'A better cooperative and a better bank'
Rabobank is building its future. The bank is committed to improving its services to customers, reducing costs and modernising the cooperative. Executive Board Member Rien Nagel looks at the background and reasons for these developments.
Rabobank is energetically working to prepare physically and virtually for the future. Rien Nagel, the Member of the Rabobank Executive Board responsible for the Dutch banking business, explains that customer behaviour is leading in this regard. 'Customers want to be able to take care of their banking 24/7. That’s why we are investing 600 million euros in further improving our services. We are increasingly putting customers in the driver’s seat. They can arrange their banking matters wherever and whenever they like using a PC, tablet or smartphone.'
'We will expressly remain a bank that provides professional advice at pivotal moments'
Rien Nagel talks about a couple of innovations that capture the imagination. 'Take our mortgage file for example. It lets customers fill in the financial information needed for a mortgage application themselves. This self-service results in a 450 euro discount, but more importantly: customers gain much greater insight into the possibilities for financing. Another excellent example is the chat function on our website that lets customers communicate quickly with one of our advisers – both during office hours and in the evening and on weekends.'
Rabobank will expressly remain a bank that provides professional advice at pivotal moments. Rien Nagel: 'People can take care of their daily banking needs online without any difficulty. But there are certain times when customers need high-quality professional advice. These are pivotal moments in people's lives such as buying a home, sending children to college or university and planning for approaching retirement. While this means that retail customers might have these contacts only a few times in their lifetime, business customers can have contacts on a more frequent basis ranging from a couple of times a year to several times a month.'
In line with our objective to improve our services, Rabobank also wants to reduce its costs considerably. Nagel: 'Changing customer behaviour and increased automation mean we need fewer branches and also far fewer employees. While we are and will remain a people-based business, the harsh reality is that we must reduce our workforce by thousands of employees during the period between 2013 and 2016. These are painful, but necessary measures in order to keep Rabobank sound and healthy.'
'We promote the local economy and increase liveability through our banking expertise and experience'
Local Rabobanks have traditionally actively participated in the communities in which their roots lie. 'We do this through our sponsorship activities and, for example, by supporting social initiatives and local clubs and associations. Rabobank is to make an even greater contribution than in the past to helping solve the socioeconomic issues of our day. We will leverage our knowledge and experience in banking to give impetus to the local economy and to increase liveability. We will do this by making knowledge available, providing access to our networks and, when necessary, helping out financially.'
The cooperative governance of Rabobank will be changed parallel to the revision of the banking business. Nagel: 'Our cooperative identity is and will remain extremely valuable. But we saw that the current structure was beginning to have more and more disadvantages due to the rapid changes in the economy and financial markets and with respect to regulators and customers. A compelling example is that each of the 110 local Rabobanks currently has its own banking licence with all the related requirements in the field of supervision. This causes us to be too inwardly focused and distracts from our mission: to provide services to our customers.'
The Rabobank Members Councils will discuss a proposal for the new governance this autumn under the motto of 'a better cooperative and a better bank'. Nagel: 'We will continue to be a decentralised organisation comprised of local Rabobanks, each of which has its own board of directors and focuses fully on its own field of operation and services to its customers. The local Rabobanks work together within one cooperative based on one banking licence and one bank balance sheet. This will make it possible to provide customers with faster, more streamlined, less expensive and better service.'
Rien Nagel explains that the nearly two million members of Rabobank will have even greater influence. 'Member Councils already have an important voice both as a sounding board for the board of directors and with respect to matters such as the allocation of cooperative dividend. The most important change is that all the local Rabobanks will have a seat on the cooperative’s main governing body. All the chairs of the supervisory boards will be represented on this General Members Council. This council will meet periodically to discuss and determine Rabobank's policy and strategy. My colleagues on the Executive Board and I will render accountability to this General Members Council. Nobody else can match us when it comes to embedding the voice and counterforce of our members so strongly at both the local and collective levels.'