ABN AMRO at the Partnership Election #2: ABN AMRO competes to create opportunities for refugees

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Partnership Verkiezingen

Bringing different worlds together is the reason the bank is committed to competing in De Partnership Verkiezing (or the Partnership Election) 2017. And we’re on the right track! Our enthusiastic five-member team is currently working on a business case to provide fast-track training to talented Syrian refugees in the Netherlands so they can join the ABN AMRO workforce. After all, it’s a shame to let so much potential go to waste. We aim to change that, creating exciting opportunities for people and the bank.

ABN AMRO’s motto is ‘creating space for dreams and ambitions’. How cool is it that that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do with our business case for refugees? Marit Janssen thumbnail Marit Janssen Management Consultant SIM

The idea behind the election is that so many companies out there have resources and expertise that could be harnessed to benefit good causes. De Partnership Verkiezing was created to boost that know-how so that corporate players can develop sustainable business cases by forging partnerships with local players, NGOs and governments to solve problems in disadvantaged areas and developing countries. Teams have eight months to develop an innovative business case and will vie for the prize in May – winning the election. The winning team will also be awarded funding to implement its business case.

Bending the rules

This year marks the first time ABN AMRO has participated. And it’s making up for lost time, too! In fact, the bank has not one, but two, teams in the running. My team’s focus? Reduced inequalities – which also happens to be one of the UN’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. As a team we, are convinced that social inclusion for vulnerable population groups is key to reducing inequalities. Because the refugee issue is so urgent, we’ve made it the focus of our business case – not in some distant developing country, but right here at home in the Netherlands. You might say we’re bending the rules a little bit, since teams are actually supposed to concentrate on a developing country. But it’s a noble cause, and we’re ready and willing to go all the way.

Turning the tide

Our initial focus was on financial infrastructure for refugees. But after conducting client interviews which revealed that many Syrian refugees don’t need or want such a solution, we opted to change our strategy. What they want most is to get on with their lives: to find work, feel useful and make a contribution. Many immigrants to the Netherlands have left behind good jobs in their home countries, and now have to start all over again here – at an overwhelming disadvantage. First they’ll have to learn the language and get extra training. Only then can they look for work. As a result, all that potential can go untapped for years. We want to turn the tide! Our business case is all about fast-track training and familiarising these people with Dutch society so they can embark on an IT career at ABN AMRO in the short term. Many refugees have enormous IT potential. And since the bank is increasingly becoming a tech company, it’s a golden opportunity. We’re not only tackling a social problem, but we’re also presenting a sound business case on the bank’s behalf.


So why did I throw my hat in the ring? Serving a worthy cause, alongside working for the bank, is important to me, which is why it’s so cool that we’re heading up such an innovative project. We’re entirely self-organising with Agile. We decide on the strategy we want to pursue as a team and set our own course. As part of that team, you get to know a lot of people not just in the organisation, but from other companies, too, like AHOLD, Philips, ING and PwC. It’s also great to work with people from all different departments at the bank.

An enthusiastic team

Of course, we’d be over the moon if we won the election, but at the end of the day, that’s not why we’re competing. The bottom line is that we want our plan to work and are prepared to do everything we can to ensure its success. Let’s just say it won’t be for want of trying! The whole team – which includes Nynke de Vries, Jeroen van de Kerkhof, Frederique Houthoff, Eli Geoffroy and myself – is so enthusiastic, and we’re having so much fun with the project. I’m proud that the bank is so committed to social entrepreneurship and is helping to find a solution to an important social issue at the same time. You might say we’re putting our own twist on ABN AMRO’s motto: “creating space for dreams and ambitions”.


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