Helping customers out of a tight corner

Not being able to pay off a debt puts you in an extremely difficult situation. People become uncertain, scared and sometimes even desperate. This is why Rabobank is committed to providing its customers with the best possible support and assistance.

These are tough times: the economy is in bad shape, many companies are reorganising, people are losing their jobs and finding it difficult to find new employment. The number of divorces with financial implications is also on the rise. More and more Dutch consumers are consequently encountering repayment problems. This is the focus of a great deal of media attention: there are both interviews about tragic cases in which people have to move out of their homes and TV programmes that help consumers change their spending habits.

80% are able to stay in their homes

The number of customers at Rabobank that are having difficulty paying their debts rose by around 30% in 2013 compared to 2012. 'This is unfortunately a huge increase,' says Haico Vlasblom of the Special Administration Department that maintains contact with this group of customers. 'These customers are in a tight corner. We have more staff working in our department than ever before because we genuinely want to be there for all these customers. We have excellent tools and provide a tremendous amount of support. We work in close consultation with the customer to bring about a future-proof and affordable situation. We succeed in finding a solution that lets people keep their homes in around 80% of these situations.'

2014: En route to stability

Rabobank has more than one million mortgage customers and 0.57% of them have payment arrears. There were only 280 customer situations that actually resulted in a forced foreclosure in 2013. While Rabobank does not expect to see a decrease in the number of customers with repayment problems in 2014, it does think stabilisation is in sight. The only thing is that the signs of economic recovery are not yet having direct effects for consumers.

From repayment arrangement to budget coach

The local Rabobank seeks contact as soon as it becomes apparent that a customer cannot meet his or her financial obligation. 'While some people can be taken aback by this, we have discovered that it is best to make contact at an early stage,' says Vlasblom. 'The adviser and the customer look at the cause of the repayment problems and jointly determine whether there is a structural problem. If there is, then our Special Administration Department gets to work. We offer a range of tools and services that are tailored to the customer’s situation. Each situation is unique and that is why we provide customised solutions. We can, for example, agree on a repayment arrangement or engage a budget coach at the bank's expense. Restructuring the mortgage can also sometimes offer a solution.'

Selling a house hurts

'We want to help customers get out of a tight corner, not out of their house,' says Vlasblom. 'But you sometimes reach the final conclusion that it is simply not responsible for the customer to continue living in the home. This leads to painful moments and difficult conversations. And it is crucially important to carry out these conversations as well as possible. There is no doubt about it: having to sell your house is a painful experience. But holding onto it, knowing that you will also be unable to make the payments in the future as well, could prove to be much more painful. In the case of a private sale, we guide the customer in order to ensure that both the customer and Rabobank incur the lowest loss possible. If there is residual debt after the sale of the property, we can arrange the repayment in a responsible manner with the customer.'

Customer's interests and people work

Vlasblom says repayment problems are tough on everyone. 'That's why we devote so much attention to the guidance and assistance. We search out the best solution at every moment within the process. And we always put the customer's interests first. We innovate and connect in good times and bad. Because no matter how hard the world of money can be: banking is and always will be people work.'