Helping clients expand their horizons
Finding your way in a strange country where you don’t speak the language or know the local rules and customs can be a challenge all its own. Yet it is par for the course for employment services provider Randstad, which operates in no fewer than 40 countries. Like many other companies, it relies on Rabobank’s local teams of experts to lead the way.
Country specialists support Dutch clients worldwide
Rabobank always provides a single point of contact to Dutch clients conducting international business. For a major client such as employment services provider Randstad, this point of contact is the Outbound Desk in Utrecht. Randstad’s Treasury Manager Wim Schans: ‘Whenever I need advice about a case in, say, Brazil or Chile, I call Willem van Duuren at Rabobank. We know each other, he knows both our company and the international market well, and we communicate easily. Willem always contacts his Dutch-speaking colleagues in the country in question if he needs specific information – they are familiar with the local market and speak the language. They make whatever arrangements need to be made locally and liaise with our local team of employees.’
'They know the local market and speak the language’
‘More flexible attitudes’
Brenda de Swart, who manages the International Desk in Santiago, Chile, is one of those Dutch-speaking Rabobank experts. She cites the amount of red tape as a typical cultural difference between her country of residence and the Netherlands, the home market of Rabobank client Randstad: ‘Many organisations in Chile still deal with original documents, which involves the use of various stamps and fingerprints. I am used to all the official procedures by now, but I often find myself having to brief Dutch clients with no previous experience doing business here. We inform them that the process takes just that little bit longer than they are used to on account of local regulations and processes. The fact that we are able to accurately assess Dutch clients’ expectations – that is our competitive edge right there, it’s how we compete with other banks in the Chilean market.’ Her colleague Tanja Jungen – who serves as a Rabobank point of contact for banking business in Brazil – confirms this: ‘If you decide to do business in this country, you’ll need to accept that people do things differently here. You need to become a little more flexible in your attitudes and precepts and try not to think from a Dutch perspective.’
Hedging foreign-exchange risk
Randstad uses lines of credit provided by Rabobank in its international dealings. Schans: ‘Lines of credit are basically funds provided by Rabobank. Think of a line of credit as a pot of money that is physically located in the Netherlands, with the bank managing everything from there. Local Randstad offices can access these funds to finance working capital, for example, in Brazilian reals or Chilean pesos. Using these currencies for financing purposes is more complex than it may initially appear if you are unfamiliar with the local customs. Since there is no free trade in these currencies, you need to buy and sell them in the country itself, which involves exposing yourself to foreign-exchange risk. If you are dealing with a temporary loan, you need to wonder if you want the amount outstanding to be in one of those currencies. If we can borrow local currencies through Rabobank in the Netherlands, we hedge the foreign-exchange risk by using euros.’
'Clients need to accept that people do things differently here.'
Trusting local teams
In another scenario, Randstad Chile may need to provide a bank guarantee, for example if the company is launching new projects or if its business is growing faster than anticipated. Recently, Rabobank quickly arranged for the guarantee facility to be increased in order to accommodate its client. Schans: ‘In those situations, you really see the benefits of having a central point of contact in the international network, along with local contacts. It would take me a lot longer if I had to do all the research and make all the arrangements by myself. Rabobank is the only bank with Dutch employees in all countries in which it operates. That is what really makes the difference between Rabobank and other banks.’
Rabobank maintains 11 International Desks across Europe and 9 in the rest of the world, with offices and branches in a total of 28 countries.