Using models and data analysis to make dreams reality

Willem Vonk, Head Treasury Advisory

10 January 2019 | Data and Modeling ‘A couple that wants to live together needs a house. Someone with a great business idea needs money. People approach a bank because they have a specific wish. We use analytics to get to know Rabobank’s customers so well that we can make better products to fulfil that wish.’

Predicting customer behavior

‘The essence of my work is to make dreams come true. Customer behavior is continuously changing—at lightning speed—which implies a certain level of uncertainty. Since advanced data analytics and modelling increase our knowledge of interest and liquidity risks on products and on the balance sheet, they reduce uncertainty. Put simply: more certainty means a lower price for customers. And less uncertainty doesn’t just bring a customer price benefit, it’s also important for the bank’s continuity. Optimizing the balance risk positions and taking account of the sensitivity of the different variables is known as Asset Liability Management (ALM). My team uses quantitative insights to “mount a challenge” to the bank’s strategic direction. My job is not client-facing, instead I operate from what is known as the “second line.” My team and I have an influence on the products that Rabobank offers and the price that customers pay for them.’

Financial inclusion in Uganda

‘As an employer, Rabobank gives you opportunities and encourages you to be entrepreneurial. As an employee, you are given lots of freedom to grow and to determine what you do, but you must show initiative to achieve this. And that takes courage. That’s how I managed to get to Uganda to work for Rabo Partnerships. The technical assistance, which Rabo Partnerships provides to partner banks in developing countries, helps them to become more professional.

Compared to the Netherlands, in Uganda fewer people have access to the financial system, but they still have dreams that could come true with the help of a bank. By sharing our knowledge and experience—in my case on Risk, Finance and ALM—we help our partner banks give more people the opportunity to make their dreams reality through proper funding. That’s what we call financial inclusion.

I find it extremely rewarding to apply everything I’ve learned at Rabobank in Uganda: I make models, perform analysis and give advice. But the best and most important thing is that my colleagues in the partner bank learn how to do it themselves at a certain point. Whenever I hear a local specialist giving an enthusiastic explanation of the new commercial pricing model to colleagues it fills me with pride and gives me enormous satisfaction.’

The formula for success

‘If you want to make the world a little bit better and develop your talents, Rabobank is a great place to be. My team is a good example. Everybody knows why we do what we do. We are all deeply committed to the business and to the customer. What we do really means something to people, whether they’re in Uganda, the Netherlands or elsewhere. That’s a deeply held belief and I’m very proud of it.

We are also an extremely diverse group of people with complementary talents and skills. You can really be yourself here. As a team leader I try to create an open culture in which we learn from each other. It’s the combination of different personalities and mutual respect that is the foundation of our success as a team. We take people’s good qualities and make them better and learn to deal with our faults. The formula for success is being yourself, focusing on your good qualities and contributing to a higher purpose.’

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