These three women are making the Netherlands greener

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Marja Straatsma-Wuck, Suze Korse and Krista Overwater: the three women who together manage ABN AMRO’s Groenbank. Women are still a minority in the financial sector. Does their management style differ from that of men? And how do they reach senior roles in the bank? “With a good dose of spirit and a little attitude!”

ABN AMRO’s Groenbank was established in 1998. But, in 2010, following changes in the tax landscape, it stopped proactively issuing loans and raising capital. “At that stage, we’d issued approximately 800 million euros in green loans,” Krista explains. By the time the bank reopened its doors in autumn 2018, interest in sustainability was strong, and Krista, Suze and Marja have seen renewed interest in eco-loans from businesses and retail clients. Krista: “The lights have now literally gone to green!” Since October, the three have been busy issuing green loans and recruiting funding through ‘green deposits’.

Women heading a bank: still uncommon

Groenbank benefits from the networks and knowledge provided by ABN AMRO. Clients can, for example, invest in green savings through ABN AMRO’s subsidiary MoneyYou. This allows savers to increase their capital gains tax allowance to over €50,000 and benefit from an income tax credit. Three women running a bank together is still fairly unusual, though, isn’t it? It wasn’t a deliberate policy, Krista explains. “It just happened that way. Suze and Marja were about the only women who applied, but they turned out to be the best candidates for the job, with just the qualities we were looking for.” Suze: “The number of women at the bank differs depending on which division you’re looking at, but the higher you go, the fewer women you tend to see. There’s certainly room for further improvement.”

Do women have a different management style?

Krista has worked in the financial sector for over 20 years, and has seen the culture within banks change over time. Childcare, for instance, is now shared more equally between men and women, partly thanks to the opportunities the bank provides. Does women’s management style differ from that of men? “True comparisons are obviously difficult to make, partly because it’s also a question of personality, but I’ve noticed that we tend to be strongly geared toward cooperation and spend a lot of time on communication,” says Suze. “For example, Krista arranged a get-together at her home so that we could get to know each other better and discuss ways to improve cooperation. Not just between ourselves, but also in our dealings with the public sector, companies and retail clients. My impression is that this is something women do more of.”

It’s about ability

Suze and Krista don’t mind people discussing the fact that they are women, although it does sometimes surprise them. Suze: “It’s really not an issue for us. We don’t think about it. Men, women: there’s no difference really; it’s about ability.” Krista: “Obviously, if you want to work at a certain level within the bank, you won’t manage it on a three-day week. For some jobs, you’ve really got to put in the hours, and that means having to make choices, but that applies whatever your gender.”

Making the Netherlands greener

Krista, Suze and Marja enjoy what they do for Groenbank. “Everyone wants to make a difference in their work. Here, we can do that. What we do is helping to make the Netherlands a little greener, and that’s a good feeling,” says Krista. Suze: “Initiatives such as Groenbank demonstrate that, as a bank, we don’t spend all our time making money but are also committed to our role in society!”

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