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"It's all about the people" - Luncheon with Erik Van Den Eynden, CEO ING Belgium

by Ulrich Zanconato, Legal Counsel, ING Belgium

On September 27, 2018, Erik Van Den Eynden, CEO of ING Belgium, welcomed a group of young professionals to speak about ING’s transformation, the move to an agile way of working and his strategy for the future.


On a sunny Autumn day, young professionals from the AmCham Belgium community were enjoying the view from the top floor of ING Belgium’s headquarters when Erik kicked off by explaining that the beautiful modernist building designed by American architect Gordon Bunshaft in 1960 is a metaphor for ING itself. In its time, it was a disruptive building, clearly different from the headquarters of other banks. With its many large windows, it aims at emphasizing transparency and an innovative way of relating with stakeholders.


The long-term outlook, disruption and transparency are indeed recurring themes in Erik’s vision of ING’s future. An even more recurring theme, however, is that “it’s all about the people”. It thus comes as no surprise that Erik declares ‘a differentiating customer experience’ and ‘content employees’ to be the purpose of Agile, ING’s new way of working.

Agile is the foundation of the radical transformation which ING is undergoing and which will make the bank fit for the challenges of the future. As the future is unpredictable, the only thing we can do is to be adaptable and ready to change. Behind its lingo of ‘squads’, ‘tribes’, ‘ceremonies’, ‘sprints’ and ‘rituals’, Agile is essentially a shift in mindset, unleashing greater collaboration and a greater sense of ownership among employees, as well as injecting speed in a leaner organizational structure. By way of example, ING transformed the traditional back-office into Customer Loyalty Teams, with the purpose of making it clear that everyone has an impact on the customer experience. Misnomers such as ‘back-office’ might lead employees working in such teams to think that they are irrelevant to the customers’ happiness. ING must stamp out such false thinking in order to achieve its ambition to become the best bank for all its customers.


ING is moving to Agile because today it is too slow. Remarkably, when saying that, Erik is not comparing ING with its banking peers. He looks at Amazon, Google, Netflix, Starbucks and other large companies with a global footprint that have demonstrated the ability to continuously adapt to the changing needs of their customers. Innovation is embedded in ING’s culture, and it is therefore natural that Erik compares ING with and sees the competition coming from innovators such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. Asked about FinTechs, Erik declared himself not to be worried. In his opinion, banks have customers’ trust in the brand on their side. Further, ING has a proven record of fruitful cooperation with FinTechs as well as a reputation as a prolific environment for innovations, such as the mobile payments system Payconiq.


Erik concluded the luncheon by giving valuable advice for career development to the young professionals. Repeating the advice he gives to his employees, Erik exhorted the group to trust your talent, learn fast, and jump! To jump outside our comfort zone and towards new opportunities which will allow us to have fun while working, both within and outside the company. The latter is perhaps a surprising statement from a CEO who started as a management trainee in the same company and never left. But it shows that we need to be adaptable and ready to change.

Thanks to ING Belgium for hosting this YP @ Noon lunch!