‘We must once again be near the customer’

Rabobank is under construction. The bank wants to become more customer-focused and efficient. Executive Board Chairman Wiebe Draijer says it is a huge challenge: “We must make Rabobank more personal within the context of the new digital reality. This is because our strength lies precisely in that personal approach.”

Numerous projects are currently underway within Rabobank that are all aimed at making the organisation more efficient, streamlined and customer-focused. Draijer believes these improvement programmes should reinforce each other and serve the common aim of achieving improved customer service. “This is not yet sufficiently the case. Our internal affairs and the large body of new legislation and regulations have unfortunately come at the expense of attention to customers. We are not visible enough and are too inward-looking.”

More visible and accessible

Draijer is convinced that Rabobank should become more visible and accessible. He says the chosen path of standardisation, automation and virtualisation does not stand in the way of achieving this ambition. ”On the contrary, customers are taking the lead in wanting to carry out as many services as possible using their smartphones or computers. They are also enthusiastic about new applications such as managing their mortgage file online or using the chat function to communicate with their appointed adviser.”

Anytime, anywhere

Unstoppable virtualisation is placing customers more and more firmly in the driver’s seat. They can take care of their banking anytime and anywhere using their PC, tablet or smartphone. But Draijer believes that Rabobank’s ambition must extend beyond this: “The challenge will be to build a bridge to the customer within the context of the new virtual reality. We must embrace the technology and use it as an instrument for strengthening the relationship with our customers. And if we are successful in this endeavour, we will regain our strength and once again be a bank that is personal, nearby and involved.”

“Customers are taking the lead in wanting to carry out as many services as possible using their smartphones or computers.”

Wiebe Draijer, Chairman Executive Board

Steadfast strategy

Draijer does not expect any far-reaching changes in the strategic course at Rabobank in the coming period. “We are a rock-solid bank that is still among the world’s top five in terms of stability and robustness. We hold this position in part thanks to our steadfast strategy of being a market leader in the Netherlands and a leading food and agri bank worldwide.” Having said that, he points out that Rabobank must make difficult choices: “I expect low economic growth for the next five to ten years. At the same time I expect that the capital requirements made by the regulators will be tightened even further. This requires us to be highly adaptable both in terms of our own business operations and the strategic choices we make.’

Governance

In addition to the improvement programmes mentioned above, the new Executive Board Chairman’s agenda will be dominated in the months ahead by the discussion on the cooperative bank’s structure and governance. “This broad-based discussion on governance goes back to the key question: How do we shape our cooperative mission – the connection with our customers, the market and society – in a modern and future-proof manner. In short, how do you make both a more streamlined and stronger bank and a better cooperative?’

Socially responsible banking

Rabobank has a long history in the field of socially responsible banking. Draijer wants to continue this course with vigour. “Local Rabobanks participate in countless socio-economic initiatives in their field of operation and in this way they strengthen the Dutch economy. Under the banner of ‘Banking4Food’, we also contribute to meeting the momentous challenges in the field of food safety and food security worldwide. They are initiatives that are closely linked to our cooperative mission to support society and the economy. This distinguishes us from other banks because we invest part of the profit in keeping society dynamic and vital.”

Peer-to-peer banking

As a cooperative organisation, Rabobank is preparing for the future and the new Executive Board Chairman looks to this future with confidence. “The world around us is changing at a whirlwind pace and new players are hitting the scene. I recently visited Silicon Valley with some colleagues in order to see what the ‘alleged enemies’ are doing. It showed me that new players such as eBay and Google are aiming more for cooperation than for the demise of the traditional service providers. As a bank that makes innovation a top priority, we must above all look at the opportunities offered by technical developments such as big data analysis, virtual payments, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer banking, rather than potential threats. We owe this to ourselves, but above all to our customers.”