'Mexico was THE MAXIMUM CHALLENGE FOR ME...' 20 talking heads What's NewS Issue 11 December 1997 If RICO made anything clear it was the ongoing international professionalization of our organization. One of the decisions taken at this global conference was the establishment of a task force to support starting international offices. In Mexico, Frits Mönking started the old way - in a hotel room with a telephone, fax and secretary 'who, fortunately, is still with the bank'. He explains how they've built it from there. It's not that long ago that Mönking and his wife Marlot packed their suitcase, picked up a one-way ticket to Mexico City and a bundie of petty cash for initial operating expenses and left for the airport back in September 1993. If this all sounds a rather ad hoe arrangement for Rabobank International's thrust into the global world of banking and finance, it appears to work quite successfully. 'It took six months to get all the necessary licences,' he recalls. 'According to the stories, we set up pretty much in the same way as New York did in the early 1980s. Maybe it sounds a bit free and easy, but that's one of Rabobank's strengths, at least I think so. This bank gives you room to manoeuvre.' The room to manoeuvre in Mexico meant Mönking and his very small team had to weather the Peso devaluation in 1994 'just as we were about to close our first deal'. At the time, he was concerned, but no more than that. 'We'd been marketing to the top food and agri- corporates - we're exclusively an F&A office - in a selected number of sectors. In the early stages, we contacted every chamber of commerce in the country because we'd discovered that they had a mass of basic research information we could use to create benchmarks for targeting clients - and the information is basically free. This led us to define 26 separate sectors and to market to them systematically. As I said, we were just about to sign up our first customer, a major sugar corporate, when the Peso crashed.' Although initially Mönking's very small team thought they would lose the deal, they quickly understood that Rabobank was willing to put its money where its mouth is. 'And our future clients also came to understand that,' he recalls. 'No one was interested in Mexico then even though sound corporates were screaming for support. The bank's policy is clear, you stick with clients wherever possible. That did us a lot of good in the Mexican market. And that poultry company is still one of our best customers. It's philosophies like this, if they work and they certainly work for us, that create win-win situations.' So much good, in fact, that the Mexico City team's goal of becoming the country's top F&A bank is, in some sectors, already a reality after just three years of real operation. 'We couldn't have done it without APFT, though,' he is quick to add. 'The APFT people have done a lot of the time- consuming work leaving our four marketing teams to do what they're good at - marketing.' Mexico is already structured along matrix lines with product people - APFT, corporate finance and banking - working alongside the relationship managers. Mönking believes it inakes sense, especially in a small office. Fle himself worked in the Port of Rotterdam for the bank in the late 1980s as a transport specialist before switching to F&A. 'From a purely personal perspective, I made that decision so that I'd have an opportunity to travel - F&A is a very exportable kind of know-how. When 1 heard Mexico could be an opportunity, 1 rushed home and discussed it with the family. Frits Mönking: 'this bank gives you room to manoeuvre.' Once they said okay, I rushed to head office and asked for the iAh job.' According to Mönking, Mexico represented a very personal challenge to him. 'It was the maximum challenge for me. A new and very big country, a very different culture to the US and European styles I was used to through working for Chase and Credit Lyonnais before joining Rabobank. It was clearly a Latino business environment, but because of the proximity to the US and the trading relations, it is a mixture of both cultures.' What he admires about the Mexican style of doing business is that it is extremely flexible. The people, he reckons, are masters of improvisation and have an ability to remain relaxed that has little to do with the 'manana' cliché. Tm from Rotterdam,' he says. 'Rotterdammers are said to be straight talking and hard working. In fact, there's a Dutch saying that in the Netherlands the money is made in Rotterdam, spent in Amsterdam and administered in The Flague. We certainly don't have a reputation for improvisation. Even in the face of devaluation, I was impressed by how people tackled this real set back.' The devaluation was a learning experience for both potential clients, personnel and Mönking himself. 'I'd always been convinced of the relevance of the cooperative system and it proved its relevance here in the Mexican market in late 1994 and early 1995. Since then we've built market leading positions in sugar, poultry, eggs and maybe in a few months we'11 be able to add dairy to that list. Our exclusive focus has really helped. But we now feel it's time to move into health care. Dick Schultz, who has done so much to start-up this sector in various offices around the world, will be doing a market study in Mexico. But we're already convinced this will be a very good market for

Rabobank Bronnenarchief

blad 'What's news' (EN) | 1997 | | pagina 20