Farming has always been a dangerous business. From the vagaries of nature to fluctuating crop prices, from high transport costs to lack of credit, the farming business is not for the faint of heart. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the large urban financial institutions of the time were unable to meet the financial needs of the peasantry. Friedrich Raiffeisen, a mayor of rural Germany, devised a system to collect farmers’ savings and use them as a solid financial basis for extending credit. He founded the Raiffeisen Cooperative Bank for this purpose.
This form of collective lending was also accepted in the Netherlands, where Coöperatieve Centrale Boerenleenbank was founded in 1898. In 1972, the two banks merged into one central cooperative under the name Rabobank.
At the time, combining idealistic principles within a business framework was seen as a revolutionary idea. Now, financial institutions around the world are responding to the United Nations’ (UN) urgent call to end poverty through sustainable development goals and strategies to boost economic growth while addressing climate change to save the planet.
In particular, Rabobank wants to strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to promote and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all. This is in line with goal number 8 of the UN.
What sets Rabobank apart is its mentality. “We are a cooperative with members instead of shareholders,” says Bart Vloet, senior vice president and Senior IT Lead Housing at Rabobank. “Customers can show their commitment to the bank by becoming a member. We have more than 2 million members, and they lead and evaluate the bank’s direction.” The idea of limiting individual financial risks through collective action is at the heart of the bank’s success.
Today, Rabobank is a global leader in food and agricultural finance and sustainable banking. The bank is among the 30 largest financial institutions in the world and is active in 40 countries. With a complete range of financial services, Rabobank is the market leader in virtually all customer and product segments in which it is active, from young people to start-up entrepreneurs and from individual mortgages to financing large companies.
Vloet is responsible for the company’s IT strategy for mortgage loans and business loans. This includes digitizing mortgage services. “We have been using SAP as a core banking solution for decades,” explains Vloet. “Now it’s all about digitization to provide an efficient customer journey. Our mortgage services are fully available online.”
Customers and employees may have been hesitant to manage all their processes strictly online at first, but adoption has been rapid since the start of the pandemic. Vloet explains that modernizing processes with SAP solutions has made it easier to eliminate paper-based processes. SAP provides real-time services and the quality of the data is much better. It used to take months to process a loan, now it can be approved instantly.
The digital core is an important prerequisite for the rapid launch of new products, while still being able to meet customers’ demands for better service and customization.
Digitization has drastically reduced the need for manual work. What Vloet finds particularly fascinating is that automating processes has freed up employees to interact more directly with customers. Thanks to greater transparency of data and intelligent tools, Rabobank employees have far more insight into the customer’s financial situation. They are better able to guide customers’ choices and proactively offer the best products or packages. Deeply rooted in the communities in which it operates, the company has developed mobile apps and personalized services to help people of all ages and backgrounds improve their financial health.
Rabobank’s mission is to promote financial well-being and security for customers and their communities, whether that means finding a comfortable home, doing meaningful work or investing in a business. This includes removing barriers to financial products and services and increasing access to affordable, sustainable housing. With this effort, Rabobank strives for greater diversity and inclusion in society as a whole.
From Rabobanken’s side, all these transitions and themes are connected. Climate change, for example, is driving more people into poverty and hindering inclusion. In the Netherlands, there are more than 550,000 households living in energy poverty. It creates inequality and negatively affects the transition to a more inclusive society.
Rabobank will help customers overcome their money worries through better financial planning and tailored savings options to meet unexpected expenses, buy a house or retire. Achieving these goals requires a highly efficient team using the best technology available. Inspired by SAP, Vloet envisions a digital future where more integrated services will make the customer and employee journey equally satisfying.
“We have a very complex IT infrastructure,” says Vloet. “It’s hard to pull out and replace legacy systems because they’re all interdependent and interconnected. SAP helps us tremendously by simplifying the process, and SAP’s extensibility platform also allows us to sustainably build what we need.”
No single company can eradicate poverty or boost economic growth on its own. Whether automating the mortgage value chain or delivering high-quality agricultural financing solutions, SAP supports Rabobank in its mission to contribute to sustainable development and a better future for people and the planet.
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