- Programme: Accelerated Development Programme
- Nationality: Dutch
- Job Post-programme: Director Zuid-Holland at ING Private Banking
Less about glamour, more about people
Marco was seduced by the glamour of the financial industry 25 years ago when Wall Street’s big hitters became front-page news. But once he was in the industry he discovered that finance was more about adding value to people’s lives than people adding value to company profits.
Before joining ING, where he’s now the director of private banking for Southern Holland, he worked at the third-largest bank in the Netherlands, ABN AMRO. He left just before the bank was acquired in 2007 by RFS Holdings BV – a consortium including RBS, Fortis and Santander – in what remains the world's biggest bank takeover to date. “It wasn’t the firm I once chose,” Marco admits.
A bank with vision
ING’s mission, to empower people to stay a step ahead in life and business, is set to shake up global banking. When Marco joined the company in 2006, he left a traditional banking environment in favour of a more informal, agile way of working – a culture that’s leaving ING’s competitors lagging behind. While leading German banks are still struggling to recover from the financial crisis, ING continues to post strong profits.
By the time Marco joined the Accelerated Development Programme (ADP) at London Business School (LBS) in 2014, he’d been with ING for eight years. He had played a pivotal role setting up and managing the business’s private bank, believing that private banking at ING could offer the best services on the market. People scoffed: “Why would people choose your bank when they could choose well-established banks like UBS and ABN AMRO?”
But after Marco participated in the ADP, in 2015, The Banker / Financial Times named ING the ‘Best Private Bank’ in The Netherlands and Luxembourg: it was one of Marco’s proudest professional moments.
Show people how you make your own luck
“In 2014 I was at a transition point in a shifting world,” says Marco. “The programme changed me on a personal and professional level.” Marco’s core values have always been to “energise people and get them on board” but he experienced a change in mindset on the programme and a new degree of self-awareness. The realisation that charisma, emotional intelligence and likability are rare commodities was the tipping point. It was during one of the feedback sessions with his study group that he discovered this key strength.
The pre-programme 360-degree feedback told the same story. People would say, “Marco must be lucky”. “His greatest strength – relationship building – became his biggest lesson. “I didn't realise I had that much power. I just thought maybe people liked me and my ideas. I was good at rallying a team to my vision, but I needed to show the analysis in my head. So I learnt to be more explicit with my plans and prove that I wasn’t just lucky.” Today he’s better equipped to execute strategies that are keeping ING a step ahead.
Act, think, look like a tech player
Marco absorbed by osmosis global insights from executives across a variety of sectors, industries and nations on the ADP. This window to the rest of the world is helping him to strengthen ING’s market position. For instance, Marco and the bank’s leaders are striving to answer this question: can a bank be more like an Apple, Spotify or Google?
“Banks are no longer our competitors; tech companies are. That's where new, agile ways of working and digital transformation comes in. We have a clear vision for 2020: we need to be one global bank offering one Apple-like experience wherever you are in the world.” But there are steps to get there, he adds.
“Tech giants, wherever they operate, have the same back office, logistics and products. In banking, every country has different credit cards, savings accounts and back offices.”
Marco shared a rich dialogue with his classmates, including an Apple executive, which he keeps up today through the network. These insider views are continually stretching his perspective on what it means to deliver a consistent, identifiable customer experience.
The world is your playground
Marco’s sponsor, the bank’s CEO, offered him the choice of three Schools to help him switch professional gear: INSEAD, Harvard or London Business School. After studying for his MBA at INSEAD he wanted to learn somewhere entirely focused on global business rather than “continental Europe”. To make his decision, he sought advice from the head of talent management who told him that LBS consistently delivers global impact. As Marco puts it: “The world is your playground at LBS.”
He says: “If you really want to take a step forward, not just in terms of new knowledge, but personal, global impact, then this is the best programme you can find – especially when you’re shifting to a more general management role.”
The future’s digital
The increasing importance of digital banking is part of ING’s vision. Digital could decrease the number of bank branches in Belgium by 30% in the next four years according to global management consulting firm Sia Partners. Consider that ING in Holland serves eight million clients with a modest 250 branches versus three million customers and 1,100 branches in Belgium and therein lies the opportunity.
While some banks have cautiously shared this information, ING explicitly announced the closure of half of its Belgium branches in the next two years. It’s this innovative, transformative culture that maximises Marco’s strengths: his ability to get work done by helping people to rise up along with a global, pioneering vision that’s driving the business into the future.