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Rabobank embraces latest technological trends


Your sneakers, your game console controllers and even Velcro. We owe all three to a crisis: the Cold War. International crises are often a cradle for innovations. The current pandemic is no different. We share 4 new technological trends and show how the bank is using them.

Every year, the Rabobank Strategy & Innovation Hub publishes a trend report to identify and explain technological developments. And this year’s report is fuller than ever: the corona crisis is fueling innovations.  Robots are scanning us for signs of illness, companies are digitizing at a rapid pace, and online platforms are sharing data to quickly detect corona outbreak hotspots. Our existing society is being shaken up, and that has consequences for the future.

Roel Steenbergen is Technical Innovation Manager at the Rabobank Tech Lab and co-author of the report. He explains the importance of trend research: “The topics we identify in the report, along with fundamental technological developments, will become relevant in the near future. Some topics are already relevant today, such as privacy and data security. But a quantum computer is for many parties still a long way off.” Yet this is exactly the technology that Rabobank is looking at, according to Steenbergen. “As a bank, you need time to update your IT architecture. So it’s good to start looking to the future now.”

The signaling function of technology

Rabobank’s Strategy & Innovation Hub writes the annual trend report to inspire and as an invitation to discuss the possibilities. Roel describes a pilot project: “Together with CDD specialists, a health insurer and TU Delft, we conducted a pilot project on the use of new technology in the field of CDD. In this pilot we very deliberately used the methodology of Value Sensitive Design. This ensures that the bank’s values, such as data integrity and privacy, are included in the pilot. In this way, you are working with new technology while taking into account the bank’s standards and values.”

Roel Steenbergen emphasizes that technology has a signaling function in many activities, “At most it can give you the indication that something needs to be investigated. But you still need people to do the research and draw the right conclusions. Technology can’t do that on its own.”

The topics featured in the report are privacy & security, sustainability, innovation in agriculture and trust in an open society.

Topic 1: Privacy and security

People are increasingly concerned about privacy. In a society that is becoming more and more digitized, the number of data-driven organizations is growing. Their business model is that your data is worth money to advertisers. Through increasingly sophisticated technology, that data can be obtained. With or without your explicit consent. As a bank, we are looking for a better balance between technological advances and the protection of private data.

For example, the Blockchain team is working on the Identity Wallet. A mobile application that allows users to store important documents locally, from diplomas to mortgage agreements and travel details. With the Identity Wallet, the user controls the documents and what happens to them.

We also help elementary school teach children about the dangers of the online world with a game called HackShield, developed by the Rabo Foundation (among others). Children are trained as “cybercrime agents”. The aim is to familiarise them with the dangers of the online world at a young age.

Topic 2: Sustainability as the only option

Every company should have sustainability at the top of their agenda. They should strive to reduce their carbon footprint to the absolute minimum. The good news is that more and more technological developments and applications have become available that can measure the sustainability of organizations.

Rabobank recently launched Carbon Credits. The aim of this digital currency is to create a new way of farming, reduce the world food problem and contribute to climate goals.

Roland van der Vorst, Head of Innovation at Rabobank, explains the initiative: “The innovative aspect of our Carbon Credits program is that we are investigating the possibility of measuring the CO2 storage capacity of planted trees in real time. We then turn these into tradable credits. Together with our specialists, we are investigating how to create a sustainable marketplace, from which both the farmer and the bank can profit.”

It's all about trust and working together even better
Roel Steenbergen, Technical Innovator Manager Tech Lab

Topic 3: Innovation in agriculture.

The introduction of cheaper smartphones and improved connectivity in remote areas is enabling many developing countries to make huge technological progress. Especially in the field of agriculture. Rabo Foundation plays an important role in this.

Through pilot projects, the Foundation is helping to improve the entire agricultural chain. Pilot projects that use new technology to scan the soil for nutrients, for example, or streamline the entire workflow of vegetable growers. Platforms such as AgroCares, AgNext, IntelloLabs and FarmWise are transforming the agriculture industry. Rabobank continues to focus on the development of these platforms.

Topic 4: Trust in an open society

Companies and governments must regain the trust of society. People increasingly doubt the reliability of news sources or think censorship is taking place. Also, new software increases doubts about whether photos and videos are authentic. Algorithms are pulling the strings in everyday life, from our buying habits to voting choices to news reporting. Consumers are looking for more control over their personal data.

The relationship between technology, innovation and trust must change, according to the bank. Companies need to join forces and face the challenge to regain trust. Roel Steenbergen: “Trust is our most important asset. It’s all about trust and working together even better. This is reflected in all the discussions we have about these topics and technology”.

Together with KPN, Rabobank launched the ThinkTank ‘Innovation & Trust’, which also includes parties such as Achmea and Schiphol Group. The think tank’s goal is to design an innovation model with trust at its core. 
For example, the think tank wants to draw up a joint data manifesto, in which leading parties make clear how they collect data, how it is used and thereby make the solemn promise that the privacy of users is central throughout the process.

Fundamental technology in the financial sector

In addition to these trends, you can read the full report about 4 fundamental technology developments that will permanently change working in the financial sector: blockchain, tokenization, Privacy-Enhancing Technologies and Quantum Computing. If you want to know more about this, read the full Technology Trend Report 2021.