Holland's foreign office 3 International Speed ISSUE 28/25 APRIL 1994 firmed it, and passed the information on to our people in that office. Needless to say, they didn't get into the deal.' In structure, activities and approach it looks like any other foreign operation. The only difference is that this particular 'foreign' office is located in Rotterdam, a mere 40-minute drive from the bank's head office. Rotterdam Rabobankers explain what they're doing there and why their presence is essential to the rest of the network. Dedicated While Rotterdam sees its role in the whole network as one of its primary tasks, it is also dedicated to non-agrihusiness. 'If you look at our mission statement,' says Van Rooij, 'you see part of our brief is to strengthen our pos- ition as profitable wholesale bank in this region. Until very recently, our non-agri management teams were divided into two groups, one fo cussing on medium-sized companies with more than 50 employees, and one targetting large multinational companies. But we came to the conclusion that this world has only a few very large corporates, while the medium-sized mar- ket is growing and expanding all the time. This is an area where we perceived real growth po- tential for the office here. So we thought it was time to rethink our approach.' For over 30 years, Rotterdam has held the title of biggest port in the world. Almost 300 million tons of goods arrivé in the port every year, and that figure is increasing annually as more and more dedicated terminals are added to its range of services. Agriproducts are of im mense importance to the port, which generates no less than 10 percent of the Netherlands' GNP. More grain arrivés in Rotterdam than at any other port worldwide. Fruit is another major import commodity, and the port's dedi cated terminals are able to process on site pro- duce coming ff om all over the globe. Rotterdam is also the world's leading peanut importer. Agritrade hub The port is a whole world in itself. In terms of size, it is larger than most Dutch cities. People working there and in related industries form a close-knit community that is not easily access- ible for outsiders. 'If you're not physically present, then you miss out on a lot of infor mation,' says GM Rob van Rooij. 'That's why it's so important for the bank, and especially the foreign offices, to have an operation here. And once you're aware of the sheer volume and di- versity of the agriproducts coming through the port, then perhaps the reason we're here be- comes even clearer. Rotterdam is not only the biggest, it is also the most important interna tional agritrade hub in the world. Part of our job is providing on-the-spot support to other offices in the foreign network so we form a real link in the flow of international agritrade. Essentially, we're here because the port is here.' Networking The Rotterdam office is in constant touch with the other offices in the foreign network. 'We have joint clients with almost all the foreign of fices,' explains Paul Dekker, the food and agri- business and trade finance team leader. 'That's why constant inter-network communication is imperative. We have to exchange information continually on the status of clients, deals, ship- ments and so on, so that we can take care of clients' needs at this end. Some foreign clients have their own offices here, others don't, so we often act as their representative - it's all part of the networking we've set up with the other of fices.' 'On the face of it, it's simply a question of one of the foreign offices providing the pre-export facilities,' says Jan van Ende of trade finance, 'and us doing the documents when the ship- ment arrivés here. Documents have to be pro- cessed within 48 hours and we even have some- one who spends most of his time ferrying them around to the various authorities. Speed is of the essence here because many of the cargoes are perishable, so you have to get the docu- mentary side of things done very quickly in deed. But there is a lot more to it than that.' Information Besides speed, indepth knowledge not only of local business environment in the port, but of all the companies in the chain, ff om supplier to end user, is essential. 'Because we're very active in the port, you piek up on things,' says Dek ker. 'Just last week, one of the foreign offices called and said they'd been offered a deal on an agri-shipment that had already arrived in the port. They wanted to know ifwe knew anything about it. As it turned out, we had heard half the cargo was rotten. We checked that out, con- Market penetration This rethinking led to the merging of the two ac count management teams into a single entity which comprises a wide range of expertise and is geared to flexible response. 'This doesn't mean we won't be concentrating on the large cor porates any more,' says account manager Jan Reus. 'We now have a high level of penetration in that sector and it took a lot of hard work to achieve that. What we want to do now is im- prove returns.' Co-worker Ellen Meijer explains they began market research on medium-sized businesses in the region two years ago. 'It's a market with great potential and the initial leg- work we put in is now paying off. Rotterdam is probably unique in the fact that geographic proximity, in other words being here in the city, plays a real role in bank-client relations. At first, before a cliënt knew us well, we would offer one product. Now, the emphasis has shiffed to a more varied package. 'We can actually offer clients any product in the Rabobank range,' confirms Van Rooij. 'We don't necessarily have all the required expertise in-house - we have a staff of only 35, so that would be impossible. But what we don't have here, we buy in from Utrecht. It doesn't make any difference to the cliënt where it's coming from as long as he is getting what he needs efficiently and at the right price. Hard work There are a lot of sayings about Rotterdam - al most all related to the notion that its people work much harder than anyone else in the Netherlands. 'Rotterdammers are bom with their sleeves already rolled up for work', 'The money is made in Rotterdam and spent in The Hague'. Whether they work harder or not is debatable, of course, but it is certainly true that Rotterdam and its environs are like no other place in this country. The city itself is a start- ling hommage to modem architecture - no cute canals, windmills or tulips here. The daring contemporary buildings and imposing sculp- ture are a strrking visual reminder that this is the world's greatest port, and that it fully in- tends to retain that title for a long time to come. It is an aggressive city in the best sense of the word, and in a way that makes it very different from the rest of the otherwise rather staid and solid country. Perhaps Rotterdam is a foreign office after all.

Rabobank Bronnenarchief

blad 'Raboband International' (EN) | 1994 | | pagina 3