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C4T: Setting the Standard for the Next Generation of Customs Management

C4T is setting the standard for the next generation of customs management. In an industry notorious for its complexity and fragmentation, C4T’s digital-first approach makes compliance convenient and simple. Our mission is to become the #1 Global Customs Solution provider.

Tell us about yourself.

Early in his career, our CEO, Pieter Haesaert, applied for a job at the tax administration and by accident got assigned a job in customs and excise. He didn’t know anything about this domain, but he found it quite interesting and, moreover, saw that there was a lot of potential.

He worked at the customs administration for a couple of years and then transitioned to the Big 4, where he learned even more about international trade from the customer’s point of view and saw the gap in the market for making customs processes easier for customers.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Customs4trade (C4T) was founded in 2004 to address the pain points Pieter observed as a consultant. These included inefficient and complex processes, lack of standardisation, keeping up with ever-changing legal regulations, and the underutilisation of customs to achieve strategic goals due to the inability to access customs data.

C4T originally focused on consulting while we pursued our vision to solve these challenges with technology. At that point, many customs processes and procedures were manual. Our customers shared Pieter’s vision of a digital future and motivated us to continue on this digital path.

Since then, customs authorities in many countries have adopted digital agendas, however until now, available software solutions have only been able to serve local markets and have not overcome the challenging differences between the data and systems used by various countries.

This leaves companies not much better off than when they were using manual solutions, with inefficient processes, no visibility into their global operations, and no access to the precious data needed to realise their trade potential.

Pieter Haesaert, Founder & CEO, and Ilse Vermeersch, Co-Founder and Chief People Officer of Customs4Trade

What is your magic sauce?

An outline of your magic sauce. How do you differ from the competition?

CAS is a centralised, multi-country, multi-language solution based on the WCO/UCC data model that automates customs compliance from end to end. Delivered as a SaaS solution, CAS is a collaborative platform that connects stakeholders throughout the supply chain to quickly and accurately manage regional and worldwide customs and trade operations, with legal compliance built in.

In addition to simplifying and automating customs processes, CAS identifies opportunities to go beyond compliance by optimising operations through advanced analytics and machine learning. This allows companies to implement cost-saving regimes that were introduced to encourage commerce but have become too complex to adopt and maintain within the constructs of our global economy.

A CAS subscription can save companies up to 90% on customs administration and bottom-line duty costs. Logistics providers have the possibility to expand and increase their revenue 10-fold with CAS’s comprehensive, multi-country functionality. C4T also offers Managed Customs Services to assist companies with various tasks while still giving them complete control over their customs data and operations.

How has the pandemic impacted your company?

An outline of the way the world is changing and how you fit into it. (optional)

Engaged and happy employees are at the core of our beliefs. In the past, we used to check the temperature of the team by spending time in the office kitchen engaging with employees. For over a year, this was no longer possible as we had to transition to remote work.

The physical separation was a catalyst to adopt more technology-driven processes, including regular anonymous pulsing to gain insights into what our employees want and need.

Their input caused us to carry some practices forward that worked well during lockdown, for example, we implemented a teleworking policy that allows for ongoing, part-time work-from-home possibilities, and extended access to a health engagement and employee wellbeing platform with hundreds of courses that promote physical and mental wellness.

We also implemented new policies to further encourage work/life balance in reaction to the pandemic, including remote working abroad that allows our highly international team to extend their time with friends and family,

Where do you see your company going in 5 years?

In the next five years, we will have integrated CAS with the customs systems across Europe and expanded to strategic locations in North America and Asia, emerging as the #1 global customs solution provider.

As we grow and expand our global reach, we continue to listen closely to the market so we can improve and extend the features and functionality for the countries CAS is connected to.

In this way, we continue to meet our customers’ ongoing compliance needs and help them go beyond compliance with optimisations. We will not rest until we have transformed the role of customs from cost centre to strategic player, providing invaluable contributions to organisational growth.

What has been your biggest setback so far?

What could have been seen as a setback was reimagined into an opportunity by our resilient C4T tribe. Brexit was one of the biggest milestones in the history of our industry, requiring sweeping changes in order for companies to remain compliant with customs and trade regulations once the transition period was over.

We had already been bracing ourselves for a very intense year ahead, and then COVID hit, closing our offices and physically separating our team members. In addition, we were bringing on many new employees to help us achieve the heavy lifting needed for us to seamlessly transition our customers through Brexit—all of whom had to be onboarded remotely and didn’t have the advantages of learning from adjacent team members.  

Fortunately, we have built a team with a can-do attitude and the drive to set the standard for the next generation of customs management. They were not going to be deterred! They made the most of the situation, adapting to the unprecedented working conditions that the pandemic presented, increasing productivity and gaining efficiency.

Even with last-minute changes like the December 24, 2020 EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, our team successfully integrated CAS with new EU-UK systems and requirements in time for the transition. Come January 1, 2021, our customers shipped to the UK in full without border delays.

What has been your biggest win so far? 

Our people are our biggest asset, and we consider it a great win to have such a talented team that believes in our vision and is wholeheartedly and enthusiastically dedicated to our mission. This is what has made all of our other wins possible.

This includes positioning our customers for a smooth transition post-Brexit, adding unique features and functionality that attract industry leaders, successfully securing three rounds of venture capital funding, and connecting to more and more countries for automated filing of customs declarations.  

What is the next big challenge for your business? 

Rapid growth. In order to meet the needs of the market, we need to enable automated declarations filing for as many countries as possible while continuing to add features and functionality that support various customs regimes that allow companies to gain efficiencies and save on both administrative and duty costs.  

How do people get involved/buy into your vision? 

Some of the largest companies in the world have turned to CAS to simplify and automate their customs and trade compliance, however customs is important for all businesses involved in international trade.

That’s why we have built CAS in a way that is accessible for a broad range of companies. Our SaaS business model and modular approach allow companies to bring customs operations in-house, starting with the features, functionality, and scope that will give them the most significant and immediate return on their investment and then augmenting CAS with value-added functionality as they grow. 

We encourage companies that envision the strategic potential of customs to schedule a demo of CAS.  

Written by Fredd

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