'International is more mature, so it bas betome more independent' 3 International Executive board-member Jan Groninger: More independence Background Non-banking areas Holland's agribusiness lobbies North America ISSUE 29/25 MAY 1994 Some months ago, there was a reshuffle and a restructuring at the top of the Central Banking Sector (CBS). New management structures were put in place which effectively made the various divisions more independent. Jan Groninger talks us through the new set up. Until very recently, Rabobank Neder- land's executive board operated using a very hands-on approach to management. 'But about six months ago,' says Groninger, 'it was decided that a more detached approach would be appropriate. By detached I mean that the divisions that make up Rabobank Nederland would become more independent. Formally, the executive board remains the CBS's man agement board - it is ultimately responsible for performance and so on. And that hasn't really changed. However, we believed a more mature approach would be to make the various sector heads/committees collectively responsible for operations. Groninger compares the new structure to a si- tuation in which the CBS was an independent company and the executive board had a su- pervisory role, rather like that of a board of commissioners. Officially, this type of con struction wouldn't have fitted in with the bank's existing management hierarchy. 'But the reality is that we actually behave as though we had adopted that structure,' he says. 'In the old structure, the CBS management commit- tee comprised heads of divisions with execu tive board members as chairman and deputy. Now, the management committee consists of division chiefs only, with Rik van Slingelandt as chair. Three members of the executive board were appointed to perform the kind of role normally associated with a board of commis sioners - Henk Visser, Frank Schreve and my- self. I was asked because it was thought I could add something to their expertise - my field is financial and economie management.' That is how the situation looked three months ago. 'But then,' Groninger says, 'Schreve moved over to his new company. We then had to decide whether a new third party was to be brought in. As Schreve was not being replaced, we thought we would tackle it ourselves.' What do the changes in structure mean in real terms for the international division? 'As part of the CBS, international feil under the supervi- sion of the three executive board members,' Groninger explains. 'The new structure meant international, and the other divisions, became more independent, was responsible for its own budget and so on. That remains the same. But now the supervision will be carried out by two, rather than three, executive board members.' Groninger is hardly a well-known face in the foreign offices - will the international division be seeing more of him in the future? 'I wouldn't discount that possibility,' he says. O ■r n 3 Q. ié- Jan Groninger - insurer among the bankers 'But you know I'm not particularly well known in any area of the bank.' The former chairman of top agri-insurer Interpolis, Groninger joined the bank's executive board when the two organizations merged in 1990. 'There had al- ways been a strict division between banks and insurers in the Netherlands,' he explains. 'But the law was changed four years ago. That year saw a flurry of mergers between the bigger banks and top insurers. The merger between Interpolis and Rabobank was a logical step.' At the time, some 50 percent of the insurance products sold by Rabobank were supplied by Interpolis - that percentage has since incre- ased to 60 and the target is 85 to 90. 'I was chairman of Interpolis' board of management and as such became part of the bank's execu tive board,' he continues. 'During the merger process, Interpolis also restructured and I ended up in a fairly convulated position - I was a member of an executive board which was actually monitoring a board of manage ment of which I was chair.' Groninger was offered the opportunity ofjoin- ing the bank and ultimately succeeding Jan van Rijn, who has the financial and economie management portfolio. 'It appealed to me be cause I'm not really a banker. This portfolio includes not only the reporting side, but also Rabofacet, which comprises the whole Utilities sector of the bank, everything from the com puter centre to purchasing and printing. It has recently become an independent company. So, I'll be involved in all of the bank's non- banking areas from January 1, next year.' Rabobank's Visser and Gentis were among the experts selling the extensive services and expertise of the Dutch agri- sector to dedicated seminars in the US and Canada in early May. Although at first sight the notion of tiny Holland taking on North America's giant agribusiness world may seem a little like a re- run of The mouse that roared, insiders know better. The Netherlands is the third largest exporter of agriproduce in the world, and is renowned for its innovative role in develop- ing high-tech and intensive farming. It is a world power in the fields of horiticulture, both ornamental and edible, and agricul- tural scientific research. And has a proven reputation as pioneer in environmental pro- tection. Through the port of Rotterdam, the small country also occupies a prominent place as one of the prime gateways to the ex tensive markets of the European Union. These were the points pressed home to au- diences of top North American agribusiness executives who attended the seminars in Chi- cago and Toronto. Over 1,400 American companies have already set up operations in the Netherlands, most of them in the food sector. Their motivation is not only Holland's dominant position in European agribusiness, but also its strong international competitive place in the food processing industry. Henk Visser told the meeting that food and confectionary spending in Europe totalled more than US$ 750 billion, 100 billion more than in the US. Although it is an attractive market for North American companies, he also stressed the food industry was not easy to penetrate. 'It is hardly a growth market,' he said, 'but there are opportunities for companies whose production processes are very efficiënt and whose products have high added value. My advice would be to try and find a joint venture or acquisition.' He went on to remind his audience that though Europeans and North Americans looked pretty much the same and have a lot in common, 'our daily eating patterns really do differ. Don't make a second Disney World error,' he warned. 'You cannot always trans plant concepts from one country to another. Before making any move, carry out a thor- ough market research program, and do it with your new - preferably Dutch - partner.' How has Groninger settled into the bank? 'It's a fascinating business. At first, I was a bit con- cerned because I come from a very different background -1 started my career as a chemi- cal technician before getting into insurance - by accident, I may add. But, in fact, manage ment is largely the same in most sectors, it requires the same commitment and hard work. It is interesting to see that many of the processes that were introduced into industry quite some time ago are now being applied in the banking and financial world. And you dis cover that if you're working at a specific level in an organization you're involved in proces ses, but especially with people - and that's pretty universal, you know.'

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