New Member Spotlight: ABN AMRO

Tuesday 30th March 2021

This month, we are delighted to welcome ABN AMRO to the Alliance network. ABN AMRO is a leading bank in the Netherlands in terms of market share; it also leads on taking a gender-lens approach to its banking and talent strategies. In this interview, CEO of Commercial Banking Daphne de Kluis and Senior Strategy Consultant Chantal Korteweg share how the bank is thinking about sustainability, gender balance and the post-COVID world. 


Alliance: ABN AMRO is one of the leading banks in the Netherlands with approximately a 25 percent share of the Dutch personal and corporate banking market and also a significant presence in wealth management across four countries. For the benefit of our global readership, can you share ABN AMRO’s overall strategic vision?  

ABN: ABN AMRO is one of the Netherlands’ leading banks. Our focus is on Northwest Europe. We provide banking services to retail, private and business clients. There are more than 19,000 ABN AMRO employees worldwide. Our vision is to be a personal bank in the digital age, serving clients in the Netherlands and Northwest Europe. Our strategy is based on our purpose: “banking for better, for generations to come.” Its aim is to build a better bank fit for the future – one able to adapt to a rapidly changing economic and social environment. In November 2020 we selected nine strategic differentiators, including diversity and equal opportunity. Social impact is one of 3 pillars in our sustainable strategy, which focuses on financial inclusion, supporting equal opportunities and financial resilience.

Alliance: It’s great that ABN has decided on diversity & inclusion and equal opportunity as one of its strategic differentiators and also has set ambitions on financial inclusion and financial resilience. Is taking a strategic approach to serving women part of this differentiation strategy?

ABN: Diversity and inclusion is crucial in order to be successful and serve our clients and stakeholders well. And we know that embracing diversity will lead to greater financial inclusion. Our diversity strategy targets people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds, of different genders, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity—with the aim of bringing true diversity of thought. This will lead to better decision-making for our stakeholders and make us a more attractive employer. It is our societal role and is supported by a compelling business case. 

We gained experience by organizing events and programs (for instance Fempower your Growth, an industry-wide program to connect the worlds of Dutch bankers and female entrepreneurs), and now we are ready to pursue a company-wide approach to banking through a gender lens. For our employees and our customers in all segments, including our value chain (procurement) and our (investment) policies.

Alliance: How are you thinking about segmenting the women’s market, and why those segments?

ABN: Women are not one big homogeneous group, so there’s no one solution. We need to cultivate a deep understanding of all groups in order to provide our clients — both women and men — with the services they want and need. 

That being said, it makes sense to pursue a (phased) bank-wide / holistic approach, looking at women of wealth, women as investors, women as consumers, women as entrepreneurs and women as employees.

Financial inclusion is a top priority, whether a person is an investor, runs their own business or is working to define and shape a legacy. Our female clients may be missing opportunities, perhaps because we’re not offering them those opportunities or because we don’t know them well enough. 

Many women in their sixties and seventies, for example, regret not having learned more about managing money earlier in life. We regularly see women who end up facing complex questions about their assets because they’ve gone through a divorce, they’ve outlived their partner, or they themselves are older now.

Alliance: We know its early days in your women-centered strategy development, but what would you like to achieve with it?

ABN: We want more female customers, and we want to serve them better so they can reach their full potential. This will result in a more inclusive way of providing services to everyone —both men and women. We wish to serve our female customers better by listening better to what they want and need, and what their financial goals are, so that we can adjust products and services accordingly. We want to put more focus on lifecycle events, raise awareness about unconscious bias and increase market share in each segment. By doing this, we will become more attractive for female clients and more inclusive for everyone. It will also help us attract more talent to work for the bank.

Alliance: Let’s talk more about attracting talent.  Do you do have a broad approach for diversity and inclusion that includes gender, bi-cultural people, labor-restricted people, status holders, age and LGBTQIA+? What’s your vision for evolving this going forward, and what specific initiatives do you have to get more women into leadership positions?

ABN: We recently launched a new D&I strategy. The new D&I vision is built on ABN AMRO’s purpose, which I mentioned earlier: banking for better, for generations to come. To us, banking for better means fostering an inclusive environment for our employees and clients that reflects the diversity of society. Everyone is committed to discovering each other’s uniqueness with curiosity, amplifying each other’s talents, and complementing each other with our diversity in thoughts, experiences and perspectives. We do this to attract and develop our talent pool; create innovative value propositions, products and services; build meaningful client relationships; create equal opportunities for our people and clients; support the shift towards sustainability; and do the right thing for society.

We have set gender targets (ExCo1, top, sub-top) for ABN AMRO as a whole and per business line. These targets are also included in the performance plan of our senior management. We also have specific interventions to generate more women into leadership positions. 

We aspire to have a 50/50 gender-balanced inflow. To do this, we publish inclusively voiced job advertisements, we have external and internal mentoring programs for women, a succession planning program and a focus on executive recruitment with a gender lens. Having said that, we are not there yet and keen to keep striving for equality.

Alliance: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated “future of work” trends in many parts of the world — trends that can benefit or create obstacles for women. What is ABN AMRO’s vision regarding the future of work? How are you adapting to this new reality? 

ABN: We will not go back to how it was before COVID-19. Instead, we will move forward, towards better. With all that we’re experiencing during COVID-19, both the good and the bad, we are shaping our future way of working. We believe that the type of work, the goal of an activity, the need for interaction, the efficiency of communication, and preferences by teams, colleagues and customers define the work environment. Working independently of time and location will be an inseparable part of what working will look like in the future.

Alliance: How did you first hear about the Financial Alliance for Women, and why did you decide to join?

Korteweg: When I worked for FMO, I actively worked together with the Alliance and participated in several events, sharing experiences and learning from others. When I joined ABN AMRO and felt the enthusiasm and commitment of the bank to do more on this topic, I suggested it would be helpful to join the Alliance, to share what we do, and especially learn from the wisdom and experience of others. Immediately, Daphne and other colleagues were enthusiastic, and within 6 weeks we became a member organization.