A share in building stronger communities

People’s health and prosperity for a large part depend on their living and working environment. While strengthening local communities is down to personal initiative, local Rabobanks across the Netherlands can actively support their customers, as Rabobank’s Cooperative Banking Manager Jan Driessen explains.

One of the three key elements of Rabobank’s cooperative-based customer services in the Netherlands is its participation in networks. This is how the bank strengthens the work and living environment of its customers. Other elements include the digitisation of services and providing personal advice to customers across a variety of channels.

Why is Rabobank, as a bank, interested in strengthening customers’ work and living environment?

Driessen: ‘We feel it is all part of our role as a service provider. Besides managing payments and providing funding and other financial services, we also want to contribute to building a better future for us all. We provide our customers with finance or other services, so it is in our interest to see them perform well: when they thrive, so do we. The desire to play a wider role in society and make a difference is rooted in the ideas and values of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, one of the founding fathers of the cooperative. Those values involve promoting responsibility, self-reliance, self-sufficiency and the primacy of the common good over short-term individual interests.’

How do present-day local Rabobanks in the Netherlands practise and promote these values?

‘Our customers expect us to play an active role without assuming the initiative, and that is consistent with our own philosophy as well. When it comes to working together to make improvements, we feel customers need to take personal initiative. This is where our members – including those of the local Rabobank’s Member Council – come in: they are active in their local community, are aware of people’s issues and concerns, and know they can contact their local Rabobank if they need support.

Our professionals are knowledgeable in a wide range of areas, including the domestic and local economies, business sectors across the economy, and agriculture and food chains.

We also use our strong local networks to bring people together. Rabobank has a larger local presence than any other organisation in the Netherlands, and most people who work at the local banks are based in the area. Some local Rabobanks also provide facilities to the local community, such as providing meeting space for local business associations.’

What are some of the key issues for local Rabobanks in the Netherlands today?

‘Those issues and priorities really vary depending on the individual bank, since people’s needs and circumstances tend to differ wherever you go. The strength of the local Rabobanks lies in their ability to meet those specific needs.

One thing all local Rabobanks have in common is their interest in improving the working environment of their customers and strengthening the local economy. They want to help people build better communities, with a strong focus on housing and healthcare. Exercise and a healthy diet are certainly part of that as well, and promoting a healthy lifestyle is consistent with Rabobank’s role as an international bank with leading expertise in agriculture and the food supply chain. We also plan to give members greater control over how the cooperative dividends of their local Rabobanks are distributed. Dividends are the portion of the profit allocated to fund local projects.’  

How will all these efforts pay off?

‘You cannot always put a tangible value on these sorts of initiatives, but they should ultimately help create healthy local communities. In practice, this means reducing the amount of vacant office space and deterioration in business parks, improving the business environment, helping to build modern and vibrant urban shopping areas, promoting a sense of community across society through cooperation in neighbourhoods in major cities, improving job opportunities for young people and supplying households with sustainable energy. All these developments benefit society and our customers and we know we are doing things right if we can contribute to them in some way.’

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