#39: Olivier Guillaumond

Dit is Leaders in Finance: een podcast waarin ik op zoek ga naar de mens achter het succes. Ik praat met leiders van nu en later over hun drijfveren, carrière en privéleven. Waarom? Omdat er meer gesproken moet worden in de financiële sector. Leaders in Finance wordt mede mogelijk gemaakt door Interim Valley, FG Lawyers en Bizcuit.

Olivier Guillaumond direct na het gesprek met Jeroen Broekema van Leaders in Finance

Welkom bij een nieuwe aflevering van Leaders in Finance. Voordat ik mijn gast van vandaag welkom heet en introduceer wil ik u, jij, de luisteraar er op wijzen dat er over iedere aflevering van Leaders in Finance meer informatie te vinden is op leadersinfinance.nl. Er is een korte beschrijving van de CV te vinden en ook worden termen opgesomd die door de gasten zijn gebruikt en ook zijn er bijvoorbeeld alle boeken te vinden die genoemd zijn door de gast. 

Jeroen: Deze week hebben we te gast Olivier Guillaumond, the Global Head of Innovation Labs and Fintechs bij ING and given he prefers to speak English (although I must say his Dutch is actually really good), we will continue in English from here onwards! Welcome, Olivier!

Olivier: Dankjewel, Jeroen. Welkom!

Jeroen: Thanks for having me in your offices here in Amsterdam. I will introduce you. After 10 years at Accenture, Olivier co-founded and managed Smile in the Benelux region which is now the Europe leading Open Source integrator with over 1,000 people and 100 million turnover. Olivier has then joined ING Group first as Global Head of Regulatory Change overseeing the global implementation of EMIR and MIFID. In 2018 Olivier joined the Innovation Office as Global Head of Fintechs overseeing the scouting, selection and partnering between all Fintechs and all ING units. As mentioned, he is now the Global Head of ING Labs and Fintechs and responsible for all the ING Labs in Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Singapore. Olivier holds multiple degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA in Finance. From his Twitter account we learned that he describes himself as an “entrepreneur, private investor, passionate on the trilogy energy vs economy vs climate” Olivier is 44 years old, is married, has two kids and lives in Amsterdam. Again, it’s great that you have taken the time to talk to us. We hear from this introduction that you are an entrepreneur, we see you have also been very entrepreneurial and you probably still are. So why are you working for one of the major banks?

Olivier: Good question. Because I’ve always liked ING. I actually do remember, when I was living in France, that when ING there had started, I received this paper with this amazing savings account with a supercharge rate and I thought “Wow, what is this?” I was very impressed by the marketing. At the time, I was about to start working for Accenture but I was already impressed by the marketing side of ING and those guys were daring to do something completely new. When I entered the financial services world, I started working for many financial institutions and also ING in multiple countries; in France, in Luxemburg, in Belgium and also in the Netherlands. As I said, I’ve always been impressed by ING as a company and their ‘daring aspect’, if you will. So, I always told myself “If I were to work for a financial institution as an employee, I would want to be this ING. If I will enter that, it will be ING”. I then started my career at Accenture, providing services to all the financial services companies in Europe. I then created Smile, as you just mentioned. Then I exited Smile in one of the funding rounds, as you are very much aware yourself. I was very much exhausted and tired and I took some time to think “What should I do next? Do I need to do anything? Do I want to do anything?” But then I remembered ING. And I also remembered that when I was working for ING at Accenture, I saw that ING was using a lot of external partners and consultants to execute their strategy projects. I always found it a bit strange that you outsource your future to other people than yourself. Then I thought “Maybe it’s an opportunity to go to ING as an ING employee and show that you can contribute and drive change from within”. That’s how I decided to contact the ING people I knew and was already close to. Then it went quite quickly, an opportunity came in and I entered ING as an employee to internally co-create the pool of project managers looking at regulations. I think ING moved from being mostly looking with external consultants to drive change to mostly internal colleagues driving change, which I think is way healthier.

Jeroen: I always try to find as much information about the guest as possible. One of the things I found interesting and would like to go through with you is that – when you’ve only focused on Fintechs – you’ve said “We operate in four different ways at ING in relation to the Fintech world”. You summed up four things, you probably remember this. The first thing is “We create our own companies”. The second one is “We identify Fintechs with whom we can have a collaboration and work together”. Thirdly: “We have our own fund at ING Ventures to participate, mostly minority”. And fourth: “We can also just acquire companies or take majority stakes”. Can you run through those four things and maybe give some tangible examples so people have an idea of what you were thinking about?

Olivier: Sure. On the first way, creating our own Fintechs, that’s what we do in ING labs, which I run. So, we have ING labs in Amsterdam, in Brussels, in London and in Singapore, as you mentioned in your introduction. And this is where we create our own start-ups and scaleups, with colleagues but also with entrepreneurs, researchers and academics. As an example, I think that we have about 29 initials today, if I remember correctly, as it was recorded in our funnel. So, we are at a different stage from maturity. But industry-wise, we do have a few that are really going now. An example would be an invisible ticket that is one initiative that we operate here in Amsterdam that looks into providing mobile ticketing services based on your location. I’m looking to partner with transportation companies in this case, in what we call ‘beyond banking’. But it’s very much disruptive for transportation, because it allows you to just go. So, your tram ticket, your train ticket, your metro ticket just goes and depending on where you are, you automatically debit the right amount directly using open banking services. So, you don’t need to book any ticket; you just go. It’s kind of a revolution for transportation, because it allows you to be extremely flexible; you don’t have to buy a ticket, you don’t have to use the hardware. So whatever pass that you have today, your NS card in Holland or the local card in France in France. It’s quite transformational for many actors in the value chain. So that is just an example that we have when we create our Fintechs. Next to that, we can partner with Fintechs when it’s helping ING to deliver a superior user experience. Today, we have about 200 partnerships worldwide. It’s really a win-win-win relationship. We always have to decide, looking at what the client needs, what is the best way? Is it bidding yourself, is it partnering someone? That someone, should it be a Fintech or a more classic supplier?

Jeroen: How do you oversee 200 Fintechs?

Olivier: We have a dedicated Fintech team for that. These are pretty much spread out across regions, countries and businesses. It’s pretty balanced. However, you are absolutely right, in the end it’s not so much about the number of partnerships but more about the impact that you bring to ING and its clients. 200 is what it is today, it used to be more. We actually decided to stop 100 of those in total. Because in the end, it’s about delivering the value that you are looking for in a partnership. If it does not, then it’s better for everybody to stop. A few examples: we announced a partnership in Belgium with a company called Minna, for instance. It is a Swedish company that looks into providing subscription management services where we can identify the subscription services within your account. You can cancel it in an automatic way or you can switch to a better subscription, for instance. It’s really a financial health opportunity for our clients, to make sure they are in control of their finances. In the field you know very well, SME business, we are entering into a partnership with a company like Funding Options, for instance, in the Netherlands or Fincompare in Germany, that allows ING to propose their SME clients alternative funding options in the event that the ING risk appetite for a loan that will not be fitting. It’s unknown what is meant here, as we call it. In this case, we redirect and advice our clients to go to our partner whereby alternative funding options will be made available. That probably will fit their risk appetite. And the third way, as you mentioned, is taking minority investment, leveraging our ING ventures funds, which is a 300-million-euro fund. Up until today, we have made 33 investments and we are almost at the end of the 300-million-euro fund. We want to have a strategic investment, so the idea is to have a healthy investment return. However, it’s a strategic investment to allow ING to get access to a specific market and industry knowledge or a specific technology, for instance. At the same time, providing our investment companies, domain expertise, distribution access and so forth. So, in this case for example, we have invested in a company called Cobase that actually was created in a lab. So, it’s an example where a company was created in the ING lab, then spun out and in the process of spinning out, ING Ventures actually took a stake. Because that is a company we believe in. Another example could be Fintonic, a Spanish-based company, it’s a money management app, a personal finance management business which is now really growing fast in Spain, but also in South America. It’s providing account aggregation but it’s also very much famous for personal credit scoring. So, it’s actually a number that is extremely precise that allows the user to know what he/she is able to get as a financing option. So, it’s a very powerful app that provides that all the different services that you can expect from a personal financial management app on top of the account aggregation, including lending. One other thing that I like about this business is that they are also taking risk on their own balance sheet. So, it’s not only bringing people in contact with finance, but also being able to provide a balance sheet directly, to provide funding directly. The last dimension is for a very specific objective. We may want to buy an actor and that’s what we’ve done in the PSP which is a payment gateway space, where we took a majority share in Payvision. Because we feel that it is an area where we really wanted to speed up and access the latest technology to fully integrate it into the ING offering for our clients.

Jeroen: I guess you are one of the people within the bank that has arguably one of the best views on everything out there. Are you also a strategic advisor to the board where you say “This could actually be a risk for our own business”? What’s happening at for example Adyen is becoming seriously big, are you also doing that; advisory within the bank?

Olivier: Within ING, we have a corporate strategy that is responsible for advice on strategy topics of the board. But we are very close to the corporate strategy, so very regularly we have an update on innovation trends and we participate fully to that trend analyses and advice, which is a periodically advice to the management board and the supervisory board, which obviously would like to be aware of what’s going on ahead of the curve to make sure that we can be proactive in any move we want to make.

Jeroen: You have all of the Fintechs and people talk about Big Tech. Is that something you think you should be watching or should be trying to cooperate with or should you try to copy it? What is your take on it?

Olivier: That is a very good question. It is for sure very important to watch it. It would be unwise to just be blind about it. Because on one hand, they are driving the pace when it comes to user experience. I think you cannot go against this way; that’s very clear. When it comes to user experience, it’s not that we want to copy it but we want to take it into account. About the question whether we should partner or compete, we should probably do both. What you see is that all of those GAFAs and their Chinese equivalents are entering the financial service space in one way or another and they are obtaining banking licenses, they are partnering with banks. But they don’t have so much interest in becoming a bank. What they are interested in is accessing the banking services for their users. So, the question that all of the banks have to ask themselves is “Do we want to be the face fighting against Big Tech or is it okay to be behind and not visible anymore?” Then you have the chance of losing that connection to your own clients and your own users. So that is a challenge. At ING and myself, I think we have to find the right balance between acknowledging that for very specific services and products, it’s okay to partner. That makes sense. Then you might rather embrace it and that’s what we have been doing with Apple Pay, for instance, in many countries. But also, with Amazon in Germany we have an alliance partnership between Amazon in our SME lending business. On the other hand, we have to choose our battles and be very, very clear that for very specific areas we want to be in control as much as we can about the user experience. Because in the end, we want to have that contact and leveraging those billions of interactions that we have with our users; providing the best personalized service to our clients. So, when it comes to specific financial services, this is where banks have to make a choice and then go for it. And for the more commoditized type of business or where it’s okay to become derailed, then I would say having a sound and fair partnership makes sense.

Jeroen: As an outsider, it always felt to me that ING has been on the forefront at partnering with Fintech and working with Fintech. Is that also something where you feel like ING is at the forefront, if you look at all of the banks in Europe, for example? Do you feel ING is really on top there? Or do you think “Yes, we are on top, especially externally, it’s more marketing”? Or do you feel you guys are at the pinnacle of where things are happening?

Olivier: I don’t think we want to be pretentious and say that we are at the pinnacle. From the inside, what I can say is that I’m very impressed. We are fortunate that the management at ING is making clear choices toward innovation, toward investment for innovation, including Fintech, in terms of energy, time and budget but also leadership. It takes courage to go for innovation, also on the long run. So, I’m very impressed by that. That’s also one of the reasons why I’m working for ING. I think, if you look into the banks, a few banks are doing that in some fashion. We will see in the end who is right. But I think we do not compare ourselves to other banks that much. That’s not really what we are looking for. I think we are looking at Big Tech, which really is the right competition for us at the moment, in terms of user experience, making sure we are providing different services to our clients and users, running attractive platforms. This is what we are comparing ourselves to. Those are very powerful players, that is why we also want to make sure that people are playing at a level playing field. When it comes to Big Tech, to answer your question, our attention point that we as a financial service keep on informing with regulators, competition is absolutely fine, but let’s make sure we play with the same rules. And then let the best one win, I would say. Sometimes, we wonder “What is the game today?”

Jeroen: You mentioned Big Tech, the GAFA abbreviation and from the US and you also said the Chinese ones. Maybe it’s somewhat political, but as a true European – you are not born in the Netherlands but you live here, so you probably see yourself as a European – do you also see new Big Tech emerging in Europe? Do you think there will be some really global Big Tech that actually comes from Europe?

Olivier: I hope so. I actually hope that some of it will be coming from our labs. Because that is definitely the intention, to recreate powerful houses for tomorrow. But I think it’s fair to say that there are just a few or you could even say none, depending on the minimum size that you want to set and the questions would be “Why is that?” I think it has something to do with dedication. We did a analysis not so long ago where we realized that there are many very promising scaleups; the first 100 million euro is reached quite as quickly as in the US. But when it comes to really becoming very big and very powerful, this is where Europeans, maybe from a critical standpoint, tend to say “Let’s sell it or let’s go to a VC in the US”. I think it has something to do with dedication, we might not want to rule the world. That is definitely something Americans and the Chinese have a much stronger view on, to really be the world’s number one instead of being the European number one. The market also is not helping. The European market is very fragmented, the regulations are completely fragmented. So, it’s difficult to scale in Europe later on. What you see is that entrepreneurs first want to dominate their market. That’s fine and we have great examples of very disruptive ideas being very strong in their own market. Then, if the second step is to scale in Europe, it’s already complicated for the reason I just mentioned. What you see is that it tends to be to scale in the US and then they are already becoming an American company and then they take it from there. So, I think it is probably the combination of the two. It reminds of a completely different story. I once was in a conference and David Douillet was speaking. David Douillet is the Olympic world champion in judoka. He used to be in Britain and now he was in France. He was telling a story about him when he was 16 or 17. He was sharing a room with one of his roommates. In Paris, you have this sports school that is very famous, to really train the elites of the French sport. He was sharing a room in this school and he was having a discussion with his roommate and he asked the question “Why are you here and what do you want to become?” And his roommate said “I want to be a French champion of judoka. I want to be the judoka French champion from my category. And you?” And David Douillet said “I want to be a world champion”. In the end, they both succeeded reaching their goals. So, it’s really about ambition and goal setting. If you don’t have the ambition to be number one of the world or number one of the universe, you probably will not get there. It’s a question of mindset, ambition and I think we should be more daring in Europe.

Jeroen: You said maybe one of your labs will also create something like that. What kind of people are you trying to attract? What kind of people currently work there that should do this big ambition?

Olivier: We are doing that for ING and its clients. So, we are not here to say “Come over here and build your own company in our labs”, because there are other programs for that. But here, we are really saying “Come to ING, become a corporate entrepreneur. We can work together to build the biggest company or the biggest business; it doesn’t have to be a company per se”. That business needs to be disruptive; it needs to be global and impactful, working on the themes that we think are relevant based on the trends, based on business strategy and so forth. But also based on what our clients are telling us. Once we go through the funnel and we grow, at some point in time we decide “What makes sense for this business? Does it make sense to spin it, becoming the next business within ING? Or do we want to keep it within innovation outside at arm-length? Or does it make sense to spin out, then there are new regulations created and it’s a new business in itself and a new company”. We then decide together with the team what makes the most sense for ING.

Jeroen: What kind of people are you looking for? Are these people with an extra physics background? Are they young or old or doesn’t it matter? Are they from certain backgrounds, like banking or tech? Is there anything you can say about what kind of people you are looking for?

Olivier: The right word is diversity in this case. I think it’s true for any business; if you want to have a chance at succeeding, diversity is very important. So, it’s actually all of the above. What we are aiming for is to have 50/50 between ING colleagues and people from the outside. We want to combine entrepreneurs and the entrepreneur straight from the outside. It’s the same when it comes to domain expertise. On one hand we have customer lead or initiative lead, to really drive that initiative and to represent the customer voice. At the same time, we need tech people and service designers to make sure that we combine design ability, visibility and durability. Those are the three dimensions that are crucial for any business to succeed. You need to have people who want it, who are committed to it like any good entrepreneur; committed yet willing to listen and willing to learn and ambitious and resilient. Because as you know, and as I experienced myself with Smile, the one thing you know for sure is that things will never go as planned. You have to go through it, you need to be resilient. At ING, we are obviously helping the teams, providing all kinds of support and domain expertise. But the team itself needs to be very much resilient, committed yet always agile and open to pivot.

Jeroen: You seem to be extremely driven; can you tell me a little bit about how you grew up? Was that focus that you have now already there when you were young?

Olivier: I grew in Lyon, in France. I think what got me that focus is actually table tennis. I used to play table tennis for a very long time at a good level, a national level. That competition and dedication really helped me throughout my career, for sure. When we are looking into CV’s and skills, we like it when we see people who did something at a good level, whatever that might be. Whether it’s a sport, a hobby, etc. Because we know that it takes courage, it takes dedication and resilience, like I just mentioned, to get to a good level of anything. That definitely served me well. So, I guess that commitment is coming from there.

Jeroen: Do you still play table tennis?

Olivier: When I have time, I do like to play with my children now.

Jeroen: Nice! Is there anything else you’d like to share about how you grew up? Is there anything that’s interesting for us to learn?

Olivier: When I grew up, my parents didn’t speak English. At the time in France, English was not compulsory, so I never had English in my classroom. My parents chose German for me at the time, which also got me to a specific German school. Then I was fortunate enough to dare to go to Sweden to learn English for 3-6 months. That was the beginning of my expatriation where I also met my wife. But before that, I was very much local, French. That definitely had a huge impact on my life and my career, for sure.

Jeroen: That’s why I’ve seen quite some interviews in German. So, your German is actually really good. I thought they were translated, but you actually did them in German. That explains a lot! One more question about the time when you were very young: Was it a competitive environment other than table tennis? When you grew up, did your parents expect a lot from you or your brothers and sisters? Was there a lot of competition?

Olivier: There was competition in the classroom, because this specific German classroom was actually a selection from people with good grades from the city. There was this spirit of competition inside that classroom. But I have to say, I like to compete. And I guess table tennis just enforced it a bit more. Right now, I think this level of competition is more to strive to do the best that I can. In the end, it’s ambition but also having the feeling that I did my best. That’s why I will always like to ask in a team or in a professional environment “Did you do your best?”, if you did your best, I’ll have nothing to say other than “Bravo!” And you have to live with the results. That’s also what my parents taught me: do your best and make sure that you also surround yourself with the best, that’s also very important. I think that’s also one of the lessons I learned in my youth. 

Jeroen: What was the first study you started to study at university?

Olivier: In France, you have university or engineering school or business school. I went to engineering school. I always wanted to do both business and engineering. In France, you can only do that if you first start engineering and then business. Otherwise it would not work out. So that’s what I’ve done.

Jeroen: I mentioned twice that you did Astrophysics and that you have a PhD. Were you in love with that topic? Did you always think “I’m going to work in that area?”

Olivier: I wanted to. I got to know a person called Hubert Reeves, a Canadian writer and scientist. His books were very famous at that time. I read them all and they got me very interested in the universe and anything that has to do with stars and planets. But I love science in general and I thought “This is going to be my job, thinking about the universe and the next big things”. So that’s how I got into the Astrophysics domain. But then I realized that there were only 18 positions per year at that time in France. So, it’s kind of tough. And I thought “Well, maybe it’s not that wise”. At the same time, I got the opportunity to also move to the business side and that’s why I’ve taken that opportunity. But after some years, I decided to reopen the Astrophysics books and science has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Since a few years, I’m also doing Astrophysics on the side again.

Jeroen: So, it’s something that keeps being a part of your life?

Olivier: Absolutely.

Jeroen: And in the end, you started working as a strategy consultant. What made you choose that?

Olivier: I didn’t choose it. There are a few companies where you say ‘Petje af’ in Holland and Accenture is definitely one of those companies; it’s a really impressive company. At the time, I was in Lyon at the business school in the second year, I believe. And at the end of the year, you have to do an internship. This company was pitching, they were coming to the business school pitching who they are and what they are looking for and why it would be good to do your internship for them. At the time I didn’t know Andersen Consulting, which was their name at the time. I knew it by name, but I didn’t really exactly know what they were doing. It was 6 PM and they were just finishing in the classroom. There were five companies that were pitching and I just went by accident to Andersen Consulting. I have to say they did a great job; it was very interesting. I thought “Wow, those guys are really very interesting”. They were also former students from the school actually pitching in the name of Andersen Consulting. I just had a conversation with them and at the end a guy told me “Olivier, when do you want to start?” I asked “What do you mean?” He said “If you like, you can come to Paris with us tonight. You can take the TGV and tomorrow you’ll have an interview and maybe you can start”. So, I called my parents and I asked “Do I have to come to dinner tonight?” I took the train and went to Paris that evening and they booked a nice hotel for me on the Champs-Élysées. I was 23 and it was very impressive. The next morning, I went to the interview and two hours later my contract was signed. It happened to be in the financial services, but I didn’t choose it. I didn’t choose Andersen Consulting per se, I didn’t choose financial services per se; it just happened to be that way. Then you start your internship and if you do a good job, you’ll already sign your contract during your internship. You basically don’t have to choose; you don’t have to. You almost don’t get to think. It was just perfect. It was very interesting, smart people, great clients. Why should I go somewhere else? So that is basically how I started.

Jeroen: Is it the same kind of story for becoming an entrepreneur and a co-founder of Smile?

Olivier: No, that was definitely a choice. I was working for Accenture then. A friend of mine, Marc, who’s a youth friend (he used to be in the same class that I was just talking about) created Smile a year before. We always kept in touch and I really liked the concept. I also really believed in the fact that the Open Source world would go big and will go to the frontline. So, at the time, that was always on the backside looking at Linux, on the infrastructural side. And what we believed is that Open Source was going to be the model for the new software to spread out. And we stayed pretty much in France. France was – and still is, I think – a forerunner in adopting Open Source. That’s the promise that Smile as a company was built upon. And I really like that as well, it’s going to be big and it’s going to come anywhere in Europe. I decided to join Smile and to co-create Smile as well and to take the international business with Smile. That was a smart move, because indeed, Open Source became big time content management systems, e-commerce, business intelligence, ERP, everywhere. So, Smile was at the right time in the right space and is growing very, very fast.

Jeroen: It became bigger and bigger and at some point, you left.

Olivier: Maybe I should say that I like being an entrepreneur and I like risks but with a certain risk appetite. So, I was just about to be promoted as a partner at Accenture which is normally what you are really going for when you are in the consulting business. So, I thought “I want to make sure that I quit now for the unknown”, which is the question that every entrepreneur needs to ask himself. But then Accenture was smart again – it was in 2010, I believe and this is the moment after the crisis where there were plenty of opportunities everywhere – and said “It’s about retaining people and making sure what they call is succes out. So, when someone leaves, you want to make sure that you are leaving as good friends because those people might be the clients of tomorrow”. So, what they have done is that they have created a program where you have two years to try with a guarantee that you can always go back. And then I thought “Okay, that’s a deal!” And I think that’s probably the first time in history that someone who just got promoted to a partner left the company to create another company. I think that was very smart on their part. It was a choice, but a controlled choice.

Jeroen: So, at some point you will go back as a partner there?

Olivier: The two years have passed now.

Jeroen: If you look back at your career, you’ve had a lot of different experiences both here at the bank, at Smile and Accenture, Andersen before. Is there any particular feedback you’ve had that you’ve learned a lot from?

Olivier: I’m learning every day. That’s really the true answer. I think you learn the most when it’s difficult. I have had several difficult moments in my career; either myself or my clients or my teams. This is really where you have to be consistent and resilient and you’ll never forget those things. I remember when I joined Smile, I created an office here in Amsterdam and when you start a company and start off with two other people, it’s going to be tough. Smile already had a good partnership with Open Source companies in many areas, but the question was: How are we going to get clients? Will people dare to hire us to implement Open Source solutions? And crazy enough, the first client already was a big Dutch international corporate, so our first client was massive and had huge expectations. We didn’t start yet; we had no one. Consulting implementation is a people business, so you are turnover proportional to the more people that you employ, you don’t have a product in itself; the products are your colleagues and your expertise. So, it’s difficult to scale. Scaling means a lot of HR-related conversations. I think one of the most complicated things to do as a start-up is to make sure that you hire the right talents and that you can retain them. I had a lot of complications because we needed to grow fast in a time where there are opportunities everywhere. My team got called twice a day to go somewhere else. If you want to grow quick and you are under pressure, it’s difficult. It’s a question of quality, quantity, time to market and I had a very tough time on keeping up. The commercial side was building out a sustainable business with the right team. But those complicated factors are where I learned the most, that’s really true. When there is an issue, it’s important to face it, to accept it and just go through it. Because you will never forget it.

Jeroen: Would you respond very different now than 15 years ago, for example?

Olivier: Yes, absolutely. I made many mistakes which I hope I will do less. Especially on the recruitment side, I think. I will definitely take the necessary time to build the best team; the dream team that you are looking for. And don’t fall too much under the commercial pressure. Even if you sign up your clients, take your time to find the right team. And HR in general is probably the most complicated thing to do. More investments on that side is definitely something that I would have done differently with the knowledge I have now.

Jeroen: We always have a teaser and a pleaser. The pleaser is always the same. On the teasing side I’ve written down “You would have even more impact as an entrepreneur for ING if ING would put you even further away or much further away from the bank – having almost your own business but some link to ING – than having you a bit closer than what is the case right now”. Do you agree with that?

Olivier: That is a question that we are asking ourselves continuously. Within ING labs, how far should the business be from ING? Should it be at arm-length with ING as a minority partner? Or should it be fully controlled by ING? The answer probably is both. If it is about a strategic product for ING, if you are building the business of tomorrow for ING, ING needs to be in control, in a sense. Because that’s the next ING that you are building. However, when it’s not 100% strategic, it’s still very important to have an important contribution to ING. In order to start quicker, it might make sense to do it outside of ING, but with the ambition at some point in time to convert again. Either via commercial agreement or maybe minority scholarship. But back to what I was just mentioning, this is where the regulations and the rules of the game are important. Because if you are a regulated bank today, any business you create – regardless of what it is – is regulated by the same banking rules. Even if it’s a beyond-banking business. So that makes it complicated for banks today, to compete with the Big Techs that we were just mentioning. Because if you are to create a service that is similar to a service that Big Tech is proposing today, not banking-related, you have to abide to all of the banking rules. That makes it complicated. That could be a reason to go outside of ING, because then you will have to. However, if it is to build a business of tomorrow, you don’t want to be a minority. That is a continuous challenge to understand what makes sense today and what makes sense tomorrow. So we definitely keep on looking at all of the options all the time, depending on the business we want to be in and select the best scaling strategy for ING in this case.

Jeroen: On the pleasing side, are there any particular books that you are in love with or that you like to gift to people? Or something that has inspired you?

Olivier: I like to read, for sure. I would say next to all the Astrophysics books that I will not bother the audience with, I will always advice to read everything that Hubert Reeves has written. Everything about meditation and Astrophysics is really amazing. But there is one book – and actually also one video – written by Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. It’s about a tech professor in the US. It started off with a video and then it became a book. Once every year, a professor will give a last lecture where he asks “What is it that you will give to the world? If you’d have to do one lecture, what would you want to say to the world?” And it was his turn and he starts off by explaining the audience that he is going to be dead in three months. So, it actually will be his last lecture. That’s his message to the world. It’s an amazingly inspirational conference, an amazingly inspirational book, very positive, very optimistic. It’s about dreaming. He explains for almost two hours how he fulfilled all of his dreams; all of them. And he was so fortunate about that. It’s a book that I like to reread, because it gives you a lot of perspective professionally and personally about how to connect your life and the power of dreaming and to go for your dreams and to fulfil them. I would definitely recommend people to read this book.

Jeroen: The way you describe it, you are almost a salesman for the book. I already want to read it now!

Olivier: You should!

Jeroen: And I will, that’s great. One other thing I wanted to ask you – which is somewhat related to this – How do you see your own role and the bank’s role in society? Do you have a view on that?

Olivier: I do. I think the role of the bank is very important to society, it always has been and I think it always will be. Especially to make sure that you finance the right future for the world. I think the impact of banking as a way to finance activities is just massive. When it comes to climate change, sustainability and any new services in general in the world, a new business needs financing. Today, there is no other way; private banks are the ones who should have an impact on financing the right future for the next generations to come. And I really hope that what we do at ING will contribute to that extend. That’s what I’m aiming for.

Jeroen: I always ask this question: Do you have any tips for people that start their career right now in general or within a bank or financial services?

Olivier: Yes, I have a few. When you start, try different things. Try as many new things as you can; many different jobs in many different industries. I think it’s very, very powerful. As a skill, what I observe is that probably the most important skill is – which is not always taught at school, which I always find to be strange – is learning how to learn. Because what you see in this fast-moving world, the skills of today are not the skills of tomorrow. If you want to be agile and someone who can switch from one to another or adapt – even in a corporate; I see how ING is changing all of the time, it’s a very agile way of adapting to outside circumstances and new evolutions – I think learning how to learn is probably the most important skill there is. Try different things, go for your dreams early on and learn how to learn.

Jeroen: That’s great. You have a busy life; you’ve always had a busy life. I’m sure at Accenture as well as at Smile were busy times and here it’s probably as busy. How do you combine that with being a father of your kids as well as a husband? How do you stay fit and how do you make sure you have time for all of it?

Olivier: That’s a good question. You need to have a fair conversation with your family about how you want to do this. I think it’s a team game there as well. Other than that, I think it’s important to stay in shape, to move, to do a sport activity and to save up time for something else. As I just mentioned, to try different things, for me that works. Taking time to read something, in my case that is science and Astrophysics. But for you it might be something else to create peace of mind and peace of body. I think that is quite important. There is another book – to come back to your question – that I always like to reread. It’s called Re-think from Nigel Barlow. He recommended to try a new newspaper every day and to try to speak to a new person every day. To me, these things create energy that you can use for your life. I think it’s finding the right balance in what your body needs in terms of moving and making time for your ecosystem, for your family and your friends. And make choices, because in the end it’s about choices. Even though you would like to keep a thousand people in your surroundings, you just can’t. So, in the end, it’s about making choices, about dedicating time and about really living in the moment. So not looking at your mobile phone while you are talking to a friend you haven’t seen for a year. So quality time and making choices are definitely important, at least to me. And taking the time to do something new. That’s what works for me.

Jeroen: That’s great. Listeners can’t see it, but during this entire conversation you have had no phone on you. So, I got a lot of quality time from you. Before I start to wrap up and thank you, I’d like to know if there is something that you’d like to say or something you wanted to say but I didn’t ask you? Maybe this is a great moment to tell us.

Olivier: I really liked the conversation. We touched upon many topics, I’m thankful for that, Jeroen.

Jeroen: I want to thank you, thanks to the Dutch online flower service of Bloomon, you will get a little present after we’ve entirely wrapped up. For now, I’d like to thank you for your time and having us here in Amsterdam. I’m really looking forward to follow you the next years further down the road. I’m really curious if you will be in the bank or in science or if you will be an entrepreneur or maybe all of it, who knows. So, thank you very much for your time.

Olivier: Thank you, Jeroen!

Dit was Leaders in Finance. Elke week weer een nieuwe aflevering, elke week weer een mens achter het succes. Ik vind het belangrijk om te zeggen, deze podcast zou er niet zijn zonder onze partners: Interim Valley, FG Lawyers en Bizcuit.

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