If Not Us, Then Who
In a world of uncertainties, DEKRA is facing new challenges. In an interview with DEKRA solutions, the new DEKRA CEO Stan Zurkiewicz talks about the defining issues of our times and new possibilities for transformation.
Mr. Zurkiewicz, what has changed in your day-to-day professional life since you became chairman of the DEKRA board in April 2022?
Zurkiewicz: In my day-to-day professional life I have become even more busy than I was before. Prior to my appointment as CEO, I held the position of COO responsible for Regions, Operations and Sales and I still have that responsibility. However, with the CEO role, my work has become a lot more about strategy and organizational culture rather than largely operational. With the new position, the highest-level strategic direction has to come from me and, of course, from my board colleagues Ulrike Hetzel and Wolfgang Linsenmaier. Also, the representation and advocacy aspects have come to the fore. As part of that I spend much more of my time in intense dialogue with government authorities and other industry stakeholders.
You have worked for the expert organization DEKRA for many years. What do you plan to have achieved as CEO by the end of 2022?
Zurkiewicz: If you look at the current economic framework conditions in Europe, but also elsewhere in the world, times are tough. It is likely that there will be even more challenging times ahead. My immediate priority for the next few months is to steer DEKRA successfully through these choppy economic waters. Our Strategy 2025 is vital in this respect. And we are making good progress. Together with my board colleagues and the Executive Committee, we’re working simultaneously on sharpening some aspects of this strategy, and on the disciplined execution of others. Particularly the inorganic element of our strategy requires further clarity. As part of this process, we are asking ourselves the following questions: What kind of companies do we want to acquire? What companies should we partner with? What should our portfolio look like in the future? These fundamental questions will be answered in the coming months.
DEKRA’s Vision 2025 is: “We will be the global partner for a safe, secure and sustainable world”. How do you plan to achieve this by 2025? And which milestones have already been reached?
Zurkiewicz: Safety remains at the core of who we are and what we do. But last year we made a profound and consequential decision to expand our mission to also include security and sustainability. As vehicles, machines and all sorts of other assets evolve into cyber-physical systems, the software component, and with it the cyber security challenges, are becoming ever more important. And then, of course, there is sustainability. I think this is one of, or perhaps the defining issue of our times. Just like safety, sustainability will also become part of our core DNA. And I truly believe that with our independent third-party status, powerful brand and the depth of expertise of our 48,000 colleagues, we are very well-placed to support our customers in achieving their sustainability goals. However, in order for the market to view DEKRA as one of the leading sustainability services providers, we also need to remain ahead of the pack in terms of our own internal performance. We have already made a very important step by achieving EcoVadis Platinum rating which, in 2022, we were awarded for the second consecutive year. However, there are more steps we need to take on this important journey of transforming ourselves into a truly sustainable, carbon-neutral organization.
A key driver for achieving this vision is your Strategy 2025 with the five Corporate Focus Areas: Future Mobility, Cyber Security, Remote Services, AI & Data Analytics, and Sustainability. What successes can you report in those areas?
Zurkiewicz: Let’s start with the future of mobility: In the automotive sector, we are unquestionably the leading organization in the field of technical safety services. In the context of the overall megatrends such as Connected, Autonomous, Electric Driving, and Shared Mobility it is imperative that we remain the undisputed number one among TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) players. If not us, then who? In the other focus areas, it is our goal to become one of the leading TIC providers worldwide.
Which three special flagship projects can you tell us more about?
Zurkiewicz: There are multiple projects which we are working on in parallel. But perhaps one of the most exciting and innovative services we have recently developed is a solution to check the condition of secondhand electric vehicles’ batteries. Competitors’ solutions, which are beginning to enter the market, take several hours for a measurement to be performed and frequently require full discharging and charging of an EV battery. Our solution takes only a few minutes and does not require discharging of the battery, saving time, cost, and making it much more sustainable. In addition, we have just been selected by the California Energy Commission to build a unique Vehicle-Grid Innovation Laboratory. This will establish the benchmark for verification of electrical vehicle charging stations’ interoperability in the USA. And in the area of cyber security, we were one of the first certification bodies in Germany to be accredited to provide cyber security services to large automotive manufacturers. We have also been able to win the trust of technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Apple. These companies and their suppliers are now regularly using DEKRA to validate the cyber security of their products and applications. Additionally, we offer services in the areas of Consumer-IoT, Industry, Information and Communication Technology, and medical devices.
Speaking of CFA (Corporate Focus Area) Cyber Security: Which services are particularly relevant and in high demand in cyber security?
Zurkiewicz: The demand in all the industrial sectors where we are active is extremely strong. Our main constraint, at the moment, is not demand but capacity. We have, therefore, decided to focus our resources on specific areas such as automotive cyber security. Given our dominant position in Automotive TIC, for DEKRA to achieve leadership position in automotive cyber security is particularly important. But it’s not only about automotive. Also in an industrial context, there are impor-tant regulations related to cyber security of critical infrastructure. Cyber security is also vital for medical devices. As you may be aware, we are among the top European Notified Bodies for Medical Devices, with a particularly strong position in the high-risk device segment.
The EU Parliament’s decision to ban internal combustion engines in 2035 will set a new course in the automotive sector. What does this mean for DEKRA services, such as vehicle testing?
Zurkiewicz: The automotive industry is in the process of transformation. In terms of its breadth and speed, this transformation process is unlike anything we have seen before. The upcoming end of the combustion engine is one of those paradigm shifts. For us, as the world’s largest automotive testing and inspection organization, the market is going to change radically. For example, the number of vehicles on the road will likely decline over time. Some of the reasons for that decline are lifestyle choices which particularly young people make, the trend towards hybrid work and evolution of city traffic, including emergence of shared mobility.
Also, emissions checks, which we perform as part of vehicle inspection in multiple geographies, while in the context of climate emergency are probably more important today than at any other time in the past, will, in the long-term disappear with the gradual phase-out of combustion-engine vehicles. But I am convinced that this transformation presents more opportunities than threats. Shared electric vehicles will have to be inspected more frequently. While in the future we will not be checking emissions, many other aspects of a car will need to be checked, as powerful batteries and high voltage components proliferate and cars are progressively taking over functions traditionally performed by drivers. Modern cars are also being continuously updated via over-the-air updates. These updates may have safety-critical implications and, if so, will need to be validated by an independent third-party like DEKRA.
“Customer Centricity” is a matter close to your heart. How does DEKRA live this today and will live it in the coming months and years?
Zurkiewicz: You’re absolutely correct. Customer centricity is something that I’m truly passionate about. Why? One of the reasons is that most of the regulated services provided by the TIC industry are, in terms of content, by definition identical to those of our competitors. Now, the question arises, when a service is identical content-wise, how can we differentiate ourselves and why should customers choose DEKRA? There are many possible reasons for this. It may be the geographic coverage and convenient location of our stations or laboratories; it may be the unrivalled know-how of our experts; or our streamlined, efficient, and increasingly digitalized processes; or it may be the power of the DEKRA brand. But I firmly believe that one of the main reasons why customers choose one TIC service provider over another, is the physical and/or digital customer experience they have when interacting with it. Superior customer experience requires that we constantly improve our processes and systems but crucially it’s about organizational culture. I am determined to reinforce and to drive the culture of customer-centricity within DEKRA.
DEKRA is growing and has been hiring skilled workers for many years. Why do people choose to work for DEKRA?
Zurkiewicz: For any organization, it’s a challenge these days to attract, and perhaps even more to retain the right kind of people, particularly the most talented ones. But I believe that there are numerous aspects which make DEKRA a very attractive employer. We are, of course, a commercial organization, but, partly because of our unique ownership structure, we have values which go beyond commercial objectives. Our vision is to be the global partner for a safe, secure, and sustainable world and I am convinced that by doing what we do we make an important contribution to the safety of people’s everyday lives and to a better and more sustainable world. I believe this is something that many of our colleagues – myself included – find extremely compelling about working for DEKRA. I believe that, particularly in the post-pandemic world, people are looking not only for attractive working conditions. Along with opportunities for personal advancement, a dynamic, diverse, and innovative environment, they also value a sense of purpose. They are looking for a workplace where the management truly cares about their people, and where the values are aligned with their own personal beliefs. At DEKRA, we provide such an environment.
From the global economic standpoint, let’s take a look at the global economic situation: How do you assess the prospects for DEKRA in light of challenges like inflation, the pandemic, Ukraine war, supply chains? What do you see as DEKRA’s strengths?
Zurkiewicz: We are strong and resilient. We have demonstrated that strength and resilience during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. And I am convinced we will continue to demonstrate them as we deal with the challenging economic and geopolitical conditions. Obviously, the combination of a recession and higher inflation will be tricky to navigate for any enterprise, including DEKRA, and some difficult decisions will need to be made. While we are not immune to the deteriorating external conditions, with the clear action plan we are implementing, and with such an incredibly engaged group of employees, I believe we are better positioned than most others.
Mr. Zurkiewicz, you are an ambitious athlete. How does sport help you in your new position as CEO?
Zurkiewicz: My sports credentials may have been a little bit overstated. But I am a very disciplined person and I do sports at least once, normally twice a day, seven days a week. For me, it’s essential, it’s indispensable. It’s not only about my physical health and the level of energy I am able to bring to my work. It’s my way of maintaining mental strength and mental resilience as well as being a key part of my personal and professional life.
Stan Zurkiewicz, born in 1979 in Gdynia, Poland, has been Chief Executive Officer of DEKRA e.V. and DEKRA SE since April 6, 2022. He has been a member of the DEKRA Board of Management since January 1, 2021, and as COO is still responsible for the DEKRA Regions, Operations, and Sales. Until the end of 2020, he was Executive Vice President responsible for the DEKRA Region East & South Asis