Nine years ago, Sofie and Riet both applied for jobs at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits. Each of them was in search of something different at the time: Riet wanted a supportive team environment, while Sofie was after a fresh challenge. Today they form a strong duo in Claims Management, support our new joiners and have a great friendship both inside and outside work. They have found what they were looking for.
Mario and Lies: completely themselves at Vanbreda – as a couple and as colleagues
Mario and Lies have been a couple for twenty years now, and for the last year they have also been colleagues at Vanbreda. Lies joined us in January 2022 – with Mario’s encouragement. Mario followed in her footsteps eight months later. ‘Mario has had a high opinion of Vanbreda as an employer for a long time. My good experiences here added confirmation to this,’ says Lies.
Getting off to a good start is very important. What was it like for you starting at Vanbreda?
Lies: I wasn’t actually looking for a job. But when Vanbreda comes your way, you listen. It’s that simple. To start with I was a bit resistant, even though I could already see the possibilities that Vanbreda offers and the clients I could be working for. My application process took a long time because of that. I still had doubts, but after the meeting with my current manager and Mario’s efforts to convince me, I went for it. I haven’t looked back.
Mario: I followed in September 2022. I already knew Vanbreda as an employer through my experience as a headhunter for the insurance sector. In that job, of course, you regularly hear from your candidates how they are received there and what a big contrast there is with other companies. So my image of Vanbreda has always been very positive. That’s why I encouraged Lies to apply. It was such a great opportunity and I thought it was the right step for her career.
Why didn’t you yourself apply for a job sooner?
Mario: While I was working as a headhunter, it was ethically unacceptable, of course. After that, distance was a big factor. We live in Sint-Truiden, about 100 km from Antwerp. Once that barrier partly disappeared with the possibility of working from home, I no longer had any excuses and it happened very quickly. I met one of Lies’s colleagues at a Vanbreda family day, we talked about a possible role for me, and 14 days later it was settled.
How do you keep your work and private life separate?
Mario: It’s no problem at work. We work for different clients and in fact usually come to the office on different days. We have one client that we both work for, but because it isn’t relevant to our work the client doesn’t even know that we’re married.
Lies: Sometimes we drive home separately and talk on the phone all the way back in order to catch up. Being able to stop talking about work once we get home is a lot more difficult. Over dinner we tend to keep chatting about insurance – which, strangely enough, our children don’t find that interesting. We especially like it that we understand each other and share this interest.
What makes Vanbreda unique as an employer?
Lies: The friendliness. The same service that we offer our clients is provided to us by our support teams. That mutual respect and willingness to help each other is what makes Vanbreda so special and was something that I could already sense during the application process. For example, I have a long-term health condition. That was talked about openly from the start and we looked together at how we could work with it. The conclusion was that I don’t work on Wednesdays and I actually get a ticking off if I do. My managers help me to keep an eye on my health.
Mario: I have another example. I regularly suffer from a slipped disc. The temporary car that was assigned to me in the first months – while waiting for my proper car – was quite low, which immediately gave me back pain while driving. I sent a single email asking if there was another option and I drove home in a different car the same day. I hadn’t even been working here for two months at the time and I was already receiving such amazing help!
Will you stay at Vanbreda until you retire?
Both, emphatically: We think so.
Lies: Vanbreda was an obvious next step for me. Now I mainly want to focus on internal growth. There are still so many growth opportunities within Vanbreda for shaping your career, taking on new challenges and specialising. I no longer see any need to go to another employer for this.
Mario: You’re also working for the largest broker in Belgium here. Within insurance, this is the place to be for us.
We’ve always said: we started our careers together in the insurance sector, and we’ll retire together at Vanbreda.
To what extent can you be completely yourself at work?
Lies: 100%. Right from day one I felt enormous trust from my manager and that was what I was looking for. It confirms that the person behind the employee is taken into account, because you’re given the freedom to tackle your work in your own way. There’s no micromanagement and that means that I can be completely myself and do my own thing.
Mario: I’m sure there are many people who are very different at work from when they’re with their partner. That’s not the case for us, though, of course. My manager recently said that I’ve adapted to Vanbreda really quickly. But I’m just being myself.
Why should someone come and work at Vanbreda?
Mario: Vanbreda is a friendly employer. You can call the CEO just ‘Pedro’. It began as a family business and that family character still radiates through the entire organisation. What’s more, I think there are few employers with a better all-round package for their employees. Because yes, there’s a big workload, but you also get a lot in return.
Lies: The things we considered important when we started our careers are not the same things that we consider important today. The ability to fit your work life into your private life instead of the other way around, for example. Vanbreda scores extremely well on work-life balance. I think it’s even a pitfall for young joiners, because they don’t realise how good they have it here. We sometimes see them change employers and not long after, they want to come back here to work.
Mario: If you’re looking for an employer who can offer you every opportunity and specialisation within the insurance sector, you need to be at Vanbreda.
Lies: It’s a top employer that creates a friendly environment and takes account of the person behind the employee, but at the same time still provides a lot of satisfaction and challenge.
Dinna’s job at Vanbreda started six months ago, but her connection with the company goes back much further. She shares her experiences of starting at Vanbreda, the value of diversity and finding her place in a team that feels like family.