In her 20-year career with G+D and Veridos, Bellersheim has worked in many areas of the business, flown around the world multiple times, managed teams, taken part in internal development programs, and also had two children. So after all that, is there anything she can’t just take in stride? “You bet!” reveals Bellersheim. “On July 19, 2018, after an intensive acquisition and negotiation process lasting two and a half years, a ceremony to mark the signing of the contracts was held in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. When I saw it – more than 800 attendees, national flags everywhere, high-ranking guests, and upbeat music – it really gave me the goosebumps.” For Veridos, the record contract is worth EUR 340 million and covers the entire value chain from electronic passports to border management systems. For Bangladesh, it’s much more: a further step towards modernization, an increase in security, and a reason to be proud.
Veridos will provide Bangladesh’s 165 million citizens with one of the most advanced and secure passports in the world, which is machine-readable, biometric, and counterfeit-proof. “This is an extremely important contribution to the fight against document forgery and terrorism,” emphasizes Bellersheim. Veridos will also install 50 e-gates – fully automated self-service gates for airports and border crossing points. The project is undoubtedly impressive in many ways, but for Bellersheim the real highlight is the people involved. Veridos is training 100 Bangladeshi employees in Germany and a further 1,000 people on site, who will then take on demanding technology roles. As part of the project, a new, state-of-the-art factory is being built to produce the passports, which will provide an alternative source of employment to the country’s textile industry. “We’re making a real contribution to technological progress in Bangladesh. And we can really sense how important it is to our customers,” confirms Bellersheim. “That’s what motivates me and makes it all worthwhile.”
This is the rate at which the market for e-passports is expected to grow each year. These advanced ID documents with biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) are already compulsory in the EU, US, and most other industrialized countries and emerging markets. They are making a significant contribution to safe travel and crime prevention.
The almost completed factory building in which the new electronic passports will be produced for Bangladesh.
So is “Made in Germany” still a hallmark of quality around the world? “In a word, yes! One of the main reasons the project in Bangladesh came about is because Germany – and German technology in particular – has such a good reputation there,” underscores Bellersheim. But here, again, it’s the human element that is most remarkable. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Hasina Wajed, has a particularly strong bond with Germany. She was in West Germany at the time of the military coup against her father in 1975 and found protection there. Is it common for Veridos to be so close to major political developments? “Yes, indeed. We’re a specialist in identity solutions, so most of our customers are from the government and state sectors. Our projects, such as system solutions for ID documents, driver’s licenses, and border control, deal with fundamental issues relating to sovereignty and security. That means we’re often in contact with notable individuals from other countries.” Meanwhile, back home, the Bellersheim family gets to enjoy not only the typical South Asian spices and fruits that Fabiola brings back from her trips abroad, but also her enhanced culinary repertoire.
And the downsides? What’s the work-life balance like in such a demanding international management position? “Well, I can’t deny it’s hard work,” acknowledges Bellersheim. “But I’ve always found G+D to be extremely supportive and flexible. They let me try different ways of working; both full-time and part-time. I’ve also worked from home and sometimes even took my baby with me to the office when I was nursing.” At family-owned G+D, Bellersheim is part of a culture that provides staff with maximum freedom as long as they achieve the required results. “When I work and where I work – at home, on the road, or in my office – is my decision. If you make a logical and convincing case, you get all the support and recognition you could possibly desire.” Not to mention a new professional challenge if the nights in Germany prove to be too quiet.
One year earlier: the undeveloped factory site. From left to right: John Farley, Andreas Wirthmüller, Fabiola Bellersheim, and Andreas Kuba of Veridos.
The contract signing ceremony on July 19, 2018, in Dhaka.