Management team Rabo Schretlen Assets Management: a nice ‘mixed palette’

Various research, including by McKinsey, reveals that diversity is better for the performance of an organisation, that diverse teams perform better and more innovation and creativity arises from teams with a more diverse composition. The outcomes from all of this research show that we need to combine the strengths of both men and women. The combination of the differences ensures better leadership, more innovation and creativity, and more enthusiastic employees.

Nieke Martens is the director of Rabo Schretlen Assets Management. As manager, she has consciously assembled a very diverse management team. Rabo Schretlen Assets Management achieves good commercial results and the customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are increasing. This makes it a case of successful diversity policy within Rabobank. What is the use of diversity for Nieke Martens as manager?

Mixed palette

‘My management team forms a great “mixed palette”,’ says Nieke. ‘The team consists of four women and five men. Each team member has a different work background. The ages of the team members vary from 30 to 50 years. In addition, there is also a great variety at the personal level: we have a director with a Dutch-Turkish background, a homosexual director, and a number of managers have families while others don’t. The team members also have widely varying personalities. The hobbies and interests of my MT also vary widely.
I believe in diversity. That’s why I explicitly sought out my team members on the basis of diversity during the selection process. I’m convinced that this helps us reach better decisions. Furthermore, it’s also very pleasant to experience the flow in such a diverse team.’

According to Nieke, it was not difficult to fill the positions on the management team on the basis of diversity. ‘However, it does require that you make a conscious choice not to go for the “standard candidates”, but to consciously look at who is both a good candidate for the position and who complements the rest of the team members well. Human Resources was really helpful in this selection process. The quality of the candidates was first and foremost in the selection process. As soon as a candidate demonstrated that he or she could meet the quality requirements, we looked to see whether the candidate brought an additional dimension as well.’

Benefits of diversity

Nieke: ‘A substantial benefit of a mixed team is that we can approach a problem from multiple perspectives. Because everyone has a different background, you notice that. A colleague sometimes comes up with a solution for relevant problems that I hadn’t even thought of. This is also reflected in good, substantive discussions. In this way, we really complement each other. In addition, the foundation is based on trust, which I experience fully in my team. We value each other. Everyone feels that they have the space to be themselves. If you feel good about yourself at work, then your customers feel that too. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s no coincidence that both employee and customer satisfaction are increasing.’

But are there also disadvantages? Nieke: ‘The broad diversity in the Management Team also means that there is a wide variety of opinions. In the short term, this can mean that decision-making takes longer, but in the long term the decisions are better thought out. Sometimes the opinions in the Management Team vary widely, leading to vigorous discussions. We have agreed that we will stand behind our decisions collectively. Personally, I enjoy the discussions, otherwise it just becomes boring. As they say, “you don’t get something to shine without friction”. We’re experiencing the shine on a daily basis. We’ve had a fantastic year on all levels: commercial results, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. I’m really proud of my team, it’s very exciting to put such different personalities together and really great to be able to celebrate successes with all of the teams. We do have to publicise our very successful diversity policy a little more within the organisation, however. Customers value the fact that we dare to be different, and it often leads to great discussions.’

When asked whether she has a good tip for a manager who’s still hesitating about the added value of a diverse team, Nieke replies: ‘“Just do it” is my motto for life. You can talk a lot about diversity and whether or not it works and how. My experience has been: just do it, and reap the rewards!’