Banking on the future

Recognising that technological advances and shifting customer behaviour are powerful drivers of change, Dutch banking institution ING Netherlands is undergoing a restructuring process that, in part, is inspired by the business models of fast-moving technology–driven firms. Nick Jue, CEO of ING Netherlands and an RSM alumnus (Bedrijfswetenschappen doctoraal 1989), explains.


Russell Gilbert: ING Netherlands has embarked on what is a substantial restructuring plan. Why is this?

Nick Jue: We are no longer competing with ABN AMRO, Rabobank or HSBC. We are competing with Google, Facebook, crowdfunding platforms and bitcoins. To remain relevant to our customers we have to be quicker to innovate. This calls for an enormous change in the way we work, our organisation, and in our corporate culture. We have gone from being a traditional bank that went through quite an ordeal during the crisis to a modern bank that innovates quickly and responds to the demands and needs of customers and technological changes in the market in a relevant way.

In relation to that, you’ve been quoted as saying that you want to develop a flexible and responsive organisation modelled on technology-driven firms like Google, Netflix and Spotify. What inspiration do they provide and how applicable are they given the differences between their offerings and the world of banking?

We took a close look at successful companies with pioneering business models, such as Netflix, Google and Spotify. An innovative, disruptive culture is almost a given for these companies and for start-ups that have yet to make a name for themselves. This just does not happen automatically at an institution like a bank. Innovation is a bottom-up process that can only succeed if the top of the organisation is open to it and leads by example – and if it provides room and trust for failure. It’s not just about another structure but also, and more specifically, about another culture.

In the context of the restructuring, you’ve referred to the need for “omnichannel communication”. What is this and why is it necessary?

It should no longer matter whether you do your banking affairs with ING via the mobile banking app, by phone or at an ING office. The customer experience has to be the same, so we are focusing on an omnichannel approach. With omnichannel, “borders” between channels cease to exist. All our channels will be better aligned and our customers will notice that our service and advice are better tailored to their needs. Implementing changes in our products and services based on customer feedback and in an omnichannel way calls for a different organisation, a different way of working and change in our corporate culture.

ING has made a considerable redundancies over the last two or three years. How are you approaching issues of morale and motivation? At the same time, how are you approaching the very real challenge of ensuring the remaining workforce is supportive of the proposed changes?

Regrettably, we had to say goodbye to colleagues. During this restructuring process we continue to connect with all our colleagues. By listening to them and showing them what we are doing and why, step by step during the process, we can explain the necessity of the restructuring, the impact on a personal level, and how we are supporting our colleagues. It’s essential that you continue to invest in both colleagues that are a part of the new organisation and those who have to leave. You have to be a trusted and reliable partner in such a process.

Relative to creating a new corporate culture, what is the “Orange Code” and what does it convey?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just about another structure. It’s also, and more specifically, about another culture. The new culture has been described in what we call the Orange Code. Three principles are central to this:

1) You take it on and make it happen.

2) You help others to be successful.

3) You are always a step ahead.

It’s a culture of wanting to help one another, of daring and doing. This cannot be achieved overnight. It has to be implemented in every aspect. And you have to change the workplace and bid farewell to traditional status symbols.

How will you know if the restructuring is a success?

Of course, it’s about our customers. They are very vocal and, for sure, let us know if we are fulfilling their needs and demands or not. So we have to provide them with relevant, innovative, financial solutions that help them to stay a step ahead in life and business. That’s our purpose.

Thank you very much.

This article was first published in RSM Outlook summer 2016. You can download RSM Outlook here.


RSM Outlook , 2016 Summer RSM Outlook