Honorary Membership 2012: Alfred Biel

Alfred Biel was awarded an Honorary Membership during the General Assembly in May 2012 in Munich. Below you will find the laudatory speech made by Dr Jürgen Weber, Chairman of the ICV's Board of Trustees.

“It is my pleasure today to hold the laudatory speech for an Honorary Membership in the ICV.  I am very happy to do this for two reasons: first, I find it not at all difficult to explain the Board's decision to this General Assembly because the list of the honouree's achievements is remarkably long.  And second, this laudatory is indeed a personal pleasure for me in light of the many years that the honouree and I have been working together.

The man I am honouring today is the ICV member with the membership number 1230, someone who has been a member of the ICV – “only”  – since 1 January 1990. He can look back on a long and significant career as a controller, during which he spent many years working in the automotive industry. He has also contributed to the ICV for many years as a member of the West I work group. But all of this is nothing unusual, at least nothing that might have given the Board of Managing Directors the idea of awarding him an Honorary Membership.

Therefore, what is so special about the man? It all has to do with two traits of the honouree, which I call innovative ability and journalistic passion.

Let's begin with innovative ability. The man we are honouring today has proven his innovative ability in many ways:

  • He is a founding member and dedicated co-initiator of the ICV's Idea Workshop.
  • He is likewise a founding member and dedicated co-initiator of the work groups Communication Controlling as well as Controlling and Quality.
  • He has done pioneering work in the ICV with respect to IFRS and its relevance for the controller, and has made a significant contribution to the success of the ICV's relationships with universities. In fact, it was especially his role in this regard that frequently brought us together.

The honouree's innovative ability can also be seen in the subjects of his first two articles for Controller Magazine, which at the same time now enables me to transition to his journalistic accomplishments. His first article in Controller Magazine, which appeared in issue 5/1979, was entitled “Business Measures to Ensure Profitability.” Since then, this topic has become a type of perennial issue in the controlling profession. We know from our Future Issues study that I mentioned earlier that corporate efficiency – as with that of controlling itself – is a highly topical subject; the issue is ranked number two among the top ten issues of the future, far ahead of buzzwords such as volatility or sustainability.  The second article appeared in issue 1/1981 on the subject of sales controlling. Here, too, the man we are honouring today got it exactly right: 30 years later, sales controlling, after a lengthy run-up, has now become one of the most highly developed controlling specialisations in the corporate world – at least based on the findings of our Controller Panel.

These two articles, however, are not the only two contributions the honouree has made to Controller Magazine. In fact, just the opposite: since 1979 you will find a total of 78 articles and interviews from him – according to our research, which, however, is missing three years of issues. The real number is therefore probably a little higher, making him one of the most productive authors ever for the magazine. In order to understand the importance of his contribution, let's compare two things: it is certainly not a surprise to anyone in this room that Dr Albrecht Deyhle is the undisputed leader among the authors appearing in Controller Magazine, having contributed 110 articles over the years. I myself have written just 33, and I rather belong to the group of the regular authors than to the group of the sporadic!

But articles and interviews are only just a part of our honouree's journalistic accomplishments. The other part – if we have counted correctly – makes up nearly 10 percent of the total content of Controller Magazine over the years; yes, you heard that correctly, nearly every tenth page! If I tell you how he did this, it will become clear whom we are honouring here today: namely, with book reviews, first presented as a book corner, and then captured under the heading “Literature Forum." We counted 4,145 book reviews - and as I said, we are missing three years of issues of the magazine. By now everyone knows whom we are honouring today: Alfred Biel!

Alfred Biel has contributed with enormous diligence to the knowledge of controllers. As befits a controller, he made very effective use of the time he needed to do this: he held many of his meetings in the train on the commute between his home in Solingen and his office in Düsseldorf. He is probably the most well-read controller of all, regardless of whether you look at controlling in practice or in theory. He led the ICV's editorial committee for many years, and then served as the “chief editor” as well, likewise for several years. He has managed the editorial process for many of the ICV's Statements; indeed, in some cases he even wrote them, for example, the Statement “Communication Skills of Controllers” (2010). This commitment in particular is very valuable for the ICV. We know from current empirical research in the WHU Controller Panel that the Statements do indeed influence the behaviour of controllers.  In other words, we have here a significant tool that Alfred Biel has put into place.

Most recently, Alfred Biel has focused his journalistic efforts on its professional basis, namely by completing a training to become a qualified journalist (DFJV) – and would anyone really be surprised to learn how successful he has been as a journalist outside of the ICV!

All in all, Alfred Biel has rendered outstanding service to the profession of controlling in the German-speaking region. But it has never gone to his head. Those who know him appreciate his humble, competent and friendly manner. This, however, should not obscure the fact that he has created something of importance. After all, he who writes shall remain – this saying applies unreservedly to him. I am therefore very pleased that the ICV's Board of Managing Directors has decided to award an Honorary Membership to Alfred Biel.”