The Work of the Control Monitoring Officer: The Art of Asking the Right Question

Sabina became interested in the field of Risk Management as a student. As a Second Line Control Monitoring Officer, she knows all about risks within Rabobank's processes. “My position sounds like a controller, but I'm there to help departments move forward: bad news is actually good news!”

From FEC to Risk

“After studying Financial Economics, I joined Rabobank in the Financial Economic Crime (FEC) department. I found the work fascinating, but something was missing. I wanted to help people progress; that gives me energy. I like working with numbers and logic. People tend to assess a risk based on feelings. But if you look at the ratio between how often something occurs and what the impact is, you can make that feeling visible in figures. I find that very interesting.”

“I had taken some courses on Risk Management during my degree that really appealed to me, so I wanted to find out if it would suit me. I went to find out what the work entails, and how varied my day would be. With these types of questions in mind, I contacted Rabobank’s coaching program, where you get support for your personal and professional development. I told my coach—who was also a Risk manager—that I wanted to work internationally and with people. That conversation led me to Operational Risk Management.”

Making Risks Manageable

“My responsibility as Second Line Control Monitoring Officer is to improve Rabobank’s Risk & Control Framework. To this end, I visit various departments within the bank every quarter to assess their controls. Controls are procedures or control measures to mitigate risks. They do not eliminate the risk, but they do limit the impact and/or frequency with which these events might occur within a department.”

“I visit all sorts of departments. From the dealing room and its multiple locations in different countries, to HR at headquarters in Utrecht. For all these departments—local and international—my challenge is to understand what their responsibilities are so I can identify operational risks that might occur in their processes. I check whether the existing controls are still correctly designed and working as intended. I immerse myself in the process: how does it work, how are processes connected, what safeguards are in place? I then discuss the outcomes and adjustment measures with the department.”

Making an Impact

“People sometimes see Operational Risk Management as the controller within Rabobank. I can understand that; it’s not nice to be told you’re not doing things right. But I’m there to help. I try to present my feedback as positively and constructively as possible so that it is clear what the department will gain from it. I am their sparring partner: I provide strategic advice to make risks manageable and optimize Rabobank’s Risk & Control Framework. What energizes me and makes me feel appreciated is when the department understands how they can build on my feedback.”

“The most challenging jobs for me are assessing controls for high, complex risks. For example, investors need to be notified when the stock market suddenly drops rapidly. Checking these kinds of controls and whether they are being applied correctly is important for society, and we really make an impact in that way.”

Development and Culture

“You get every opportunity to grow within Rabobank. With your personal development budget, for example, you can attend training and professional courses. For example, I took a course on persuasion, where I learned how to deliver both bad and good news and how to substantiate it. And at FEC I learned to write using the inverted pyramid structure: first the conclusion, then the arguments and only then the facts. I presented the method to my new team at Risk and to other teams because it works so well for us.”

“Because an important part of my work is having conversations, the art is really to ask the right questions. Being curious is not enough, you really have to know how to bring the relevant answers to the surface. Then I have to give good, constructive feedback on the process of why something is or is not satisfactory. Through storytelling, I now know how to convey a story with clarity and integrity.”

“Fortunately, there is an open atmosphere at Rabobank. It is easy to talk to people, everyone is willing to help you, and you quickly build a network. Not everything is about work: contributing to a better world is just as important. The culture wasn’t the reason I joined Rabobank, but it’s one of the reasons I’m staying.”