Arnold Kuijpers, executive vice president of the Dutch co-operative bank Rabobank, tackled the issue of his bank’s damaging LIBOR scandal head-on in comments made to delegates at the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec. The illegal manipulation of the inter-bank rate cost Rabobank a regulatory fine of almost USD $1 billion last year and also forced the bank’s then chairman to fall on his sword.
“Only a very small number of people were involved in this, but it had a huge effect on our reputation,” Kuijpers said. He discussed ways that the bank tries to ensure that all its 56,000 employees understand the values and ethics espoused by Rabobank, which traces its roots back more than a century to the early days of the Raiffeisen movement, but he admitted that the nature of banking made the task more difficult. “We are very explicit in our values, which include professionalism, respect and trust. But if you want to play a role in financial markets, you have to have the expertise from people who may be differently motivated. You have a choice: do I need this expertise? Can I take on the problems which may come with this?”
Ironically given the LIBOR experience, Rabobank has a strong track record in taking a principled ethical position in its banking operations. The co-operative has an Ethics Committee, chaired by the bank’s board chairman, which tackles the bank’s approach to potentially controversial issues, Kuijpers explained. Rabobank had, for example, developed a position on genetically modified crops in response to public concern, he said.
Kuijpers was contributing to a round table discussion which explored the issues which face co-operatives that choose to operate internationally. Both he and Jean-Yves Dagès, of mutual insurer Groupama, which has also moved out from its heartland in France, talked of the challenges of ensuring that staff employed abroad identified with the parent firm’s culture. On the other hand, both men also talked of the potential advantages of operating transnationally in a globalised economy. Kuijpers in particular highlighted the HR advantages. “In the war for talent, it helps you attract young people: they want to have the opportunity to be posted abroad,” he said.
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