‘Meet & Grow’ is just the beginning of the new way of funding
'Sometimes customers come to us with plans and we tell them: it’s a fantastic idea, but for us as a bank it is too risky to fund it in full. But we will help you to get other parties involved.' As part of its activity as a financial coordinator for small and medium sized enterprises in the Netherlands, Rabobank is organising regional ‘Rabo Meet & Grow’ events at which entrepreneurs can bring their plans to the attention of potential investors.
Rabobank brings entrepreneurs and investors together
In the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands, nine local Rabobanks recently organised a ‘Rabo Meet & Grow’ event, at which 68 entrepreneurs tried to get 11 potential investors interested in their plans. Thirteen local Rabobanks had previously organised a similar event for local entrepreneurs in the province of South Holland. More of these ‘Rabo Meet & Grow’ events are on the agenda for the coming months in various regions of the Netherlands.
To make the event as effective as possible, entrepreneurs have to give details of the growth phase they need funding for in advance. This brings the entrepreneurs into contact with investors who are best suited to their business and plans at the event. Some investors focus on start-ups, others on businesses wanting to make acquisitions, while other investors are interested in companies focusing on innovation. Some of these investors operate on a nationwide basis, such as the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO, a government service that among other things stands surety for entrepreneurs, and the MBO & Groeifonds, which invests in management buy-outs and growth of companies. There are also investors who operate in one specific region, such as the LIOF investment fund in the province of Limburg and the Innovation Quarter in the province of South Holland.
Rabobank’s involvement in bringing entrepreneurs and investors together is a product of the changing way in which business is funded. Markets are changing more rapidly, meaning that entrepreneurs need more risk-bearing capital. On the other hand, banks are facing stricter requirements for buffers for their balance sheets, which means they are less able to lend. 'As a cooperative bank we continue to be an important financier for small and medium sized enterprises, but we are increasingly becoming an intermediary that brings together customers and other parties, such as leasing companies and providers of crowdfunding. We are also actively involved in using government stimulus measures for our customers,’ says Paul Dirken, Director of Business Banking at Rabobank.
'Sometimes customers come to us with plans and we tell them: it’s a fantastic idea, but it is too risky for us as a bank to fund it in full. But we will help you to get other parties involved', says Erik Duindam, account manager for SMEs at the local Rabobank Bollenstreek in the province of South Holland. 'Entrepreneurs now have more potential sources of funding than just overdrafts and bank loans. The question is, how can we use the funds of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO and LIOF so that the customer gets 100 percent funding without the whole 100 percent pressuring on the bank’s balance sheet?', says Roy Janissen, account manager at the local Rabobank Venlo. 'Meet & Grow helps us to make financial coordination a reality.'
A mix of funding possibilities
This is also a trend that Cindy Koolhout is seeing as project manager of 'Financial Coordination for Business Clients' at Rabobank: 'We are turning to financial coordination if what the bank can finance is not quite sufficient: we then look at other ways to make full funding possible. We want to move in this direction, towards a situation in which the standard approach will be to look at the best mix of funding possibilities, from Rabobank and other parties, to best meet the customer’s needs. And what we want is that customers themselves put forward solutions, such as a state guarantee, because they have already obtained a lot of information about this through us online. Rabo Meet & Grow is just a beginning, but it shows that we are already taking a wider approach to business finance.'
'We want to move towards a situation in which the standard approach will be to look at the best mix of funding possibilities, from Rabobank and other parties, to best meet the customer’s needs.'
Also for the entrepreneurs, investors and account managers concerned, 'Rabo Meet & Grow' is just the first step. The account managers involved stay in contact with the entrepreneurs regarding follow-up discussions with potential investors. 'We want this to deliver something useful for the customer. The follow-up to the event is important, so that it does not get diluted', says Duindam. Janissen: 'We ensure that we stay in contact: as the financial coordinator we're there to bring parties together and to guide a potential follow-up as well.