“ING is an important part of my life.”
In 2013, just before Ralph Hamers began as the new CEO of ING, he was interviewed by broadcaster and author René Carayol. Seven years later, they meet again in ING’s Cedar building in Amsterdam for a surprise-filled farewell interview.
In a video that was sent to all employees worldwide, Ralph talked openly about his personal highlights and challenges during his time as CEO at ING, while being surprised with messages from some old friends. A few very special guests were even allowed to come to the studio.
Looking back, Ralph said that it was almost impossible to anticipate the continuous pressure that would come with the job.
“It’s the difficult decisions that land on your desk, the easy ones are being taken for you.”
Taking the lead was a “daunting task”, Ralph admitted, as ING still had to repay the Dutch State and its restructuring was far from finished. The moment we did repay the State in 2014 was therefore one of his clear highlights.
“It was important for the company – to realise that we came through this, and that we came out better than before. That was very promising.”
Asked for his toughest moment, Ralph didn’t have to think twice. Trust in ING and the banking sector was severely damaged in 2018 following the settlement with the Dutch prosecutor.
“It was tough for myself and for the entire company. We paid the fine, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve learned the lesson. We had to get our act together. Getting our processes right remains our number one priority.”
In the past seven years, ING embarked on a journey towards a more digital and sustainable future. Talking about the Think Forward strategy, which he launched in 2014, Ralph mentioned that it all started with a close look at the trends and customer needs.
“We asked ourselves: how do we become the bank of the future? How do we become the bank for customers who solely want to bank through their mobile phone?”
It required a company-wide transformation. What made the biggest difference is the move to a much more agile way of working, empowering teams on the ground to innovate, “allowing them to fail, as long as they fail fast.”
“It was the only way to get this big tanker moving,” Ralph said.
As of 1 July 2020, after 29 years with his orange family, Ralph passes on the baton to another ING veteran, Steven van Rijswijk. Ralph moves on to become the CEO of Swiss bank UBS.
But saying farewell clearly hurts for someone with orange blood running through his veins. In Ralph’s own words: “ING is an important part of my life.”
“Thank you for being a friend. It was a true honour to lead you,” he said in his emotional final words to colleagues all around the world.