Petra Hoeken and Marthe Oudega nominated in the ‘Top Woman of the Year 2017’ elections

In 2014, Rabobank signed the ‘Talent to the Top’ Charter. It was an important step towards greater focus on the flow of women to top positions. In the last three years, Rabobank has made great progress in this.

The progress is visible in the new Executive Committee that took up its appointment on 1 September 2017. There are four women and six men on this Executive Committee. One of the four members of the new Executive Committee is Petra van Hoeken, Chief Risk Officer at Rabobank and one of the finalists in ‘Top Woman of the Year 2017’. As well as Petra, Rabobank has another candidate in the elections, Marthe Oudega, Manager of Private Banking at Rabobank Emmen-Coevorden. Marthe was nominated for the ‘Young Talent Award’ in these elections, an incentive award for young female talent younger than 31 years. The jury is not only taking into consideration results achieved, but also daring, ambition and leadership style. The way in which the candidates deploy these qualities in order to function as role models is decisive in the choice of the winners. Petra and Marthe talk about the elections.

How did the nomination for the ‘Young Talent Award’ come about?

‘My manager Roland Welles believes that I make a difference as a rising talent, because I direct my teams from a position of authenticity and make connections easily,’ says Marthe. ‘In addition, I’ve also achieved a positive trend in the team results within our bank, in a short period of time.’ Petra suspects that on the one hand, the nomination is a result of the good diversity policy that Wiebe Draijer implements as Rabobank CEO. ‘He is seriously committed to improving the male-female balance at the executive level. On a broader scale, Rabobank as a company is also seriously committed to the diversity theme. On the other hand, my career is diverse and international, so I’ve been proactive for a long time in promoting diversity in the broad sense of the word. I am completely convinced that we need diverse teams in order to make good decisions.’

Making connections

But how do you go about achieving that? Petra: ‘With respect to gender diversity, I always work very consciously on linking women inside and outside of the organisation. That’s important, because we’re working on regaining the trust of our customers. That’s why we’re building a proactive and enterprising culture, embracing change, and looking forward. This is all aimed at creating a more future-proof bank with better customer service. That transition process can only succeed if the bank is well-informed and does not have tunnel vision. Diversity is very important in that. Different types of people bring different qualities and perspectives with them. The male-female combination is very important in that. We are extremely committed to this cultural transformation. I’m really happy to be receiving recognition for this. And one of the means by which you can make the organisation more diverse is by forging cross-links between women. That’s why I’ve been organising lunches with female colleagues for years. At Rabobank, I’ve regularly attended meetings of the women’s network RaboWomen, and I have telephone meetings with women in other countries. We also have a WhatsApp group with around 35 women at executive level. We use this to brainstorm with each other outside of the hierarchy. These are all efforts to connect women and get more women into executive positions.’

Marthe: ‘I make those same connections at my level too. I’m a member of Young Rabo, the Rabobank youth network, and I try to create a diverse team. This is not only with respect to the male-female ratio, but also with respect to cultural diversity. I recently recruited a new colleague with a Dutch-Turkish background. When you do that, you do have to do away with prejudices among people. But I pay attention to competencies in my recruitment and selection. It doesn’t matter whether someone is a man or a woman, has a different cultural background or works in a different sector.’

Proud

Petra: I’ve been Chief Risk Officer for more than a year now, and a member of Rabobank’s Board of Directors. With more than 3500 Compliance Legal and Risk colleagues spread over five continents, we work really hard to integrate and further professionalise the different, previously separate functions of Compliance, Legal and Risk. With respect to women, I’m proud to have doubled the number of women in my own management team from two to four. Within Compliance, Legal and Risk, we are well above the diversity target of 25%. I’m really happy with the nomination and hope to win the title of Top Woman of the Year, because I would like to make myself available as an “example” to help women and to advise, both inside and outside of Rabobank.’
‘At first, I felt a bit uneasy,’ says Marthe. ‘After all, there’s so much female talent younger than 31 years at Rabobank. So my first reaction was: “How come I get to represent Rabobank?” But after all the positive reactions from my team and from colleagues around the country, I’m really proud. Our nominations also offer the organisation an extra opportunity to take new steps in diversity. I hope that our nominations also inspire other female colleagues.’
Petra finds it ‘strange, actually’ that Marthe felt uneasy at first. ‘I see that often among women. They sometime diminish themselves. Many women unnecessarily sell themselves short! I’ve worked in different international companies on three continents. It’s very normal in other places for women to be in executive positions. In the Netherlands, that’s still unusual, unfortunately. That’s why I believe that in the Netherlands in particular, we really have to make progress in getting more women into executive and directorate positions in business. As Rabobank, we are fortunately making good steps forward in a number of places.’

As far as Petra is concerned, Marthe should just continue to take those steps. ‘Keep learning in depth and ensure that you learn all of the aspects of business management in the organisation, both in the front office and back office. For your personal development, my advice to you and other young women is to be courageous, dare to express your ambitions out loud, and go for them! Trust in your qualities and don’t hold yourself back. Even if you have a family, there are enough opportunities to combine your work with your family without having to make concessions with respect to your ambitions.’

Petra van Hoeken, married and mother of 3 children, is Chief Risk Officer at Rabobank since 1 April 2016 and a member of the Board of Directors. Petra has years of experience in the field of risk management in the banking sector. From the end of 2011 to 2016, she was member of the Board of Directors of NIBC as Chief Risk Officer. From 2008 to 2011, she worked at RBS as Chief Risk Officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with her focus being on credit, market, operational and regulatory risk and compliance. Prior to that, she held various commercial and risk positions in the international network at ABN AMRO. Petra is also a commissioner for, among others, the Nederlandse Waterschapsbank.

Marthe Oudega has been Manager of Private Banking at Rabobank Emmen-Coevorden since June 2017. Prior to that, she was Manager of Financial Advice at the same local Rabobank. She started with the organisation in 2012, with a bank-wide Traineeship. During her studies, Marthe worked as a business leader in the hospitality industry. Marthe is the treasurer of the Northern Regional Team of Jong Rabo (the network for employees younger than 36 years).