An entrepreneur at the head of Itinera: “I want to help create a better world for generations to come”

An entrepreneur at the head of Itinera: “I want to help create a better world for generations to come”
An entrepreneur at the head of Itinera: “I want to help create a better world for generations to come”

For those who have not seen the Tim Burton film which tells the story ofAlice in Wonderland, the character of the caterpillar was baptized Absolem. This is the name that Ank De Wilde, the new boss of the Itinera think tank, chose for the engineering company she created with an associate.

The company was founded in 2010. The two co-founders were in their early thirties at the time. much thought, they felt that Absolem would be a good fit for their company’s purpose, which is to help bring change to the manufacturing industry. “The caterpillar turning into a butterfly illustrated this process of transformation very well. Absolem helps Alice discover her own muchness, her power and her unique talents. I thought it was a wonderful symbol of the process by which we also wanted support our industrial customers and our employees”, says Ank De Wilde.

The stars were aligned

Born to a nurse mother and an accountant father, she knew nothing about the business world. She had combined her evening studies in business management with an administrative job. But over time, the desire came to him to undertake.

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As is often the case, the project was born from a “opportunity bundle.” The stars were perfectly aligned for this eldest of a family of four children. “For me, it was also the ideal path to follow to achieve my personal growth.”

Based and working mainly in Flanders, the company operated well and employed up to 80 people. “By bringing people together to achieve a common goal, we helped companies transform. We wanted to go beyond financial results. Because if we stop at that aspect, it’s boring, empty and superficial .”

And collaboration even becomes a “win-win-win if the company adds a sustainable project,” she says.

After all these years in the company, however, she felt like she had covered the issue. Hence his desire to take a new professional step last year. She sold her shares. According to her, everything flowed naturally. “I was delighted with this professional experience but after that of being a business manager, I told myself that I would be to reorient myself towards another path. As always, I followed my intuition. I knew that I should not not procrastinate. Having seen my brother die young made me understand how short life is.”

There were only a few months between the sale of her shares and her appointment as new CEO of Itinera where she will work in tandem with Marc De Vos, one of the founders of the think tank. She knew the “house” since she was already an administrator and one of the sponsors of Itinera via the company Absolem.

In her inauguration speech, she used the famous phrase of former US President John Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Wanting to create change for Belgium is his leitmotif. “I want to help create a better world for generations to comeshe emphasizes. The reflection will be as objective and broad as possible.”

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Prosperity and well-being

Above all, it does not want to give the image of having growth and the creation of wealth as its only Holy Grail and of being there solely to defend the interests of the business world.

To the picture “yin and yang” which are inseparable, she says she is convinced that prosperity must go hand in hand with the well-being of people. It will be understood that the analyzes will not only focus on the economy in the strict sense. It is not accidental that she cites the study by Professor Johan Albrecht, which is making a lot of noise in Flanders and which deals with the mental of young people.

The world has completely changed and is becoming more complex. In his eyes, it requires drawing a line under the analyzes of the past. Even if she no longer has her business, the one who also went through the Vlerick Business nevertheless continues to consider herself as a “entrepreneur” but maybe more with a profile “impact”.

Married to Bülent Öztürk, manager and director, she seems to be there to give more visibility and creativity to Itinera. While being aware that the think tank will not be able to “change things on his own. He does not have a direct influence like politicians can have.” On the other hand, it can be their ally by enriching the debate.


“We are not lobbyists”

Itinera is a think tank whose objective is “to contribute to ensuring that the future of the country is better than the present”, explains CEO Ank De Wilde. “He is sponsored by Belgian families and entrepreneurs who want to address today’s challenges by providing independent research, encouraging debates and proposing innovative solutions,” she continues. Sponsors include the Antwerp holding company Ackermans&van Haaren, the shipping company Exmar, the construction chemicals company Soudal, Ageas and Axa. On the Walloon side, we find Carmeuse.

Patrons do not ask for a return on their investments, according to the CEO. “We are not lobbyists. We are not going to defend the interests of businesses,” she insists. Other think tanks like Bruegel, CEPS or Merito (of which former Itinera expert Ivan Van de Cloot is CEO) are not “not seen as competitors” but as “allies.”

In a few dates:

August 16, 1979: birth of Ank De Wilde in Lier.

2010-September 2023: co-founder and CEO of the engineering company Absolem.

November 2023: appointment as executive president of Itinera.

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