How a banker helped build a unique children’s hospital

Derk Graver, Senior Customer Relationship Manager Corporate Clients

‘In 2018, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands officially opened the children’s cancer hospital in Utrecht that was named after her. The hospital combines all aspects of pediatric oncology care and research. As part of Rabobank, I was privileged to help make the hospital a reality.’

Corporate relationships

‘How do we turn our vision of a world-class pediatric oncology hospital and research center into a reality? And how do we arrange the funding?’ That two-pronged challenge came my way in 2011. Why did it land on my desk? As senior customer relationship manager Corporate Clients, I am the first point of contact at Rabobank for firms with a turnover of between 100 and 250 million euros in the central region of the Netherlands. My portfolio includes healthcare facilities because these often face the same challenges and product needs as large corporations.’

A beautiful dream

‘I quickly realized this was no regular request, but a once-in-a-lifetime project. A pediatric oncology center had never been set up before in the Netherlands, so we were starting from scratch. Everything was still to be decided. The team behind the Princess Máxima Center (PMC) clearly had a beautiful dream. But I thought that turning it into a bricks-and-mortar reality could be very challenging and complex. And that’s exactly how it turned out.

I spoke with the project team on a regular basis and with the future directors. As well as dealing with complex funding issues, I advised them on a range of other decisions. What partners and contracts would they need? What were the requirements for the new financial governance? What were the cost implications of new build versus redevelopment of an existing facility?’

An extensive team

‘My previous experience as a consultant was certainly a great advantage in collaborative thinking and advising the client. I also had the support of a professional team at Rabobank, including a funding expert specialized in the care sector. We can grow or shrink this team to meet a customer’s exact needs and wishes. For the Princess Máxima Center, for example, we received invaluable support from the local Rabobank in Utrecht and from care sector specialists with in-depth knowledge of developments in the sector.

Slowly but surely a trusted relationship developed. Once the Board of Directors was at full strength from mid-2015, the project really started to take shape. Still, I must admit there were moments I thought the dream might never become a reality. It was a pioneering project, which meant we needed to resolve some sizeable and complex issues.’

Making a difference

‘At the construction contract signing in late 2015, the Princess Máxima Center publicly acknowledged that the center couldn’t have been achieved without Rabobank’s help. That was a great moment. I was grateful for the opportunity to work on such an innovative healthcare project that will have such a positive impact on children’s lives. I don’t think I would have been given that opportunity at any other organization. After all, the main purpose of listed companies is to earn maximum returns. Because Rabobank is also a cooperative, it offers the space to work on initiatives simply because they will make a difference. My manager never asked me, “What is this project actually earning us?” or challenged me on the number of hours I spent on the Princess Máxima Center project. Rabobank employs people who are willing to contribute their know-how to find out how to build a better world with our customers. The Princess Máxima Center is a great example. We are funding a world-class oncology center whose mission is to cure every child with cancer with the best possible quality of life. That’s about as socially engaged as it gets.’