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Financial service providers deserve more respect

‘I have great respect for how the financial service providers have dealt with everything they have had to face as a result of the corona crisis. Within a week, the industry had made the transition to a fully digital workplace and come up with solutions that helped their own consumers.’ So concludes Edwin van den Elst, CEO of the Redmore Group: ‘I think that the financial services sector in the Netherlands does not always get the respect it deserves.’

Misstaken attitude

He adds: ‘I look at the prevailing attitude towards the financial services sector in the Netherlands. You often feel uncomfortable disclosing the fact that you work for a bank or an insurance company. At any rate, it is a lot less pleasant than it was 15 years ago. I think that is often unjustified. The level of people working in financial services is extremely high. These are well-educated professionals who are engaged in lifelong learning and, above all, in doing their job as well as possible. Society’s attitude is sometimes too negative about what it labels as ‘grabbers’. This does an injustice to a lot of people.’

The Redmore Group, the Dutch arm of the Belgian ‘House of HR’, has four independent labels: Profource, Triple A, ITDS and Talent&Pro. All four have clients in the financial industry. They have experienced the change at close quarters. Van den Elst: ‘There was extra leeway in the credits and it was ensured that people could keep their financial freedom. But above all, the banks and insurers have very quickly made the switch to a fully digital workplace. They have had the capacity to run all their core processes from a home environment in just one week. This also meant that all our stationed consultants also had to work from home, but this too was achieved. People are able to start completely new initiatives from this home situation.

‘Here I can really see that in order to help the consumer they came up with a good package of arrangements extremely quickly and were also able to deal with the new situation from the very start, which really does take a lot of effort. And then you then realise that they also have to do this whilst a regulator is taking a really close look at whether everything complies with all cyber security demands. Hats off to how this sector has acted so quickly in the corona crisis.’

What does the crisis mean for Redmore?

VdE: ‘Thanks to our clients’ ability to adapt quickly, Redmore is in great demand to contribute, for example, to that digital transformation. We receive questions about the implementation of new systems and about how change programmes can be accelerated. Support for mortgage applications has also taken off recently. Contrary to our expectation that mortgages would be a little lower, the opposite appears to be true. As Redmore, we can do the same production from that home situation. We have no decline in the number of workable hours. In addition, we will have access to really good talents that we can combine with right now. Fewer people are also leaving. In short, we were able to get good results in this period.’

Engine of change

What specialisations does Redmore rely on?

VdE: ‘I see Redmore as a House of Brands. Also as an accelerator of changes in the financial market in the Netherlands, Spain and Poland and in the future in other countries. Our labels are four truly individual characters, each with their own specialist field. Profource is all about corporate implementation. It has a wonderful position in national government, in large companies and also in municipal government. Triple A leads the way in its calculation of new risk models by high-quality risk managers and actuaries. With more than a hundred employees, it is the largest specialist agency in the Netherlands. Talent&Pro can provide manpower support and scale up and even outsource’. Within the framework of Covid, a whole centre has been set up for many mortgage and other customer-driven activities: AFM proof! People sometimes talk about its consultants in derogatory terms as being a bit workshy, but then they have proved themselves to be dedicated and successful. With 900 people in the primary processes for customers, they keep the whole sector afloat. That is crucial. ITDS is strong in transformation and implementation of insurance administration and CRM systems. It may seem simple, but it is very complex. It requires a necessary combination of real-world knowledge in addition to knowledge of IT and the new world. The result depends on it, especially now that insurers are accelerating their digitalisation.’

Strong execution

Where does the strength of Redmore as a group lie?

VdE: ‘Redmore is there as a group. An ever increasing number of clients are realising that the Redmore labels complement and strengthen each other wherever possible. As a result, we have been able to tackle a number of major projects together. For example, a client called us in during an IT hack. There was a serious cyber risk, where a number of issues had to be addressed simultaneously. A rapid understanding of the damage to the systems was needed. A call centre had to be set up to deal proactively with customers. We had to make sure that the social media channels were used in the right way. Within one week, a crucial operation was set up to restore the client’s business-critical processes and ensure security. Thanks to that link, we are being approached more and more with large programmes and projects. Our execution is at a particularly high level.’

Position in the labour market

VdE: ‘From the beginning, nine years ago, the basic approach has always been to ensure that we can offer fantastic development for our employees. Really from the moment they come to us. We always say: if you stay with us for five years, you will learn for ten. That makes for a very good proposition on the labour market. I think because we are genuinely concerned with employee development from the core. This has been the case since its inception. It has also ensured that with these people we can really make a difference with the client. Because we have higher production levels and come up with smarter solutions. Now we have a turnover of about 130 million. We are proud of that.’

Hope aimed at young people

Will the positive interventions of the sector be maintained after the crisis?

VdE: ‘The question of what will remain of the valuable developments in the sector has been asked more often lately. I do hear people reflecting that we will never go back to the way things were. That would be nice. However, I can also recall the previous financial crisis. Back then we also said ‘never again’. However, I soon saw the same financing behaviour among both consumers and businesses pick up significantly. I hope that in the future, with all the digital tools at our disposal, we will be able to find the efficiency and therefore the calm pace to do meetings via Teams or Zoom more often. A little less sitting in offices together. A little less road rage. It would be a very good development if we learned those lessons and started working from home a little more often. A few per cent less at work would alone mean so much less stress in terms of traffic jams, on the environment, and on our lives. I dare not guarantee that it will happen. There is a slight cynicism in me about the learning capacity of all of us. Maybe it is because of my age. Perhaps there is a very large group of young people who deal with mobility and all the digital possibilities in such a different way that a change is actually taking place. That would be good for all of us and it would be good for the planet. I sincerely hope so.’