Doing the right things and doing them right
Arjanne Creemers, CFO COO5 January 2019 | Finance and Risk When people ask me if I enjoy working for a bank I always reply: you bet! In 2002 I was working as an external contractor on some Rabobank projects, which I was keen to complete. So I switched to a permanent position, and to date I have absolutely no regrets. There’s a lot going on in the banking sector.
We’re completely immersed in the digitalization process, which has huge consequences for the company and for our commercial objectives. Customers are looking for low-cost services, so the question is: what are the right products to offer which will continue to turn a profit? We used to work more on instinct but these days we’re increasingly data-driven. We look at the past and apply automation to that knowledge to anticipate trends. It’s known as predictive analytics. Using scenario analysis we identify different options with a primary focus on the financial aspects. Rabobank has a wide range of products and many different types of customers, not all of them mainstream, which makes things more complex but really interesting as well.’
Keep everyone focused
‘What I enjoy most about my role as Chief Financial Officer, is the fact that Control has a total overview. Rabobank is a huge company and we see and hear a great deal. Often we are amongst the first departments to learn about new developments and we are willing and able to make connections between the different business units. For instance, if we are planning extensive digitalization we don’t just ask what that means for our customers, but also how it affects the way we do things inside the company. We use our knowledge primarily to offer good advice, to encourage cooperation and be alert to opportunities. It’s also up to us to keep everybody focused on costs and revenues, since that’s the foundation of commercial success.
It’s a shame that Control has a bit of an image problem. People tend to think that it’s full of geeks obsessed with models. We have people who love models, and that’s fine, but you don’t have to be a math genius to do this work. You need to have guts and be prepared to translate spreadsheets into action. You especially need very good advisory skills, and you need to be a good listener and ask questions that may make people uncomfortable. So you ask critical questions, but also encourage people to reflect and to act. Like: “These are the figures, now tell me the story behind them and what you’re planning to do.” Personally, I never limit my involvement to the financial aspects only. In the Management Team I also take an active part in discussions on quality or employee engagement.’
Passion and fascination
‘I’m a female CFO in a man’s world. The banking industry is pretty much a male bastion too. I would love to have more women in my team. We need to rebalance the macho image and women are often better at making connections. It really is a shame that women can’t seem to imagine themselves working happily in this world. Or they think that Rabobank is not interested in them. We are! If you are passionate about doing the right things and doing them right. If you’re someone with the guts to take a step into the unknown, then you’ll fit right in. And certainly if you’re fascinated by how a company like Rabobank can transform itself from a traditional bank into a modern digital service provider. I simply can’t believe that a woman would deny herself that opportunity. If you look at me, or the female members of our Managing Board, you see women who truly want to make a difference and make Rabobank that bit better. And the bank gives us space to achieve that. You are always encouraged to ask questions here, and there are endless opportunities for people who show initiative and are eager to learn. And if you want to have some women-only time, the RaboWomen network is the place to be. We help each other, sometimes with tips for more gutsy presentation, but mostly by exchanging best practice and looking at questions in detail. The network sessions are accessible and interesting and mostly work-related.
We challenge where necessary, we contribute where possible. That’s the stated ambition at Control. I’d advise any woman who questions whether she’s capable of working at Rabobank to listen to Pippi Longstocking, who always says: “I’ve never done it, so I think I can.”