Reinout: “You work in the banking world. How would you describe this sector? Is the culture within the banking sector conservative, or are there enough opportunities and challenges?”

MALTE: “The banking sector is renowned for being conservative and rigid. But I’ve worked for NIBC for almost a year now, and I’ve noticed that this certainly isn’t always the case. Of course, there is hierarchy and structure, but the entire sector is changing and developing. More space is being created for new ideas.”

JULES: “If you’re asking whether NIBC is progressive or conservative, then I’d say it depends on what you’re comparing it to. Compared with other banks, NIBC is open-minded and entrepreneurial. Before I came here, I worked for a competitor. It was a larger bank and I’ve noticed that the lines are shorter here. You have more influence over decisions. But if I were to compare our bank with IT companies, then I’d say we’re still pretty conservative. Particularly when it comes to innovation and automation.”

FARHAD: “For a long time, banks played an invaluable and natural role in society. That meant there was no need for innovation. Due to digitisation and the emergence of fintechs, the banking world is now forced to adapt. We need to change with the times. For example, we are now looking more at the customer journey, the needs of the client and the role we can play in that. It’s quite a complex transition, but it also offers a wide array of opportunities.”

SANJA: “I think the bank’s external form will change. We’re becoming more of a platform in which technology dominates. Technology and the use of data will change and accelerate our services. But the people who work here and the culture remain vital. It’s how you stand out in the crowd.”

FARHAD: “It’s definitely about the employees, but it’s the ‘tone at the top’ that can really bring about change. After all, the culture of the organisation is more or less conceived by those at the top.”

JULES: “At NIBC, that’s called the Think Yes mentality. In my view, it represents NIBC’s entrepreneurial culture. And it’s essential in attracting new people, for instance. For me, that was the number one reason why I came to work for NIBC.”

Reinout: “I agree that it’s an open culture that energises people and makes them happy. It’s great that you experience that at NIBC. But we’ve been around for 75 years, and that’s a very long time! Hasn’t that made us a bit conservative?”

FARHAD: “No, not conservative; NIBC is in transition. Looking at our three core values, I would say that within the sphere of professionalism, we tend to lean towards conservatism. But I think entrepreneurship and inventiveness are brilliant examples of our transition. We really are on the move.”

SANJA: “I also see the transition reflected on the work floor. Take a look at our clothes, for example. We’re becoming more informal. Everyone used to walk around in dark suits and high heels, but now you even see jeans and sneakers. And that’s important too. If you want to be entrepreneurial, then having your own identity is a condition of an open culture in which employees can be themselves.”

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Reinout: “Diversity is a subject that is frequently discussed. A lot has changed in our sector, but those changes aren’t happening quickly enough. Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda. I’m interested to know what you think is the best way to create an open, diverse corporate culture.”

ELENI: “Diversity is a broad concept. It’s about more than just hiring a good mix of employees. I come across lots of different people here at NIBC, but when I look at the Young Talent Programme in particular, I see that NIBC has a broader perspective on diversity. Employees have the opportunity to work with lots of different people on a wide range of activities and projects. That’s how you really discover where the talents lie. If you ask me, that’s an example of an open and diverse corporate culture.”

FARHAD: “You’re right, diversity is a broad concept. You need to look beyond the male to female ratio. Moreover, an organisation doesn’t become diverse on its own. That’s something that has to be managed at all levels. The ‘tone at the top’ dominates here as well. Incidentally, NIBC has a Diversity Committee, in which I participate.”

ISABEL: “I’m an example of diversity in a broad sense. I come from the media world, which is very different from the banking world. I had absolutely no knowledge of the financial sector, but was still welcomed to NIBC with open arms. To me, hiring someone from a very different sector is an example of an open, diverse corporate culture.”

SANJA: “It’s important to me that diversity isn’t just about figures; the value behind those figures tells us more.

Working with mixed, multi-disciplinary teams really does bring added value. A woman has a different view on things than a man, for example. Older employees have more experience, while younger employees have more recent knowledge. It has to be more about the intention to actually achieve diversity – not about the figures.”

Reinout: “Indeed, it seems that we are more or less being forced by society to make sure we’re getting diversity right in statistical terms. But it’s more about realising that NIBC employees are a good reflection of society. That’s more important to me than equal percentages.”

ISABEL: “We’re very aware of this at NIBC Direct’s Marketing and Sales department. For example, in photo shoots we focus more on creating an inclusive look and feel. We take photos of older people, a gay couple, people from different backgrounds. It’s essential that we appeal to the wider community in our communication.”

SANJA: “Above all, it is about making people feel like they belong. Because if you don’t fit in somewhere, it won’t work. We need to create an attractive working environment in which people from all sorts of backgrounds feel that they belong. That’s how I see an open culture!”


Reinout: “Another hot topic among young employees is creating a healthy balance between work and personal life. Over the past six months, the meaning of a work-life balance has changed dramatically due to COVID-19. As the separation between our work and personal lives has been watered down, I’m hearing about people who can’t unwind or miss having a workstation, or are even becoming depressed. How are you experiencing the balance between your personal and work life?”

ISABEL: “I’m ambitious, and if I’m working, I want to be able to focus 100%. At the same time, I want to be there for my family at home. At the start of the first lockdown, that was difficult. There was no longer any distinction between work and personal life. I found myself on calls with my daughter on my lap and it almost felt as if I was waking up in the office every day. So I’m really happy that I can go into the office now and again. The situation does have its positives: less travel time and less of a rush. Since I’m at home more, I get to spend more time with my family.”

ELENI: “Finding a balance is tricky, especially in these times. I’m also happy that I can go into the office occasionally, as I work more efficiently there. At home, I had to force myself to turn off the computer so I wasn’t looking at emails. Initially, I constantly felt under pressure and stress. It felt as if I had to be available 24/7. When I found a balance, working from home became much easier.”

JULES: “My advice would be: turn off your computer, or at least your pop-ups, so that you’re not constantly being disrupted. That’s already a small step with a big result. Personally, I learned this the hard way. When I worked for my previous employer, I ended up with a burnout. I consciously do things differently now. NIBC offered me the opportunity to take a sabbatical at the start of the year. At the end of March I returned from my sabbatical to this unique situation. It really was a strange feeling. But my experiences help me view the balance between personal life and work life more rationally.”


FARHAD: “It’s more important than even to create a good structure and rules for yourself. I created a separate workstation and said to myself in the morning ‘I’m going to work.’ Then at noon I had lunch in the kitchen and afterwards I went back to work at my ‘workstation’. I tried to quickly get back to my normal work rhythm. To me, it’s very clear that if I’m sitting at my workstation, I’m there to work, despite it being in my living room. That creates a clearer distinction between my work life and my personal life.”

Reinout: “Sometimes you also need to have the courage to say ‘no’ and not be available. In my experience, that’s something people find very difficult. But you don’t always have to reply to emails straight away, even if you get emails from your manager or director.”

ISABEL: “I think some people want to show how hard they’re working through their emails, but it’s not about that of course. It’s about the output and not about the number of hours you’re online.”

JULES: “You can also be working hard offline. Sometimes it’s about inspiration and reflection, and that doesn’t necessarily happen online. I know from experience how important it is to say ‘no’. People know they can contact you if it’s really necessary. Investing in your personal life and your physical and mental wellbeing is essential to performing well.”


Reinout: “Lastly, I want to know about your vision for the future. When I started in 1995, some people told me that banks would eventually be doomed to fail... Then came the crisis and the banking world seemed to be completely at a loss. But we now live in a very different world. How do you see the future of banks? Will they exist in twenty years’ time?”

ELENI: “Things will be totally different in twenty years’ time. But if we look back at the past twenty years, we see that things have also completely changed since then. So it’s not unusual that everything is changing. Banks will play a different role in the system. Technology will have more of an impact on the banking world, but banks will definitely still be around in the future.”

MALTE: “I agree. A hundred years ago, the most important role of a bank was storing gold in the vault but as far as I know, NIBC doesn’t have any gold in the building. This just goes to show that there’s been a lot of change over the years and that things will continue to change in the future. The fundamental role of today’s banks is to support organisations in their growth and help people buy houses, for example. Trust is a very important part of that. That’s why it is important that banks retain that trust through good regulations and thereby guarantee their continuing existence.”

JULES: “Banks will become IT platforms in the future. We already see it happening, but it’s not going as fast as I’d expected. Maybe that’s because some fintechs have betrayed their clients’ trust and didn’t turn out to be such trustworthy parties. These kinds of organisations still play a major role through their knowledge and data-related technology. We can learn a lot from them and collaborate with them. I really believe that will happen in the future: fintechs and banks will work together on a large scale as data-driven platforms and companies.”

Reinout: “I’m not so surprised that fintechs and data-driven banking are not progressing so fast. And yes, that’s the result of the trust that the banking world has built up over the years. Thanks in part to regulations, banks are generally stable, sound organisations and there’s a need for them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the fintechs have been taken over by banks in twenty years’ time, instead of the other way around. So I’m glad to hear that you all think banks will still be around in twenty years! What do you think will be the main priorities over the coming years?”

SANJA: “I think ‘data’ will continue to be a key word. Data enables us to find out more about clients so we can offer them a better, tailored service. We’re not there yet, but it does allow us to start thinking about more innovative options, and that’s what the client really needs.”

JULES: “In addition to data, we also need to remember the role of people, our clients. It’s all about the person, the client.”

ELENI: “The client is definitely important, as is data, but we need the right people to handle the data properly. So I would say that we also need to focus on making sure our employees are well trained.”

MALTE: “If there’s a lot of data, we have to ensure we’re working securely. So we need to invest a great deal in trust and safety. Those are real priorities for me. Data breaches quickly result in a loss of trust.”

SANJA: “It’s also really important to continue thinking about why we want to use data.”

JULES: “I agree. Data and technology are means and not ends in themselves. We need to create the right balance between technology, data and deploying well-trained people who understand how to use the data effectively.”

Reinout: “So if our people have the right technology to use the data correctly, that means NIBC is the bank of the future. I think that’s a great vision to finish with!”