The formula for success? Data, innovation and the right mindset

Anne Friedrich, Business Controller Local Banks

‘There is so much knowledge and skill in Finance & Risk. Rabobank's strength is its ability to bring them together within and across departments. The will and the dedication to get good results and make improvements are crucial.’

Supporting one hundred and one banks

‘What started as a summer job entering data has turned into an 18-year career at Rabobank. In all those years, I’ve completed several courses and had lots of room to grow and develop. I’ve had a number of positions at local banks and since 2017, I’ve worked as Business Controller Local Banks in the Utrecht headquarters. What our team does is monitor the performance of Rabobank’s 101 local banks in the Netherlands. That’s the short version. 

Our office at Rabobank headquarters supports the local banks, who are responsible for direct contact with customers. This requires intensive liaising with all the banks’ business partners.  We write progress reports and try to draw lessons from banks that are performing well. We try to share and apply what we learn throughout Rabobank. We also head up discussions with the bank’s regional supervisors.’

Data and human added value

‘At its core, Finance & Risk is defined by its thoughtful and fact-based approach to decision-making. It’s my job to collect and analyze data, and then to translate that into practical information that can be used to steer and improve our organization. I spend a lot of time with numbers, but my job gives me a lot of room for freedom, creativity and personal contact. It’s important to interpret data correctly, find meaningful connections, and be able to advise people about what it means. It’s complicated, but that makes it challenging and really enjoyable. We focus so much on innovation too, which makes our work fascinating. We are always looking for new techniques and methods to improve data and to automate repetitive tasks as much as possible.

This past year, some colleagues and I researched whether we could use robotics to improve our progress reporting, which we used to do manually.  We would compile data from various systems and try to deliver the report to the bank as fast as possible. It was always an enormous task, but now the software does it for us.  A robot can complete the processing in a single night—a job that used to take nine people three days. The advantage of this is that we can focus our attention on the human side of the job, like brainstorming with colleagues and advising them about the results. That’s our added value. We also have more time now to write supplementary or more detailed analyses. Robotics and other similar types of innovation are truly wonderful developments; they can also be applied to many contexts, just look at the huge number of reports being produced.’

Doing meaningful work together

‘At Rabobank we are strongly committed to cooperation. The success of our robotics project attests to our team’s cross-functionality. When you work here, you’re encouraged to seek solutions in other departments instead of sticking to your own familiar one. And then you really get a glimpse of all the expertise, knowledge and skills we have under the one company roof. People with backgrounds in different disciplines tend to generate new insight. When you work together, you can achieve incredible results, often in a relatively short time. You just have to get the right people together. Local banks also perform this role of bringing people together. Rabobank’s local network is actually gigantic; there is always a huge variety of people at the table.  That is our strength.

The motivation that everyone shares to change and improve things together, you can almost feel it. It’s in the air, and such a great purpose to share.  Sometimes discussions can get pretty heated, but that’s also part of what makes it exciting. You’re challenged to take today’s results and improve on them tomorrow. It’s really the best way to get somewhere: together. That’s progress.

That mindset of wanting to do something meaningful extends beyond the bank too. In our department for example, we try to support entrepreneurs who are giving something back to their local communities. I don’t mean by sponsoring them, but helping them because that’s our job: sharing our knowledge and experience. I am dedicated to working on this cause with a group of co-workers. After all, what works for us can also be applied elsewhere too. Together we simply know more, have more experience, and a larger network. At the moment, we are working with a business that’s growing so fast that the owner is becoming overwhelmed. One thing we are helping him with is streamlining his records and subsidy applications. It’s enjoyable and rewarding work.