Special Asset Management: a need for better communication

A number of Rabobank business clients recently participated in a feedback meeting, in which they were asked to give their opinion on the bank’s Special Asset Management department. The general takeaway was that while employees in the department are very knowledgeable and well informed, they need to do a better job of communicating with clients.

Rabobank has hosted several of these feedback meetings in the past six months, both at local Rabobanks and at the central Special Asset Management department. Their purpose is to invite business clients to share their experiences with Special Asset Management, the department that provides support to business clients in financial distress.

Room to air emotions

The meetings, which addressed a range of issues, saw several clients express their appreciation for the depth of industry knowledge displayed by department employees and the detailed explanations they regularly provide on rules and regulations. However, they took a more critical view of the department in other areas. For one, some felt they were not given sufficient opportunity to express their emotions in meetings, while many clients are also not sure what to expect when they first enter into an arrangement with Special Asset Management.

Off to a poor start

'It just goes to show how important it is to check in with our clients on a regular basis to see how we are doing in terms of the services we provide,' says Special Asset Management Team Leader Bert Winnemuller. 'Of course, it's nice to be complimented on the things we happen to get right, but there is clearly some room for improvement. We have taken the feedback to heart and are working on turning things around. We are aware that we will need to make some further changes in that arena. Clients should be completely clear on what to expect when they are first invited for a meeting with our department. Unfortunately, it has turned out that this is not always the case, which means we are already at a disadvantage when going into that initial meeting. These are not easy meetings to have with clients at the best of times, and these kinds of communication hiccups only end up making things more awkward for all parties involved.'

Opportunities for improvement

So how does the department intend to up its game? Winnemuller: 'We will need to provide more information on our website, and this information needs to be clearer and more detailed. We will also make some changes, where needed, to the content of the leaflet on special asset management we provide to our clients. And we will explain to clients exactly what they can expect before their initial meeting with our people. We will also continue to invest in our personal skills and the relationship with our clients, so that we can do a better job working with them, including in these special asset management processes.'

On their toes

Rabobank plans to ask clients for feedback more regularly, so as to be able to learn from both positive and negative experiences and improve its services on an ongoing basis. 'The feedback meetings we conduct with clients about our services keep us on our toes and are enlightening in terms of the insights they provide. In virtually all Rabobank business units, people are taking the time to listen to customer feedback, which we feel is one of the responsibilities of a cooperative organisation such as ours.'

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