‘I took a path less travelled’
Three-time entrepreneur and passionate about innovation, Lionel and his team help insurance companies to grow. As a board member of Life Project 4 Youth, he does the same for disadvantaged youngsters in Southeast Asia and India.
Meet Lionel de Somer, Insurance Strategy Lead at Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Belgium & Luxembourg
‘Most consultants move in the opposite direction to me: to the industry or to startups. I took a path less travelled! Yes, I work in a big global company, but like a startup. I actually did a market survey before deciding to join Accenture. I asked my contacts in the insurance industry for their honest opinion. They all told me that Accenture actually implements its strategies and delivers on its promise. That was all the confirmation I needed.’
"My first company was a success; the second failed spectacularly"
‘I dropped out of university after around 18 months. I was studying Commercial Engineering and one day I told my chemistry professor that I wanted to learn about business and not be a rocket scientist. He said: “Then you should not be here.” With youthful naivety, I took his advice and left! After around six months of making coffee and proving myself to my first employer, the owner sent me to Dubai to scout for new opportunities. This experience inspired me to start my own FinTech company.’
‘My first company was a success; the second failed spectacularly. The third, Assisto, taught me everything about the insurance industry. This mobile app and cloud-based system focuses on the first notice of loss and the European Accident Statement form. Integrating this solution at insurance companies was my first introduction to Accenture; specifically, alumnus, Steve Goossens, who helped me understand better how to address the industry. We shared a lot of knowledge and became firm friends.’
‘When I decided to sell Assisto, it was a question of starting my next business or trying something totally new. Accenture Strategy & Consulting was that something new: an opportunity to work in another way with clients, from the inside as opposed to across the negotiating table.’
"Despite ups and downs, we always pull together and pull through"
‘I’m not known for designing or rethinking a process; my specialty is growth or how to transform a company today into a thriving company of tomorrow. My startup experience comes with me; specifically, my passion for exploring new things and using disruptive technologies. Being an Engagement Lead basically means that any question a client has, they come to me first. What I love most about my job is the team. I have the privilege to work with lots of amazing and intelligent people. Despite ups and downs, we always pull together and pull through, delivering great projects, shaping new ideas, also working closely with our Technology Strategy colleagues. For example, we recently designed a brand-new service for an Insurance client in Belgium that will soon be launched on the market. This project is truly ground-breaking (it even won an Accenture global prize). It combines the Internet of Things, connected home solutions and, last but not least, human contact. It is a prime example of the Living Services Accenture is pioneering. Watch this space!’
"As an entrepreneur, I know how tough it is to take a step back and see what you are doing from a distance"
‘I became involved in Accenture’s Corporate Citizenship program through our partnership with Ashoka. Specifically, I sponsor the Ashoka Impact program in Belgium, an exciting initiative that supports social entrepreneurs to scale up their activities to have an even greater impact. For the 2018 edition, I’m coaching 10 pro bono Accenture coaches who are supporting 11 entrepreneurs over five months. Although the focus is on social entrepreneurship, these people face the same issues as any startup founder. Their mission is incredible: supporting refugees, helping disadvantaged young people integrate in society and find jobs. As an entrepreneur, I know how tough it is to take a step back and see what you are doing from a distance. Accenture and Ashoka provide them with this opportunity.’
"There was a huge gap for young adults, the new generation that needs equipping for life now"
‘When my second startup failed, I thought I could use a break. I wanted to use my skills to make a difference in another part of the world. I needed to look no further than Life Project 4 Youth (LP4Y), an NGO founded in 2009 in the Philippines by a couple of friends. In fact, they are former competitors! In 2008, they decided to sell their business and travel the world with their kids. During their travels they saw firsthand the desperate situation facing people living in Manila’s slums and realized something: charities do great work but mainly focus on babies, children and empowering adults. There was a gap in provision for young adults, the new generation that needs equipping for life now. My friends moved permanently to the Philippines and started small with one Life Project Center in Manila (12 beneficiaries). They have since grown into a nation-wide organization with the ambition to be 100% self-sustaining.’
‘I headed out to the Philippines for just a little over a year to work as a volunteer. While there, I was mostly involved in coordinating a team of volunteer coaches, raising awareness of LP4Y, developing a fundraising strategy and several subprojects, including a Life Project Center in Tondo dedicated to single mothers, which opened in 2011. Kids living in Life Project Centers do an economic activity for which they are paid (for example, buying and delivering vegetables to private homes). This introduces them to the concept of work and teaches them how to manage all the aspects. They are then taught business skills and receive personal coaching to think beyond where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep that night.’
"Being a part of this story is a true privilege"
‘Today, more than 1000 young adults benefit from LP4Y across Southeast Asia and India and I remain strongly involved as Chairman of the Belgian Board of Directors. This led me to submit projects in 2017 and 2018 to Giving Through You, Accenture’s internal initiative to support employees actively engaged in a charity or social enterprise. With these Accenture grants, LP4Y has funded two more centers in Indonesia and India, where local Accenture people are also volunteering! Plus, we have launched a center for deaf and mute youngsters where Accenture provides training in coding and accountancy skills.’
‘The goal of LP4Y is to help young people project themselves in the future and shape a life project. We provide space for them to do this and teach them how to take the next steps. Being a part of this story is a true privilege.’
Lionel de Somer (1985)
Studied: Commercial Engineering
Started working at Accenture: Dec 2016
Relationship status: Married
Loves: Travelling (40+ countries to date), cooking a good meal for my friends
Gets annoyed by: When what I cook is not as good as I expected it to be
Favorite food: Anything goes, from Ethiopian and French to Italian and Mexican
On my nightstand: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (The story of Nike’s founder)
Listens to: From Coldplay to Mozart to Avicii
Would like to sit next to in the plane: Warren Buffet
Life-changing event(s): The birth of my daughter in December 2017 and moving house eight days later!
The best lesson life has taught me: Shoot for the moon, you might land on a star
What I learned last week: Opportunities on how to apply data analytics to foster revenue generation through up/cross selling opportunities in Financial Services
Most beautiful place on earth: Ponta Mamoli, Mozambique
Hobbies/passions: LP4Y.org, paragliding, snowboarding, cooking, tennis
What nobody knows about me: Let’s keep it that way!
Life motto: Reality is open and still in the making