Meet Our People: Bardo Schütz

Director of Innovation
Bardo Schutz

Welcome to our exclusive "Meet the People" series, where we take you behind the scenes to meet the dedicated individuals powering Customs Support. These passionate professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of our mission: empowering your global trade.
In this edition, we are excited to present Director of Innovation Bardo Schütz – the mastermind behind our Europe-wide digital customs service. Join us as Bardo shares our recent developments and where he sees digital customs going in the future.

Who are you?

I'm Bardo Schütz. I am 50 years old; I am a father of two children, and I have been responsible for technology at Customs Support since I joined the company three and a half years ago as the CIO, and I have now taken on the role of Director of Innovation.

What does the director of innovation do at Customs Support?

We’re on a mission to empower global trade by making customs digital, and the development of this infrastructure and digital solutions is what I am here to oversee.

It’s been quite a journey over the last few years. Brexit certainly helped our progress in terms of creating an environment where being digital-first was an important advantage for us, advancing our end-to-end customs clearances and EDI connection services.

As we continue to grow throughout the EU, CH, NO and UK, it’s my role to ensure that our systems all connect properly, that our data is secure, and that our people can work safely online. Of course, that means overseeing our IT departments throughout Europe to ensure they can provide that support.

From a customer service point of view, I am also working with our team to develop our improved client portal, and creating interfaces which allow our customers to do more within their customs function using their existing logistical infrastructure.

What is your typical working day like?

There is no typical working day. My role is pretty dynamic in that I could be working on our declarants’ interfacing system, the client portal, an EDI interface between bonded warehouses, or strategising with customers and our customs consultants when they want to do something new.

What’s next for Customs Support’s digital solutions?

Our new client portal, including the Power of Attorney apphave been  launched in The Netherlands, which allow customers to see all their clearances, authorisations, and trade statistics in one place. Once we have adopted it fully in The Netherlands, we will start rolling it out across Europe.

My colleagues in Britain are still an essential player in testing our cross-border initiatives. UK IT Director Ash Taylor and I have been working on Intelligent Document Processing – or IDP for short – for some time now.

IDP will be big for us as it allows us to do more with less. Our import clearance agents are skilled and knowledgeable professionals, so they shouldn’t need to find and input data – only check and verify it.

With IDP, we can use customs automations and artificial intelligence in the customs process to scan and input data so that our declarants can apply their specialist skills instead of wasting time on manual entry. It’s a completely new way of working, and will allow us to do so much more for our customers without spreading our resources thin.

Have you always worked in IT and the international market?

I started out a long time ago as an IT consultant, where I was working with large-scale implementation of systems for companies.

Later, I joined both Douwe Egberts (Sara Lee International), within the  fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. I supported them during international expansion with their ERP system.

I worked with Shell on a large technology rollout in Far East Russia, on an island called Sakhalin. This was a very exciting project for me to be on.

Another notable company I have worked with is Heineken, which is of course another fast-moving consumer goods company.

Throughout my time on these international projects, I was involved in both IT system implementation and also in data analytics. It’s really my thing. But during this process I also ended up working with sales systems, finance, procurement, basically all processes. It’s been really diverse.

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work, and how does that influence your work skills?

I like to play football and hockey, as do my kids. This year is the first year that I am not coaching their team. It’s something that I have really enjoyed doing with them, and I have learnt a lot from coaching the team, but they are a little older now and playing well so they need someone else to coach them.

I love cooking, especially outside on the barbeque or the pizza oven. It’s a process, and it’s great to enjoy the outcome.

One of the things that has helped me over the years is my interest in languages. I speak Dutch and English, obviously, but also speak German, French, Spanish, and some Italian.

When I was in Sakhalin, I spoke what I call “taxi Russian”, as in I could land at the airport and make my way to the hotel, go to a supermarket, order a coffee, etc, but it’s not that advanced. Thankfully, the project was in English but knowing some Russian definitely helped.

I keep on top of my languages with some Duolingo, as you never know when you will need it.

What is the most important thing a client should look for in an international customs partner?

You need to look for someone who can work with you in a digital manner, because highly digitalised systems give you your customs clearances back fast, accurate, and compliant. We can perform magic because of our digitalisation.

Being digital helps us to not only reduce your risk but also to run a smooth operation. It’s teamwork from both sides as there needs to be that synergy where you aren’t just throwing things at one another and expecting it to work.

It’s not one-size-fits-all, and I am very pleased that we have been able to learn from our large variety of locations and customers so that we can provide a tailor-made service that we know is right for you.

You work with a Europe-wide network. If you were to visit a location of Customs Support, where would you go and why?

As it happens, there are only three of our countries that I have not yet been to: Poland, Switzerland, and Spain. I am going to Poland next week, so I can cross that off my list.

Out of the other two, Spain is warmer so I would probably like to escape the Netherlands in the winter to visit. I wouldn’t mind revisiting Italy at the same time as it is very nice there.