Melvin Van Wingerden: The First 100 Days

In an open interview with Melvin Van Wingerden, we look back on his first 100 days as the new country manager of AirPlus Benelux and Nordics and speak to the shift from business travel payments to corporate payments, developments and challenges, the role of the pandemic in meeting new consumer demands and what’s next for AirPlus in the Benelux and Nordics region.

Taking over from his predecessor in the midst of a migration to the new state-of-the-art IT-platforms and the Corporate Card migration of AirPlus International SA/NV (formerly known as BCC Corporate), Melvin’s appointment comes at an exciting time for the business and local markets.

Melvin has been heading up the Sales teams for several years and has held numerous sales leadership roles in his tenure with the company and outside AirPlus.

In welcoming Melvin as Country Manager for AirPlus Benelux and Nordics, Fred Baup, Global Head of Sales, comments: “The appointment marks a new chapter in our company’s history as we embark on an ambitious program of growth and innovation for the next couple of years. Melvin brings a wealth of experience and he will greatly help drive our operations in the markets.”


Congratulations on your new position as Country Manager of the Benelux and Nordics. It’s been a few months now and you took over in the midst of a pandemic, and a migration. How do you feel?

I feel great! Nevertheless, I can’t deny times have been tough these past few months. During the pandemic, we supported our Corporate Card - and Virtual Card customers with the migration on to a new platform from our homes. This was more challenging than expected but we wanted to give our customers a full self-service digital customer and cardholder experience. Currently most of our customers have migrated to the new platform. Change is not always easy, and I am looking forward to getting feedback from customers on our new features and developing new ideas together.


Were there experiences you drew on from, say, your time as head of sales within the company or elsewhere that helped guide your thinking?

This is actually my second career at AirPlus. My first period was from 2002 to 2010, when I launched the AirPlus products in Netherlands and Belgium. In this period, I built a deep understanding of our product portfolio, our markets and our organization in general. Next, I took on different leadership positions in tech companies related to travel and payment. Upon my return in 2017, I immediately noticed I had fresh perspective on certain challenges by combining my in depth AirPlus knowledge with the experiences from outside AirPlus which was extremely useful in the current circumstances.


Do you already have some lessons learnt?

I still learn every day! The #1 lesson for me personally, always be critical to yourself and to your performance. If you don’t achieve what you initially intended to achieve, question what you can do differently next time and be open for feedback from others.

Also, if you want to be successful in a commercial business, you have to understand what challenges your customers have and how you can contribute to resolve them. Lastly, extremely important in these uncertain times: open and transparent communication is key!  


How do you see the company changing short term and long term? What is your vision of the future?

We have some exciting times ahead. The pandemic and consequently business travel coming to a halt, provided an opportunity for AirPlus to explore and develop solutions outside the business travel world. We have always had the ambition to extend the successful credit card use cases to areas outside travel. In the last year, we focused on the so called B2B (procurement) payments area and this resulted in a shift focus from business travel payments to corporate payments in general. Why? Our customers have challenges, e.g. inefficient and expensive finance- and procurement processes, and we have the right payment solutions in place to address these challenges. Our new IT infrastructure will help us to supporting our customers not just in business travel but with their overall corporate payment. It will allow us to faster adapt to their payment needs, while introducing new products, such as our Virtual Card for Procurement and providing a better customer service.


And, how do you see yourself and your team being part of that change?

As a commercial team, we are the voice of our customers to our organization. All payment and data solutions should be designed to address the challenges of our customers. Because of the wider scope of our sales efforts, we educate ourselves to make sure we optimize our value proposition and speak the same language of the various stakeholders at our customers. Our consultative approach should lead our customers in optimizing their processes and save costs so we jointly contribute to their business successes.


Well, thank you for taking the time to have this interview. Any last thoughts?

I am very much aware our migration to a new IT platform has resulted in a lot of change for our customers and change is not easy. We are working hard on improving our service levels and deeply appreciate the customers who have taken the time to give us feedback that will help us build better solutions and improve in general. I want to express my sincere thanks to all our customers and partners who joined us on this journey and trusted us. The team and I look forward to further support our customers in maximizing the value of their corporate payment solutions.

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