How risk impacts the bank, our customers and society

Karen Brummel, international project manager Credit Modeling Advisory

‘I’ve always wanted to give something back to society in my career. It’s actually one of the reasons I had never considered working for a bank. Well, not until Rabobank approached me 18 months ago to see if I was interested in a challenging role in an international setting. I found myself pleasantly surprised during the job interviews, most of all by the great atmosphere and company culture.’

Why we do what we do

‘The media often features negative stories about banks, but in reality they play a key role in society. Rabobank for one has not shirked its responsibilities. It’s more than a code of conduct, it’s a work culture that’s continually being fostered with so much positive energy. That culture ensures everyone here is 100 percent aware of why we do what we do and who we do it for. I was convinced I wanted to work here as soon as the overall picture became clear: a challenging, international job that emphasizes collaboration and community involvement.’

Helping farmers carry risk

‘My department, Group Credit Risk Models, builds and maintains models for the whole of Rabobank. We are continually improving them, adjusting them to take into account the bank’s objectives, societal changes and strict regulations as these evolve. Right now I’m working on a project for our international agricultural customers through the Rural Development Mission. Did you know Rabobank is one of the biggest agri-food banks globally? We calculate the risks involved in different credit facilities on behalf of farmers around the world. These vary from business loans to leasing agricultural equipment and buying land, seed, cattle or feed. Anything and everything to do with running a farm.

This is a long-term project. First of all, we need ten years’ worth of data to build a reliable model. Obtaining the data from the different countries is one thing, extrapolating meaning from them is another one entirely. Farmers are farmers, of course, but they are affected by totally different factors depending on whether they live in Chile, Australia or the Netherlands. Connecting different data so that we can draw intelligent inferences from them is a huge challenge. You need extremely complex algorithms and statistics, plus numerous iterations and validations.’

 

Driven by impact

‘In my role as project manager and consultant, I help apply that complex material to the real world. The model is used for 14 crucial processes within the bank. One of my jobs is ensuring everyone understands it and knows how to apply it. My manager and I work closely together, and I help her lead a 34-strong team. Our colleagues come from all corners of the world. They are all fantastic, highly intelligent people – I learn from them every day. I have a Master’s in International Relations, but my coworkers may have a PhD in Astronomy or Physics. We work in a truly unique, international environment.

I think ours is one of the bank’s most dynamic departments. That’s partly because we work independently from the rest of the bank, but also because our impact is so big. That makes it stimulating – and demanding. Having a sound bank that deals prudently with capital and risk management depends on us doing our jobs well. Making sure we do our calculations even more accurately could mean that we can offer our customers better service and invest more in society. That’s important to me personally and drives our team as a whole.’

 

How coffee can help build a better world

‘Next to doing my paid work, I am a proud ambassador for Rabobank Foundation’s Employee Fund. The Foundation is mainly focused on supporting farmers in developing countries who don’t have access to financial services, like the woman selling mangoes by the side of the road. It aims to unite farmers in cooperatives and empower them with knowledge and financial services. The coffee served here at Rabobank headquarters is grown by farmers who have received that kind of support. ‘We’re building a better world, one cup of coffee at a time,’ I say when telling my story as ambassador. Not so much to raise more money, but to inspire my colleagues. To connect more coworkers to the role the bank plays in communities worldwide. It really adds an extra dimension to the satisfaction I get from my job.’

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