Antwerp on the move Now there is a Rabobank in Spain too Rabo band After a difficult start, almost 5 years ago, things are looking up for the Antwerp Branch. Last year there was consider- able investment. The Branch has been expanded, furnished with a dealing room and has a new computer. The General Manager, Jacques Jansen, de- scribes the situation in Bel- gium. This month Rabobank is opening an office in Madrid. In charge will be Maus Barendrecht, who untii recently headed the North and South Europe Desk. Before he left for Spain we asked him for some details on the background to the setting up of this new office. Issue 4/September 22, 1989 mjr ou must make sure that invest- ments meet with success', de- clares Jansen. 'Fortunately, this has been the case. We are now firmly be ginning to establish ourselves: both growth and profit are clearly moving in the right direction. We are well above the budgeted figures.' Successor appolnted Jansen has been appointed Regional General Manager at Eindhoven as of January 1. in Antwerp he will be succeeded by Karei Plasman, who is at present head of Commercial Ser vices. Jansen remarks: 'He has worked here for almost three years. The transfer should not be a problem. Plasman is Bel- gian. Antwerp will be the first foreign Branch with a General Manager who is not Dutch.' Staff When the Branch in Belgium opened, product specialists were em- ployed. Increasingly, more people came to work under them and they had to become managers as well. Says Jansen: 'They were experts in their field, but manage ment was new to them. In co-operation with training experts from Rabobank Ne derland we have created a management training programme.' 'Here, foreign banks as employers are regarded with suspicion', explains Jansen. 'The opportunities for promotion are limited because the man agement usually comes from the country of origin. Furthermore, a bank occasionally closes. That is a handicap if you want to attract good people. I think we have demonstrated that we are doing well. There is some degree of internal reorgani- zation taking place at the moment. This has a positive effect.' Flanders and Wallonia Belgium is di- vided into two parts. The north - Flanders - where Dutch is spoken, feels strongly tied to the Netherlands and Germany. The French-speaking south - Wallonia - on the other hand, focuses on France. Not only the language, but also the mentality in both parts of the country is very different. Says Jansen: 'This calls for a special ap- proach. A Dutch bank located in Antwerp is regarded with suspicion in Wallonia. That is why we have account managers who Jacques Jansen: We are well above the budgeted figures. speak fluent French and are familiar with the mentality. From an economie point of view Wallonia is less interesting, with the exception of Brussels. We very much want to establish an office there, it is one of our plans for the future. This is partly because we will be running into problems with ac- commodation here. There is room for 56 people and we already have 51. Our pre sent premises are splendid and ideally lo cated. A lot has been invested, so we would rather not move. An office in Brus sels is a logical step. It could become a so-called Loan Production Office.' Not only agribusiness In Jansen's view there is less co-operation with other Rabobank offices abroad than was expect- ed. 'I think this is because the markets in which we operate are so different', he ex plains. 'For this reason there is not always much exchange of information, 'scratching each other's back', if you like. Contacts with other offices are good, but limited.' The agricultural sector, for instance, is not the most important sector for the Belgian office. Only a quarter of the total activities is in this sector. 'True, when we started we were involved principally with agribu ness', explains Jansen. 'That was what we were set up to do. But we rapidly dis- covered that the market was not simply waiting around for us to arrivé, and that the agri-market in Belgium was limited. We therefore began to broaden our market. We drew up criteria which companies had to meet, such as having a minimum turnover and exporting or importing to or from countries where we have offices. For in that case you can offer interesting prod- ucts. Our Dutch Desk does a lot of can vassing for customers. There are still many banks in the Netherlands not making optimal use of our international banking network. We pay them a visit and point out the possibilities to them.' n actual fact the clients of the local banks were behind the setting up of the office. It was obvious from their questions to their local Rabobank and the Dutch Desk in Utrecht that there is great de- mand for the services of an office on the Iberian Peninsula', explains Barendrecht. 'Spain is becoming a very important trading partner within Europe. During the first five months of this year total Dutch exports to Spain increased by 80%.' A feasibility study was carried out by different departments of Rabobank Nederland, something which is done for every country where Rabobank may be planning to establish itself. On the basis of this report the Executive Board and Board of Directors decide whether to go ahead with the plan. A new office usually has the status of a representative office, often as a prelimi- nary to becoming a full Branch. The practical problems Barendrecht: 'Then a budget is allocated and the practical problems begin. How do you find an office, how do you get good personnel, what else do you need? Wherever you go this is differ ent. At present Rabobank works closely with local advisors in the setting up of an office. The same has been done in Madrid. We agreed with Peat Marwick on a list of condi- tions and requirements and with this they set to work. They take care of all permits, applications, make appointments with real estate agents and search for staff etc.' Very quickly The plan to set up an of fice in Madrid was given the go-ahead in March. 'In April we were in Madrid making the first arrangements with our advisors', says Barendrecht. 'We found office space next to the Parque de Retiro, just behind the Prado Museum. As it was an apartment, architects had to be called in. They do the refurbishments as a turn-key project. In other words, they take care of everything from the alteration work to the purchase of office equipment. For our part this means that we don't need to travel back and forth continually and are not troubled with deliv- ery problems etc. In this way we can con- centrate on the commercial preparations for the office. We hope that all we need to do is put the plugs into the sockets.' Barendrecht starts with a secretary of Dutch origin, Fredericke Wyt, and will later be joined by an assistant. Spain and Portugal An increasing num- ber of clients of member banks are doing business with Spain. Says Barendrecht: 'To give an example, there is a Dutch company that raises plants in the warm Spanish cli- mate and then sends them to the Nether-

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blad 'Raboband International' (EN) | 1989 | | pagina 4