too.” 

A motto to live by 

At home, Frederieke and her husband Pieter also try to live responsibly. “We’re cautious about food waste, and whenever possible, we’ll take the bicycle, rather than the car. Not having to commute to work five days a week has certainly made that easier. I work approximately two days each week from the office, and three from home. In a family with young children – we have three under the age of four – having that kind of flexibility is ideal. Apart from not having to commute every day, I love being able to take my son to school and have dinner together as a family. But I also don’t mind occasionally opening my laptop again as soon as they’re asleep!”  

Combining a full-time, demanding job and family life can be intense. On the rare occasion she finds a gap, Frederieke jumps on her racing bike and heads for some “me-time” in nature. “I’ve only been cycling for a few months, and I absolutely thrive on it. As soon as I’m on my bike, cycling through the surroundings of my hometown Heemstede and heading through the dunes, to the beaches of Zandvoort or Noordwijk, my head empties itself of everything else. Being outside has that effect on me: I love the outdoors. The mountains are my favorite – Pieter and I climbed Kilimanjaro together – but I’m just as content strolling in the forest with my children. Outside, I’m at my absolute happiest.”   

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Name: Frederieke van den Vlekkert (1984) 

Started working at Ahold Delhaize: April 2010  

Studied: MSc Accounting & Control (Rotterdam School of Management, 2010) Executive Master of Finance and Control (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2017) 

Living with: My husband Pieter, and Mees (4), Pepijn (3) and Kiki (1) 

Hobbies: Cycling, reading and spending time with my family – preferably outdoors – or doing a jigsaw puzzle together 

Wake me up in the middle of the night for: An hour in an escape room 

Favorite holiday destination: Anywhere in the mountains 

Life-changing event: The birth of my children 

Biggest source of inspiration: Nature 

Best advice I’ve ever received: Somebody once taught me this Dutch saying: “You eat an elephant in pieces.” As with puzzles, when you face a big challenge, start with a small piece and go on from there. 

 

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