Strategist on the Move

Top managers need to exemplify transformation themselves. This inspires employees to follow suit, says chief strategist Dr. Teresa Schlichting. She herself walks the talk. And insists that “your brain can’t do it alone — you need your arms as well.”


Short scooter ride: Riverty board member Dr. Teresa Schlichting designs flexible mobility budgets for employees. The two-wheeler for the photo was provided on the spot by Daniel Di Maria (Vespa store in Verl).Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Dr. Tere­sa Schlicht­ing is an open-mind­ed, cheer­ful doer with­out a trace of atti­tude or insignias of power. Some­one who instant­ly, nat­u­ral­ly, and sin­cere­ly gen­er­ates a team spir­it and a pos­i­tive work­ing atmos­phere. She needs both. She and her col­leagues on the board are in the midst of a major task that requires them to con­vince and inte­grate many indi­vid­u­als. Exec­u­tives and employ­ees alike need to pull togeth­er and put a strate­gic trans­for­ma­tion into practice.

If you ask this top man­ag­er which of her company’s many loca­tions is its main office, she will reply that “we don’t have a cen­ter of grav­i­ty.” She rejects head­quar­ters and board­rooms, pre­fer­ring a flex­i­ble approach that prompts her to find a desk wher­ev­er she is need­ed. Nat­u­ral­ness and the abil­i­ty to relate to peo­ple are far more impor­tant to her than author­i­ty in the sense of hold­ing an office. Tere­sa Schlicht­ing has a doc­tor­ate in eco­nom­ics and became Riverty’s Chief Strat­e­gy Offi­cer in 2021. Her vision is also a pre­cise­ly defined long-term goal of turn­ing the com­pa­ny into a “peo­ple-cen­tered fin­tech” enter­prise. She and her team want to shape the com­pa­ny such that “peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about it” — and by peo­ple she means its employ­ees as much as its customers.

Big plans: Teresa Schlichting has her eye on transport associations in Germany’s major cities, including the Hamburg metropolitan region.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

At River­ty the next chal­lenge con­sists of fill­ing this newly cre­at­ed name with con­tent and rais­ing its pro­file. Until the fall of 2022 the com­pa­ny was known as Arva­to Finan­cial Solu­tions — a sub­sidiary of the Ber­tels­mann inter­na­tion­al media cor­po­ra­tion found­ed in 1835 in the west­ern Ger­man city of Güter­sloh. The aim is to turn what was a low-pro­file B2B finan­cial ser­vice provider into a fin­tech com­pa­ny that every­one knows and likes. Includ­ing end con­sumers such as clas­sic retail cus­tomers and inter­net shop­pers who want to pay online or in installments.

Flow and freedom

Riverty’s more than 5,000 employ­ees in 13 coun­tries want to sup­port indi­vid­u­als, com­pa­nies, and orga­ni­za­tions “with eas­i­ly acces­si­ble pay­ment prod­ucts” and to “take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the entire chain of trans­ac­tions.” The idea is to enable con­sumers to ben­e­fit from mod­ern pay­ment options. And to help mer­chants prof­it from the trans­paren­cy need­ed to track pay­ment flows.

Riverty: Tradition Meets Transformation

With 5,000 employees in 13 countries, Riverty is a fintech (financial technology) company that serves around 25 million consumers and handles about a billion transactions a year. Previously known as Arvato Financial Solutions, its roots go back to the 1960s, when it was launched to supplement the publishing services provided by the Bertelsmann media corporation. By the late 1990s the Arvato Group had acquired major international clients and its portfolio included financial services, warehousing, customer relationship management, and IT services. In the 2000s it added activities such as fraud prevention, credit agency services, debt collection, accounts receivable management, and “buy now, pay later” methods. The fintech company took the name Riverty in October 2022. As CEO Jan Altersten noted at the naming event, “For the first time in our company history, we are presenting all of our services under a single label. Changing our name to Riverty is the most visible step in our transformation.”

“River­ty” com­bines the words “river” and “lib­er­ty.” Its under­ly­ing idea is described as “a nat­u­ral­ly con­trolled flow of finances that guides com­pa­nies and con­sumers through the uncer­tain­ties and chal­lenges of daily life.” The for­mu­la makes sense when one con­sid­ers that River­ty now com­pris­es the After­Pay install­ment sys­tem, the Paigo col­lec­tion ser­vice, and the Aqount book­keep­ing and trans­ac­tion sys­tem. These divi­sions had pre­vi­ous­ly had their own teams, struc­tures, strate­gies, and areas of expertise.

The point of the trans­for­ma­tion is to bring busi­ness fields and their spe­cial­ists togeth­er and make use of syn­er­gies. “We’re gath­er­ing all our prod­ucts and employ­ees togeth­er under a shared vision,” says Schlicht­ing. A pri­or­i­ty is placed on offer­ing inte­grat­ed ser­vices. Which in turn puts a pre­mi­um on col­lab­o­ra­tion in new con­stel­la­tions. Strict­ly defined depart­ments are giv­ing way to indi­vid­ual group­ings, pri­mar­i­ly in the form of func­tion­al teams of experts and project groups as well as cross-func­tion­al teams.

Instead of headquarters: “My office is wherever I’m currently needed,” says Teresa Schlichting and proceeds to find a free table — preferably in proximity to people.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

This new ori­en­ta­tion comes with a key task that might well have seemed super­flu­ous over the past six decades of the company’s his­to­ry and there­fore hard­ly played a role: that of increas­ing Riverty’s name recog­ni­tion on a broad scale. “With River­ty we’re cre­at­ing a strong brand that will appeal to cus­tomers through­out Europe,” says Schlicht­ing. “We used to devel­op solu­tions for large com­pa­nies. Today we’re build­ing on that strength while also view­ing every indi­vid­ual as a cus­tomer. We’re tai­lor­ing our ser­vices close­ly to dynam­ic con­sumer behavior.”

Never-ending marathon

Increas­ing brand recog­ni­tion also means fos­ter­ing a pos­i­tive image among the pub­lic at large. River­ty plus rep­u­ta­tion — the link­age is designed to yield mea­sur­able added value. “We’re in a marathon, not a sprint,” observes Schlicht­ing. Real­is­tic, respon­si­ble assess­ments are part of the company’s lead­er­ship cul­ture. “Our trans­for­ma­tion will never end,” she adds with a view to the future. Pre­cise­ly that makes it impor­tant to pur­sue a clear course that is com­pre­hen­sive­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed and sin­cere­ly embraced. The prin­ci­ple is the fol­low­ing: “We’re divid­ing our her­culean task into rea­son­able steps. All the employ­ees know both the road map and the mile­stones.” Yes, one might say, this should be part of any manager’s skill set. How­ev­er, the fact that exec­u­tive plans at many com­pa­nies are often not imple­ment­ed and ambi­tious aims not real­ly attained is fre­quent­ly due to the same, typ­i­cal fac­tors: the peo­ple truly need­ed for the imple­men­ta­tion are inad­e­quate­ly informed, only par­tial­ly inte­grat­ed into the trans­for­ma­tive process, and insuf­fi­cient­ly moti­vat­ed to com­mit them­selves to the cause.

Vita Dr. Teresa Schlichting

Open atmosphere: A member of Generation Y, Teresa Schlichting plays a self-described “bridge role” in the transformation.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Dr. Teresa Schlichting has been advancing the transformation at Riverty since January of 2021. She studied economics at the universities of Mannheim and Madrid, and received a doctorate from Dortmund Technical University. She has since spent more than 15 years managing strategy and transformation in the automotive, automation engineering, and electronics industries. Before joining Riverty she was Senior Director Strategy & Transformation Management in the Corporate Development & New Business division of Phoenix Contact. “Generating product and process innovations and designing companies that people love” is how this top manager describes her passion. And adds, “As an early member of Generation Y, I see myself in a bridge position — we need to change the ways we work and how we shape our businesses.”

“Top man­age­ment per­son­nel should be the first to notice when things aren’t being com­mu­ni­cat­ed clear­ly enough or pri­or­i­ties aren’t suf­fi­cient­ly well defined,” says Schlicht­ing with a crit­i­cal eye on her­self as well. That is why each and every employ­ee is so impor­tant to the chief strate­gist. “Every­body at River­ty should know what their very own next steps are,” she says. Con­tent is com­mu­ni­cat­ed direct­ly by super­vi­sors, via the “My River­ty” social media plat­form on the intranet, and by week­ly videos to the entire team from CEO Jan Altersten.

Joining in by contributing ideas

Real inte­gra­tion ful­fills a crit­i­cal func­tion. “We shared the new strat­e­gy in large groups and gath­ered feed­back, there­by lay­ing the ground­work for a cul­ture that encour­ages every­one to con­tribute their ideas,” says Schlicht­ing, who joined the com­pa­ny and its board in 2021. Her term for this all-inclu­sive approach is “par­tic­i­pa­to­ry think­ing.” And it seems to be work­ing. “Right from the start I was sur­prised at how open our peo­ple were and are to the trans­for­ma­tion,” she adds. There was no expec­ta­tion of sail­ing right through this type of change with­out a hitch, how­ev­er. Instead, she antic­i­pates obsta­cles along the way, much like a pilot might announce from the cock­pit that “we’ll be run­ning into pock­ets of tur­bu­lence.” At River­ty, how­ev­er, that doesn’t mean seat belts but rather car­ry­ing on with even greater élan.

“Top management personnel should be the first to notice when things aren’t being communicated clearly enough,” says chief strategist Teresa Schlichting with a critical eye on herself as well.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Riverty’s tool­box con­tains what are known as behav­ioral anchors. The rel­e­vant indi­ca­tors assess fac­tors like employ­ee exper­tise, skills, and trans­dis­ci­pli­nary qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The anchors can also be applied to enhance the company’s con­cen­tra­tion on end cus­tomers. This focus rep­re­sents new ter­ri­to­ry that needs to be acquired. “We live our prod­ucts,” remarks Schlicht­ing. But she also often asks, “How well do we actu­al­ly know and under­stand our prod­ucts? How should we be devel­op­ing them further?”

Green points on the way to work

An impor­tant future busi­ness in Riverty’s exten­sive finan­cial ser­vice port­fo­lio has to do with dig­i­tal­iza­tion and the tran­si­tion under­way in mobil­i­ty. The aim is to cre­ate “seam­less cus­tomer expe­ri­ences” in the use of pub­lic trans­porta­tion and other forms of mobil­i­ty. In addi­tion to tick­et­ing and pay­ments for pub­lic trans­porta­tion and dig­i­tal pay­ment options for large park­ing garages, River­ty also spe­cial­izes in what are known as mobil­i­ty budgets.

Employ­ers can set up month­ly bud­gets that let employ­ees choose among car shar­ing, rail ser­vices, e‑scooters, and other ways of com­mut­ing to work. By let­ting expe­ri­enced providers han­dle the rel­e­vant pay­ment process­es, com­pa­nies save time and money and free up resources for their core activities.

Signs of the future: The Riverty logo is still fresh. The company was just renamed in October 2022 as part of a major transformation and the creation of a strong brand.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Realistic forecast: “Our transformation will never come to an end. It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” says Riverty’s chief strategist Teresa Schlichting in an interview with Porsche Consulting Magazine.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Magazine meeting: Teresa Schlichting with Porsche Consulting team members Claus-Conrad Roth, Heiner von der Laden, and Tanja Krupp (from left) plus Carina Groß, Senior Communications Manager at Riverty (right).Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

“In addi­tion to the ben­e­fits that mobil­i­ty bud­gets offer for ESG report­ing, they can also increase employ­ers’ recruit­ing power and improve their brand­ing. The bud­gets can be used to pro­mote green forms of mobil­i­ty and there­by help pro­tect the cli­mate and the envi­ron­ment,” says Schlicht­ing. Soon com­pa­nies will also be able to select more indi­vid­ual func­tions such as bonus sys­tems that incen­tivize the use of espe­cial­ly envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly modes of trans­port. “Gam­i­fi­ca­tion” is what Schlicht­ing calls the dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of points, which can moti­vate peo­ple in play­ful ways to walk or ride their bicy­cles to work.

River­ty has already test­ed these types of sys­tems at its own com­pa­ny, of course, and gen­er­at­ed fur­ther ideas. “We can even orga­nize dig­i­tal­ly run con­tests between depart­ments, and reward teams that adopt espe­cial­ly cli­mate-friend­ly forms of mobil­i­ty,” says Schlicht­ing. In short, she wants to make mod­ern finan­cial ser­vices more of an “expe­ri­ence.” That is the emo­tion­al core of Riverty’s trans­for­ma­tion. The chief strate­gist is mobi­liz­ing her com­pa­ny to sup­port change while tak­ing a very peo­ple-ori­ent­ed approach — with both her team and her customers.

Customer-Centric Consultants

Claus-Conrad Roth, Senior Manager at Porsche ConsultingPorsche Consulting
Claus-Conrad Roth, Senior Manager at Porsche Consulting, and his team started their analysis by examining market entry and positioning opportunities in the mobility sector. “We began by conducting a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the players and mobility segments such as parking, charging, and public transportation,” he says. “We looked at who is already handling how many transactions, and who commands which market volumes. A prioritization process then gave us a handful of mobility segments as possible playing fields for Riverty.” The next step consisted of defining the vision, mission, and strategic aims. “We concentrated on the business model, customer value assurances, utilization of competitive advantages, business case calculations, and target-actual areas of expertise, which enabled us to find the best possible positioning,” says Roth. Determining the business model included deciding which overarching goals should be achieved over the coming years, how that should be done, and which partners need to be brought on board. In the consultant’s view, when companies enter new business areas, success on a sustainable basis depends on developing access to customers and gaining a deep understanding of their needs. It’s also important to establish a partner network to secure a wide range of customized services. Yet another crucial factor consists of flexibility, “in order to continuously adapt systems to complex and ever-changing regulatory requirements.”
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